Taaibah Hossain: Reflections on my time at university

MSci Chemistry with Industrial Experience, 2020

For me attending university involved more than attaining my degree. Growing as a person, gaining skills, meeting new people and taking part in new experiences are just a few of the benefits that I gained from undertaking my degree. My time at Birmingham also taught me about the importance of remaining resilient in the face of challenges, and the rewards for hard work and dedication.

While at university, the people that I met shaped my degree experience. I made lasting friendships and as I got further into my degree, lectures become more and more enjoyable as I got to know my peers and lecturers better. During my fourth year, ritual 10am coffee breaks gave me the chance to catch up with my research colleagues and often I would bump into chemistry staff in the Reading Room who I would chat to. I always felt privileged when treated with kindness by members of my department. Whether it was a lecturer allowing me to pray in their office or the lab director in his understanding of my illness and absence at certain labs, kindness from others always reassured me and kept me going.

We Are (Third Width)

University always excited me due to the wealth of extra-curricular opportunities available. I still think fondly about the wall in the Guild of Students which lists over 500 clubs and societies that were available to me. During my four years I got through my fair share of clubs; I tried different ones every year including equestrian, mountaineering, ArtSoc and CraftSoc. While serving as the Help the Homeless Fundraising Officer I held both a pancake sale and a cake sale to raise money for the charity Sifa Fireside. I was ecstatic that I could give back to my community while improving my organisational and time management skills. One of my highlights was when I went to Croatia to play basketball with my team. The trip was excellent except for the 30-hour coach journey which I avoided on my return by taking a flight instead! During the trip I got to play basketball in the sun, visit the historic town of Rovinj and go on a night tour of Zagreb, the stylish capital of Croatia.

Another part of my degree which I thoroughly enjoyed was my year in industry. I would recommend an industrial year to anyone taking a degree with this option. It was an extremely valuable experience in countless ways. I got to learn about what working in the chemicals industry is like and this has helped to inform my post degree career choices. While on placement, I formulated (developed) personal care products such as shampoos and soaps. It was a terribly exciting job and I always loved making innovative products such as the luscious lemon jelly shower gel or solid shampoo bars.

When I returned to university after my industrial year, I began computational research for my Masters project. I confirmed the relationship between various parameters of liquid systems and their physical properties. I also developed my IT skills and learnt about how to use a new operating system and document processing software.

An experience that stood out to me during my degree was when I worked part-time as a Student Ambassador for the School of Chemistry who I represented on applicant visit days. Being an Ambassador gave me the chance to share the joys, rewards and challenges of studying chemistry and to advise prospective students on how best to make the most of life as a student at the University of Birmingham.

I am now actively contributing to the award-winning ChemBAM outreach website. ChemBAM is a huge bank of articles and resources for students which aid them in their studies and career choices. I have also begun to blog about my travels around the UK and about my favourite hobbies. I am looking to begin my next adventure and am considering options in formulation chemistry and IT consultancy.

I know that whatever I chose to do, my time at the University of Birmingham has meant that I am well equipped to meet any challenge and so long as I invest all of my energies to meeting my goal I will succeed. After all Per Ardua Ad Alta: it is through efforts that great heights are achieved.