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Heather Selwyn-Smith

Heather Selwyn-Smith

  • BSc (Hons) Environmental Science
2

 student/Alumni profile 

Course studied: BSc (Hons) Environmental Science
Graduating year: 2014
Job: Currently working on a project for Syngenta

Heather graduated from Bath Spa University with a degree in Environmental Science. She is currently working for Syngenta.

"Have a good working relationship with your tutors; they are marking your assignments(!!), and make the most of all the university’s facilities, whether it’s careers advice or joining university societies."

What have you done since graduating from Bath Spa?

Wanting to specialise in one area of environmental science. I went straight into studying for a Masters in Environmental Management at the University of Reading. This allowed me to explore subject areas which had been covered during my course at Bath Spa in more detail, including EU environmental law, waste management, and water quality.

What is your current job?

I am currently working on a project for Syngenta, a global agricultural company. I work with the Weed Control Research team who specialise in identifying and profiling biologically-active compounds for their potential to control weeds in crop protection and professional markets. Specifically, I work with ‘Early Profiling Screen’ (which tests a large number of active ingredients on a limited number of weed species), and with ‘Primary Profiling Screen’ (which tests a smaller number of active ingredients on a wider range of weed and crop species…).

Typical day in the current job...

My days are split between spraying the plants with herbicides using a large track sprayer machine, and assessing the plants for damage and effectiveness of the herbicides. On a ‘spray day’, I will either be formulating the chemicals using serial dilutions, loading the plant troughs into the machines, operating the machines, or organising plant troughs in the greenhouse. During an ‘assessment day’, I will be looking for signs of damage on the plants and recording these data so that they can be analysed using computer programs, and the results forwarded to the chemists who design the herbicides.

Most favourite part of your current job?

I particularly enjoy a ‘spray day’ as this allows me to work with large and complex machinery. Loading the plant troughs into the sprayer is generally fast-paced and requires a lot of concentration to make sure that the right compound is being sprayed onto the right plants. I also enjoy working alongside friendly and chatty people, as this means that there is never a dull day.

… least favourite part?

Cleaning the greenhouse bays and disposing of plants after spraying and analysis. The spraying machines can also be temperamental at times, which can make a spray take longer than usual.

How did your course at Bath Spa help to prepare you for employment?

I never thought I would be saying this, but all of Nigel’s practical classes in the labs on plant species identification have really become very useful. Within my first three weeks I had learnt the names and how to identify all 40 plant species which are used in the tests.

Best experience/memory of your time at Bath Spa?

My favourite memory is the Marine Biology residential field trip. We were lucky with the weather, spent time with friends on the course, and even got to have a drink with Derek, Darrel and Nigel at the local pub.

Top tip(s)/advice for current Bath Spa Biologists/Environmental Scientists?

Have a good working relationship with your tutors; they are marking your assignments(!!), and make the most of all the university’s facilities, whether it’s careers advice or joining university societies.

[Ed. – and we are very pleased to share with our readers news that Heather gained a Distinction in her Masters. Very well done, Heather!]

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