Home > Media > Introducing Nathan – Work Placement Student

Having completed his first two years at University, Nathan  joined Briar Chemicals in August 2015 as a work placement student from Loughborough University.

With A-levels in Maths, Further Maths and Chemistry and an AS-level in Physics, Nathan enrolled at Loughborough University in 2013 where he is currently studying a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering with Management. Nathan returns to University to complete his final two years in September.

Learning on the job

As part of his ongoing degree programme, Nathan supports the maintenance and engineering department, gaining an insight into working within a chemical manufacturing environment.

 “When I first joined, I had to get to grips the change from an academic environment and learn the information required to work in the industry. This included aspects such as the safety of working on a chemical manufacturing site, the process of progressing projects as well as what working life is like and how companies are structured.”

University student placement, Nathan Spencer, working alongside Engineers at Briar Chemicals
University student placement, Nathan Spencer, working alongside Engineers

Working in Project Engineering

Nathan works within a team of Project and Chemical Engineers and as part of his role produces designs for modifications and specifications for new or replacement equipment, works on the plants to survey equipment and communicates with external contractors as well as our site electrical and technical teams.

“The process of brainstorming initial ideas to solve an issue and taking those ideas through to being able to physically bring something to the site and see it work in action is extremely rewarding. You definitely feel like you are bringing a positive change to the site”.

I have begun to understand the differences between learning the discipline of chemical engineering and being able to apply it to real situations.


“I am most proud of how much I have progressed as an engineer and learnt during my time at Briar Chemicals.”

“I’ve contributed on a project to replace a reactor from start to completion and have been involved in tasks such as performing the sizing and pressure drop calculations of the reactor jacket, working on producing the specifications for the reactor and agitator, producing scopes of work for the electrical works involved as well as visiting the vessel manufacturers to check on their progress of its fabrication.”

“Through analysis into the site steam usage I produced models of each plant of how much product is produced per amount of steam consumed, from which I went on to produce a report and pointed out the inaccuracy of some of our steam meters and how we monitor steam, this led to me leading projects to improve this and install replacement meters.”

Surveying equipment on the plant
Surveying equipment on the plant

What inspired you to study chemical engineering?

“I enjoyed studying mathematics; understanding the logic behind how it works and how it can be applied to solve complex problems. My father, being an engineer, gave me inspiration into the world of engineering which linked with my interest in mathematics”.

From a young age I was fascinated by science and its ability to provide a deeper insight to the world around us by explaining how and why things worked.

“I became intrigued by chemistry, in particular studying organics; I found it fascinating learning that using one compound with its particular properties another compound can be created with entirely different properties. It was this interest in chemistry which influenced and led to my decision to study chemical engineering”.

Working at Briar Chemicals

“I really like the people and the community feel of the company; everyone works together as a team. With a friendly working environment help is always there if you need it; a relaxed yet structured and organised way of working”.

Inspiration for the future generations

“From working at Briar Chemicals I have had the opportunity to obtain experience and in-depth knowledge of the chemical industry to help me further my career. I would recommend anyone who is interested in solving interesting and rewarding challenges to get involved with the industry”.