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ChemistryOur alumni

Alexandra Hartke BSc Chemistry, 2014

Technical Management Trainee - Samworth Brothers

Alexandra Hartke's Photo

The labs gave me a good analytical foundation for my third year project and the start of my career.

Why did you choose to come and study at Southampton?

After visiting several of the top 10 Universities at the time for Chemistry, I felt that I would fit in best at the University of Southampton. The staff were friendly and I was impressed by how knowledgeable and enthusiastic they were about their subject areas. I loved the campus and surrounding areas and there were plenty of extracurricular activities available that appealed to me.

What were your Southampton ‘highlights’ (best experiences)?

I remember getting very excited on a number of occasions after finally getting a reaction to work in the labs. A particular academic highlight for me however was completing my final year project and as part of this using the mass spec equipment at Southampton General Hospital.

Outside of my studies, one of my favourite moments was travelling up to Sheffield and competing in the ice hockey Nationals tournament.

What other activities did you take advantage of while at University?

Between my second and third year I took part in an RSC/Chemspider data management internship within the department. This not only enhanced my industry knowledge, but also gave me the opportunity to network with staff and RSC members.

I met many friends through the Southampton Spitfires Ice and Inline Hockey Club, several of whom I am still in contact with to this day. This in turn has opened up opportunities for me down the line in terms of work and social contacts across the country.

What did you enjoy most about your course?

I really enjoyed the lab time as not only were the experiments we performed exciting, but they also reinforced the theory we were covering in lectures. The labs also gave me a good analytical foundation for my third year project and the start of my career. One thing that stood out for me was how enthusiastic all lecturers/tutors/lab staff were about their subjects and about passing on their knowledge to us students. They were all willing to give time both to those who were struggling to understand concepts and also those interested in learning more about a topic.

What have been the highlights of your career to date?

The biggest highlight of my career to date has been presenting my Master’s project to an industry leading panel at the IFST (Institute of Food Science and Technology) Young Scientist of the Year competition final. Additionally receiving the news that I had successfully secured my dream role after 5 years of hard work and studying and a very competitive recruitment process. None of this would have been possible without the excellent scientific grounding that I received at the University of Southampton.

How did your time at Southampton help you to grow as a person and help you get to where you are now?

Not only did my time at UoS team me subject specific theory and analytical skills, but it also developed my confidence, work ethic and interest in all things chemistry and science related.

I use things I learned at UoS on a daily basis when in the Food Industry, harnessing my scientific knowledge to problem solve and improve processes. 

What advice would you give to a student starting their degree at Southampton?

Take every opportunity open to you, get involved in activities within your department and join societies. Network from the beginning and talk to fellow students and lecturers – you never know what career path it may open for you!

What tips would you give to current students looking to start a career in your sector?

Do not join the food industry purely based on the dream of eating food 24/7. Yes, some sampling is involved but the novelty wears off very quickly. It is an extremely fast paced but equally highly rewarding industry with an abundance of technical roles and opportunities to progress or enhance your career. Networking is one of the most effective ways to increase your career prospects: keep in touch with your classmates and join a professional body such as IFST.

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