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Petri dish and pipette

Quality Assurance Chemist

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I check the quality of the products through rigorous testing.

00:00 In the lab here at Sheffield we do a variety of different tests,

00:04 some of which are quality control for the factory, so testing that the sweets are up to the right standard.

00:11 We also check the effluent to make sure that we’re not throwing too much sugar away

00:16 and another part of the work that we do is looking at projects to help the factory

00:19 when they’ve got problems or if they’re developing new products.

00:22 A lot of the testing that we do in the lab has a really strong chemistry base to it.

00:28 We’ll test the sweets for acidity, which uses pH and we’ll test for moisture, which is the water content,

00:34 we’ll test for the sugar and glucose content,

00:38 we’ll also measure things like menthol and eucalyptus using gas chromatography

00:43 for our medicated products, so really everything that we do has a base in chemistry.

00:48 We have two main types of jobs in the laboratory.

00:53 We have laboratory analysts who tend to do a lot of the routine analysis in the day-to-day

00:58 testing and sampling from the factory, and also we have laboratory scientists

01:04 who are more involved in technical projects and problem-solving for the factory.

01:09 Qualifications that we mainly look for are a good grounding in science, so any of the science subjects,

01:14 obviously chemistry is really useful, and we look for GCSEs or A levels

01:20 for the analysts and when we get up to the scientist level we look for people with a scientific degree.

01:27 I think if you want to work in a manufacturing laboratory, it’s important obviously to get your qualifications

01:34 and as we’ve said before, chemistry is really important here.

01:37 But also to try and get an understanding of what the business does,

01:41 and maybe try and get some experience in laboratories if you can as well.

01:45 It’s a really varied role, you never know who’s going to come through the door,

01:49 what kind of problem they’re going to bring you,

01:51 what’s the issue today, it could be totally different from what you did yesterday.

01:55 There is a lot of routine work but, you know, you can make that interesting as well,

02:00 and learn more about the techniques, and we’re all learning every day about how to make sweets,

02:05 and how to improve the tests.

02:07 I’m actually a biochemistry graduate, so I studied chemistry for GCSE and again for A level,

02:13 and then at university, did quite a lot of chemistry but quite a lot of biology as well, 

02:18 so both sides of the science.

02:20 Some of the tests that we do in the lab are actually based on really basic chemistry principles,

02:25 like pH, for example, although we’ve got a technical, sort of, machine, that will do it for us,

02:32 we still have got the indicator papers so we can say

02:36 you know, it’s acid, it’s alkali, and also things like titrations are really important.

02:41 And we use those for, one for pH, also for moisture and also for the sugar analysis.

02:47 As you can see, we’ve got lots of different equipment in the lab, some of the main things we use are titrators,

02:54 which are based on the, sort of, bench test that we used to do with burettes,

02:59 but now we have automated equipment; we have a Karl Fischer

03:02 to do moisture analysis, we have a gas chromatograph,

03:07 and a high-performance liquid chromatograph as well,

03:10 which we can use to analyse sugars and menthol and eucalyptus.

03:15 We have a UV spectrophotometer, we use quite a lot of spectroscopy like that,

03:21 and obviously we’ve got basic microscopes where we can look at any foreign body contamination,

03:30 or if we’re checking to make sure the product’s been cooked.

“The testing we do in the lab has a strong chemistry base to it; we'll test sweets for acidity which uses pH & we'll measure eucalyptus and menthol content using gas chromatography.”

How did I get started?

I did chemistry from GCSE, doing biochemistry at university which had a lot of chemistry and a lot of biology.

Career progression

Positions in the lab, depending what they are, will need a good grounding in science, and chemistry is obviously very useful for this.

Skills used

Practical Lab Skills, Organisation, Project Management, Team Worker, Logical Thinker, IT and Technology, Communication, Problem Solving

“You're never sure who's going to come through the door, what kind of problem they're going to bring you, the issue today will be totally different from what you did yesterday.”