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A Day in The Life of… A Chemist:  Tom has found the perfect formula 

Tom grew up on the South Coast and was studying nanoscience at the University of Wollongong, an area of materials chemistry and physics which involves trying to understand and control materials systems at the nanoscale (1 billionth of a meter). During his studies, he took on a 3-month industrial chemistry internship with Nowchem – a Chemical Manufacturing business based in Nowra. 

While he enjoyed the experience it would be over a decade before he’d be back… 

Tom went on to build his technical skills working on numerous industry-facing problems in nanoscience, such as creating biocompatible electrode coatings for neutral prosthetics, biodegradable heart stents, and various printed electronics applications whereby inks containing nanomaterials and polymers are converted into controlled structures with amazing properties.  

Along the way he completed a PhD in Materials Physics at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, and a prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. 

Before long he felt the pull of home – he wanted to raise a family the South Coast and had no intention of commuting: 

“I love the South Coast, taking the kids bushwalking or swimming on weekends and having a world class chemical manufacturer just down the road,” added Tom. 

Tom returned to Nowchem to take on their Technical Manager role, overseeing the manufacture of hundreds of different product lines at Nowchem for numerous applications areas spanning topical pharmaceuticals, personal care products, cleaning chemicals and water treatment – ensuring that they are made safely and to the intended specifications.   

A lot of Tom’s role involves overseeing quality control testing, product development, process improvement and ensuring their pharmaceutical manufacturing activities are compliant with Good Manufacturing Practice.  

Tom enjoys the fact that he has time to spend with his kids while pursuing a fulfilling career: 

“I feel blessed to be able to raise my raise my family here on the South Coast while also able to work at an exciting company like Nowchem”. 

“The family friendly culture is one of the things I value most about working here,” he added. 

Looking back, Tom acknowledges that his internship at Nowchem left a strong impression: 

“What impressed me was the pace of contract manufacturing and diversity of chemical products being made. To enable smooth operations requires a lot of skill at the management level, as well as great teamwork from everyone throughout the business.” 

“The friendly work culture really stood out to me then, and it still exists today. The Technical Manager at the time, Ken Chapman, was a great example of how to take your job seriously but also have fun along the way.” 

“Whilst at the time I knew I wanted to do a lot more study and keep building my skills, I always had the idea of returning to Nowchem in the back of my mind,” he added. 

Interns are still an important part of the business today, where students from high school and beyond are invited into the lab for various projects. A high school student recently learnt how to make liquid hand soap, and a PhD student from UOW will soon be joining the team on a scholarship to develop next generation sunscreens. 

“During my own internship at Nowchem, I remember working on analytical method development for quantification of actives in sunscreens. It was very exciting to apply what I had been learning from chemistry textbooks to the real world. Whilst I still find this exciting today, I also get satisfaction from supporting young scientist as they develop their own skills in the lab,” said Tom. 

  

The team at Nowchem continues to grow, be sure to look out for the next story of an intern turned employee and his family who flew across the world for the party. You can read the story here

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