University of Otago, New Zealand

Chemistry

Te Tari Hua-Ruanuku

BSc(Hons) Graduate Profiles

Kate Bezar

BSc(Hons) in Chemistry
Management Consultant, Booz Allen Consultants

I came from Auckland to study at Otago because I wanted my student years to be different, a chance to extend my experiences.  And because chemistry leads into so many areas, I decided to study it as a way of keeping my options open.  Meanwhile, I was also working towards a Bachelor of Commerce.

I never quite finished my commerce degree, however, because I signed up for the University’s Graduate Recruitment Programme, and got a great job for a management consultancy.  It soon became clear how well the combination of commerce and chemistry had prepared me for this position.

My work involves helping companies solve strategic management issues, like, “How do we take this company to number one or two in our market?”  This means framing the problem, and then proving or disproving our hypotheses to answer the question.  So the skills this involves — having the ability to solve problems, gathering data and information, carrying out analysis and interpreting results — are all the things I learned studying chemistry.

It’s true to say that the actual content I learnt in chemistry, like considering how atoms bond, doesn’t figure very highly in this line of work.  But the approach — the ways of thinking — I use daily.

Karleen Brooking

BSc(Hons) in Chemistry
Masters student, ESR

I completed my Honours degree in Chemistry in 1998 at Otago. This enabled me to take up a Masters research project with Institute of Environmental Science & Research (ESR) in Wellington.  I work alongside Forensic Scientists as part of the toxicology team.  And I have learned a lot about the day to day activities that a Forensic Scientist undertakes, such as attending course hearings, quality control, sample handling and case delegation.  Much of the vacancies that arise at ESR are internal.  This may open another window of opportunity for my future.  My chemistry degree has proven to be the foundation to entering the world of Forensic Science.

Sarah Mole

BSc(Hons) in Chemistry
Assistant language teacher, Hirara City Board of Education, Japan

I am working as an Assistant English Teacher in Japan under the JET scheme.  Although this doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with chemistry, it’s the type of skills you learn while studying chemistry that have helped me here.  I have a strong sense of discipline, achievement and commitment, conferred from my studies.  I also have an ability to interact with others (esp. teachers), thanks for the social activities and attitude unique to the staff at Otago.  A chemistry degree conveys your willingness to learn as well as your ability to do so.

Previous to this position I worked at AUT as a Temporary Chemistry Technician.  This job entailed research work as well as lab preparation.  Because of the training I received at Otago, I was subsequently offered a full time position.  Chemistry is a "strong" degree and I found there were many jobs to be found relatively fast, even if not remarkable in pay stakes.  Like every other job, it does take time to work your way up.

Claire Armstrong

BSc(Hons) in Chemistry
Quality control analyst, Douglas Pharmaceuticals

After the four years of toil to complete my BSc(Hons), it was of much relief to find it was all worthwhile.  Employers are always impressed by a Chemistry degree as it shows you have technical skills as well as theoretical knowledge.

I work as a Quality Control Analyst at Douglas Pharmaceuticals.  My job entails using a wide variety of techniques from simple titrations to HPLC and GC to analyse the raw materials and finished products.  We also provide quality assurance for the manufacturing processes — this could potentially lead to another career path of Production Management.

I have learned a vast amount in my first job but my degree provided the broad chemistry background which was very easy to build upon.

Bronagh Hegan (née Carter) 

BSc(Hons) in Chemistry
Superintendent, New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Ltd, Tiwai Point

"Don’t get hung up on worrying about whether what you are learning today is going to give you a job," says Bronagh Hegan, who is now Superintendent of alumina and bath processing at the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter.

Bronagh graduated with a BSc(Hons) in chemistry in 1994, and moved straight to New Zealand Aluminium Smelters as an Environmental Officer.  "I went through the graduate recruitment programme, which is perfect for getting that first job.  People are actively looking for graduates, rather than people with experience."  Bronagh feels she was lucky to hit on something that enabled her to pursue her interest in the environment, paid good money, and had good prospects.

Since joining Tiwai she moved firstly to process control engineer of the dry scrubbing plant, and now to her current role, which involves managing a team of 11, with responsibility for environmental emissions and commissioning new plant.

"Now it’s more engineering than chemistry," she says.  "Chemistry hasn’t prepared me for this, but the skills I developed while studying chemistry are what really count."

"There are so many options out there that you don’t know about at varsity.  I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do until my fourth year, when opportunities started opening up.  There’s an amazing number of industries willing to take on new graduates.  And, after the first job, you have experience and life skills which can take you further."