Cosmo Mwamwembe, BEng Chemical Engineering

What do you like most about being a student at the University of Edinburgh?

One of the things that really stood out to me, and still does, about the University of Edinburgh is the diverse and multicultural community. Being at a university with students from two-thirds of the world’s countries really makes me feel like a global citizen. More importantly, it’s how the university embraces uniqueness while promoting diversity.  
I also love that the university has a vast amount of resources and an immense support system that I have always felt from day one. However hard things get, I always feel like there is a way to help somewhere within the university. I think that’s one of the most important things when you are studying, especially when you are in first year.  

How would you describe your programme of study to a prospective student? What is the most interesting thing about this programme?

I chose to study chemical engineering because I was interested in chemistry, physics and engineering. I was fascinated by the idea of being able to make materials and pharmaceutical drugs. The thing I am most proud to have learnt from studying chemical engineering is the problem-solving skills. I think that really is what this subject is about; being able to solve a broad range of engineering problems, often with limited time and resources.
My favourite part about the programme is the practical and group work side of things. Although it is probably the most time-demanding and often difficult, I think it is the most important part of chemical engineering because it gives you a feel of what you would be doing if you went to work in the industry and trains you to think outside the box. As an introverted person this has also helped me to move out of my comfort zone and learn to communicate and work with other people.

Placements: Describe your experience of undertaking an industrial placement as part of your programme. What have you gained from this experience?

I have not done any placement related to chemical engineering yet. However, in my second year I did a summer internship with Learn Foundations, a multi-year service improvement project at the university that is helping schools to make Learn easier to use for both staff and students. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, I had to work from home. I had a great experience though and I learnt so many skills such as teamwork, effective communication, using digital technology to work remotely and time-management.

University Clubs and Societies: Describe your involvement in any student clubs and societies. What have you gained from this experience?

I have been involved in extracurricular activities since my first year and I think I have learnt many life and professional lessons from them over the past three years. In my first year I took part in the Edinburgh Award where I worked with impactful organisations like Dirty Weekenders.  
I have also been a part of the Engineering Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (EngPALS) leader since second year, first as a Marketing Coordinator and now as a member. EngPALS holds weekly sessions where students (mostly first years) can work on questions together, ask questions they didn’t understand in class and socialise with other students they might not even know they’re in the same class with (and have free snacks!). I have really enjoyed my experience there because I understand how difficult and confusing first year can be, especially when you have no one to talk about your struggles with, and being able to help others who might be going through what I went through makes me feel like I am making a real impact.  
I recently finished my training program with Prosper Social Finance, the UK’s first student-run socially investment fund that brings students from different background and teaches them finance with positive social impact. I would highly recommend it!  
I am also currently the Treasurer of the Engineering Society which is dedicated to enhancing the University experience for students in the School of Engineering by focussing on links with Industry, networking, academic support and sports.

What sort of accommodation are you living in? What do you like about it?

I have been living in the university accommodation since first year. In first year I lived in Pollock Halls of Residence; I liked the fact that I didn’t have to cook there as it was catered which saved me time and the worries of what food to eat or where to buy it. I also liked that it was near the university buildings and the town centre and I could easily walk to most of my classes. I also had the perfect view of Arthur’s Seat! Most importantly I had so much fun living there and I made great friends and built impactful relationships that have helped me throughout my studies.
I am currently living in Shrubhill House which is just off Leith Walk. It’s quite far from King’s Buildings but I love the quietness of the location and I had a feeling that school would be online this year too so my studies would not be affected. I share a flat with three first year students and I’ve never had problems with my flatmates.

Is there any advice you could share with new students to help them make the most of their time at Edinburgh?

One piece of advice I would give is to seek help when you need it. Learn to ask questions when you are unsure or struggling as I believe an engineer should be comfortable with not knowing the answer. Knowing what you don’t know is the first step and this can take you a long way. I realised that during your time at university everyone is smart and everyone is struggling in one way or the other so it is not healthy or helpful to pretend you are not when you are.  
I would also recommend getting a holistic education by getting involved in societies you are interested in. This has been really helpful for my mental health because sometimes you get so buried in your work that you need something to get your mind off it. Another positive is that it is really good to have these for your CV when looking for internships and jobs!

What are you hoping to do after graduation?

I have always been passionate about the pharmaceutical industry but over the past year after getting exposed to finance through Prosper Social Finance, the student-run fund with focus on social impact, and EUTIC, one of the UK’s largest student-managed investment funds here at University of Edinburgh, I feel I would want to use my engineering skills in the financial industry. I don’t know how that will play out in the end but I don’t believe that your degree, especially chemical engineering which is so broad and teaches you fundamental skills to thrive in any environment, should tie you to one area. The university is like a library of everything; it is very supportive of whatever you are interested in and I haven’t lacked resources for my personal and professional development as an engineer and for my interest in finance. I am curious and excited about the future.