• 8th Aug 2022
  • Company News

An Environmental Placement Programme with SEM

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming Nina Walden to our team for a 12-week placement as part of Bright Green Business’s Environmental Placement Programme (EPP) funded by Zero Waste Scotland. The programme is designed to link students and recent graduates with organisations across Scotland to under-take a short-term project with an environmental focus.

Nina joined the SEM team at our laboratory facility in Colpy, Aberdeenshire to undertake some research and development around our fertiliser and growth media by-products produced from ‘waste’ from the food and drinks industry. The aim was to identify the best organic material to manufacture growing mats for use in vertical farming by conducting a detailed analysis.

Having successfully completed her placement we asked her a few questions about her experience here with us at SEM…

What made you apply for the internship with SEM?

I’m currently studying for an Environmental Science degree with the Open University and was seeking a project-based placement that would enable me to gain credible experience in the field. I came across the opportunity with SEM via Bright Green Business and it presented an experience in a different environmental sector for me to explore, which I couldn’t resist! The project looked extremely interesting, with a focus on growth media products for the emerging vertical farming industry.

Tell us about your experience on placement. What did you find interesting?

Truth be told, I found it a bit overwhelming at first as there were so many different routes to research and analyse. But the laboratory team were on hand to offer me advice and guidance should I have needed it, which meant I soon settled in.

The fact that the project was solely for me to work on was really exciting – I had the freedom to pursue ideas which I thought might work and plan my time accordingly. I tried and tested various growing mediums to analyse their outcomes based on seed growth and collated all of the data for use in my end of project presentation.

I also did a lot of reading around soil chemistry which was super interesting!

How will it help you as you continue your studies?

My time at SEM will be invaluable to my future studies and career. It showed me first-hand what a role in R&D would be like, should I wish to continue down that route after my studies are completed (time will tell!). It also introduced me to new scientific concepts, which may well be touched upon later in my studies, which means I’m well ahead of the game, not to mention the experience in the laboratory, which will benefit me greatly.

In addition, one of the major benefits of completing the placement is the contacts I have made during the process. I know that I can reach out to any one of them in the future if I’m ever involved in a related project to ask for some advice.

Who made your experience at SEM memorable?

It sounds cliché, but honestly everyone! Working in such a small team meant that I got to spend some one-on-one time with incredibly knowledgeable and inspiring people. The team out at Colpy might be small but they are so dynamic, each bringing a different skillset to conquer various problems.

A special shout out to Leigh though for her kindness as she was always willing to help me and to Steve who introduced me to lots of laboratory techniques which I hadn’t encountered before.

Would you recommend the Environmental Placement Program (EPP) to others? If so, why?

Absolutely – the experience is definitely something I would recommend if you’re pursuing a career in the environmental sector. The EPP offers various placements with different project scopes in conjunction with businesses across Scotland, and they are always there to support you along the way. If another opportunity were to arise with SEM, you’d be foolish not to take it!