Spotlight: Victoria Laila Neill, Chemical Engineering Student at Heriot-Watt University

Vice-President Chemical Engineering Society and Executive Watt Women in STEM Society

Tell us a fun fact about yourself

I was born in Norway and starred in a Norwegian TV show

Tell us about your career journey so far

I completed an engineering internship for Diageo in Menstrie in May 2018. Through this internship I experienced various aspects of the company including: Manufacturing, Packaging and Product development. Fortunately, I was given my own individual design project for a cooling jacket for a fermentation vessel. It made me realise how rewarding it is to design equipment which aids in producing a product for human consumption. Chemical Engineering seemed like the best way to use my passion for process design. I started studying at Heriot-Watt University in September 2018.

I achieved the Royal Academy of Engineering Scholarship in 2019. This lead to me pursuing a summer internship in Houston, Texas for Syngenta at the GB Biosciences plant. I was involved in decommissioning meetings with the Global management team, discussing wastewater treatment design solutions and learnt about control automation. I spent the majority of my time shadowing the lead operator on one of the process units and the process safety manager in day-to-day safety compliance meetings. Overall, the experience taught me a lot about my strengths as an employee as we took part in several workshops such as strength finder. I was offered a research project at the Malaysia campus for Heriot-Watt University. I critically reviewed the value chain of Bio-CNG (Production, Distribution and Utilisation) and was fortunate enough to travel to Thailand and Vietnam during my time.

In 2020, I have been elected as the Vice-President for the Chemical Engineering Society and Executive of the Watt Women in STEM society. The Chemical Engineering Society aims to bridge the gap between students and careers in engineering, by connecting chemical engineering undergraduates with leaders in various fields. Watt Women in STEM is a diverse group aiming to create a supporting and inclusive network for various STEM female students. I was honoured to be voted in and hope to use my responsibilities to expand the societies further. Considering all the above, I am currently a finalist for the Female Undergraduate of the Year awared in association with TARGETJobs UK and Rolls-Royce. I am due to attend the award ceremony in September, where I will be networking with finalists from other categories.

What was your favourite subject in school and why?

My favourite subject was chemistry. I was fascinated by how theoretical knowledge developed into experimental application. Engineering itself is based around the paths to a solution rather than the result itself. This lead me to read around the material provided in my class. I also enjoyed cooperating with my classmates. From this, I grew my love for teaching. I began leading the young science clubs, devising experiments they could complete and teaching them the theory behind them.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

Throughout my studies I have been a key member in several design projects such as producing polylactic acid for the 3D printing market and aspartame, the popular sweetner. My favourite project was designing a biogas digester public toilet system for a village in South Africa. The project was based around sustainability and ethics and required us to attempt to benefit society by considering the population’s needs. Overall, chemical engineering requires you to extract knowledge from a range of subject areas such as economics, physics, mathematics and business and pull them together to find a solution to a real-world problem. It involves several disciplines and a requires you to cooperate with a diverse group on a project. I enjoy working with others on challenges that people experience.

Suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?

Make a cup of tea for yourself!

Now try and design how to make a cup of tea for 100 people! Engineering involves the scaling up of small processes for mass production. Inlets/Outlets, temperature control, pH control, stirring, time and type of teabag are all key factors in this.


Tel: 01383 626070


Address: 2 Pitreavie Court, Dunfermline, KY11 8UU

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The UK-wide STEM Ambassador programme is managed by STEM Learning Limited, which operates the National STEM Learning Network, alongside other projects supporting STEM education. To find out more please go to the STEM Learning website