A Process and Product Design graduate working in practice

Fernando Polanco, PDEng, alumnus

After graduating University and obtaining MSc in Chemical Engineering, a question came to my mind: should I apply for a PhD position or should I try to get a job as an engineer instead?

I guess the best criteria to decide what to do after your MSc, is to simply decide what you like and what your interests are. If you are interested in research within an academic environment a PhD could be your thing. On the other hand, if you would like to have a more industrial oriented job, you could aim for a job as an engineer within the process industry or related. There are, of course, more options than those two; for instance, you can do research within an industrial environment. Anyway, in my case, I knew what I wanted to do, and that was to apply the theory I had learned the last five years to solve process engineering problems.

I studied Chemical Engineering in Spain, but I carried out my final MSc Thesis in The Netherlands, so that is how I got to know the PDEng Programs. Among all the programs, PPD seemed to be the most interesting for me, so after attending one of the PPD presentation events, I decided to apply and, fortunately, I got accepted.

As you may have read in the program description, it can be summarized as one year academic courses, covering a wide range of subjects related to process engineering, and one year industrial project in a company, where the students puts all that knowledge into practice within a real industrial environment.
In my opinion, the PPD perfectly links academia and industry. It is a bridge that will help you to go from a student to a professional. And, even though that sounds already very interesting and impressive, I must confess that there are many more aspects that make it such a valuable program. Living in a beautiful country like The Netherlands, getting to know a new culture and meeting people from many countries, makes this program a great experience from a personal perspective.

After attending the first year’s courses, I was assigned a project within the global chemical company Huntsman. My main task was to create a dynamic model that simulated the emergency section of the production process. The plant was designed some decades ago and the future plan of the company was to increase the production rate. So, the main purpose of the work was to create a dynamic model and, based on the results from simulations, analyze the performance of the emergency section when increasing the production rate.
I would summarize this second year as a continuous learning process where you have to face the challenges that you will encounter in your professional future. And besides being a great working experience for me, Huntsman was very satisfied with the outcome of my work, so that made the second year project a very valuable experience for both parts.

After graduating from PPD, I was offered to work for Mobatec BV, which is the company that developed the software tool that I used to create the dynamic model during my second year project. Before my project I had never worked on dynamic modeling, so I did not really know what to expect from a job as a modeling engineer. During my PPD project, however, I realized that the main challenge of a modeling engineer is to simulate real physical and/or chemical processes and that the accuracy (and therefore the complexity) of the models should be in line with the goal of the model (Quote Einstein: “Models should be as simple as possible, but not simpler”).  And for doing so, you need to apply knowledge of fluid dynamics, process design, chemistry or thermodynamics, among others, which in my opinion makes it a very interesting, challenging and dynamic job.

Therefore I decided to join Mobatec, where I am currently working as a Chemical Engineer specialized in dynamic modeling. My work focuses mainly on creating dynamic models of physical and/or chemical processes for several purposes, like operator training or process design.

So, as you can see, besides being a great two years’ experience from professional and personal point of view, the PPD became a very effective platform not just only to “get my first job as engineer”, but to achieve a professional situation that I would not have been able to reach without graduating as PPD student.