What is it like to be an Analytical Chemist with RPS?

James Curtis, joined RPS in July 2021 as an Extraction Chemist and was promoted to an Analyst position in June 2022. We met with him to find out more about his role within our Bedford Laboratory and his career progression.

28 Mar 2023

Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to be working in this role?

I studied Chemistry at university and did a couple of environmental chemistry option modules and then I did a summer placement at an atmospheric chemistry lab at the end of my second year, which introduced me to analytical chemistry using GC instruments in an atmospheric setting. I really enjoyed this project and ended up doing my Masters’ project in the same lab, which gave me more experience using analytical instruments, and by the end of my project, I was looking at analyst roles in commercial laboratories.

I joined RPS as an Extractor, i wanted to gain experience of working in an accredited laboratory and learn more about analytical testing and the processes involved, and the environmental aspect of the work appealed to me because of my previous studies. When an Analyst position became available, I successfully put myself forward, so now I’m working towards being a fully-fledged analyst in the LC team

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I really like the environmental aspect of my job; a lot of the time we test for pesticides or compounds such as PFAS which has been in the news a lot recently as a serious environmental pollutant. There is a lot of variety both in the many tests I do and through my role as an analyst particularly, I’m finding that every day is different and brings its own challenges to solve, which I’m really enjoying.

What do some of your day-to-day activities involve?

My main responsibilities are running samples on a variety of LC instruments and analysing the results to report back to the clients, and I still do some extractions for the specific tests that I run, which gives a real variety to my days!

I’m largely responsible for 5 LC instruments; 3 HPLCs and 2 ICs, so a lot of the time I’m extracting samples in the morning and then setting up the instruments or analysing the previous nights’ batches in the afternoon.


What challenges have you faced during your career and how does working at RPS work for you?

I joined RPS as an Extractor straight out of university so I’m only at the beginning of my career, but one of the things that first struck me was how different the pressures are compared to an academic laboratory, as in a commercial setting keeping on top of everything is even more important, which can lead to pressures when methods or instruments don’t behave as expected.

Having said that, in my experience, RPS is a very nurturing environment, especially while I’ve been training and learning about my new role, and I think the development offered through both the Extractor and Analyst Development Programs allows people to constantly learn new techniques and enhance their skills to help move the company forwards.

How would you describe RPS in terms of its People and Culture?

Everyone is very welcoming and willing to answer any questions and if there’s anything I’m not sure about, I can ask anyone in my team and know they’ll try to help me out. I’ve never had difficulties with anyone on my team and as well as working well together that helps make everything more enjoyable. Particularly for my first full-time job you never know what to expect, but RPS has a great atmosphere, and this really shines through its people.

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What key advice would you give to someone who was considering joining RPS?

Just to go for it – there are lots of opportunities for progression within the company and no matter what stage of your career you’re at, there are always new things to learn about. As a graduate reading up on analytical and environmental chemistry really helped me out, and if you’re interested in those sides of Chemistry, it really is a great place to be.

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