Callum Robertson came to QMU from Falkirk in 2015 and graduated from the BSc Nutrition and Food Science programme (now the BSc/BSc (Hons) Nutrition) in 2019.
Why did you choose to study at Queen Margaret University (QMU)?
QMU was one of the only universities in Scotland that offered a modern food science program with opportunities to gain experience in the food industry before graduation. I wanted to gain the experience I needed to get my dream career but also be involved as much as possible when it came to the university life. Everything from the campus tours to the lecturers to the sports and societies on campus made the decision easy for me. I knew that QMU is where I wanted to be.
What interested you about your chosen course?
Throughout my time at high school I always gravitated towards Home Economics, Biology and Chemistry. When I came across the idea of a Food Science degree I knew that it would encapsulate everything I enjoyed at school. I chose the course at QMU as the modules showed a mix of home economics and the health behind foods, but also the science behind food structures.
What attracted you to study in Edinburgh?
I knew that I wanted to push myself once I achieved my higher qualifications. I wanted to come to Edinburgh in order to get the full university experience in addition to living close to a city where I’d have more work and degree opportunities. I also wanted to gain confidence and independence by living away from home.
What did you most enjoy about your course? Was there a highlight?
The main highlight would have to be my three-month placement in the food industry which formed the basis of my undergraduate honours’ project research. I felt that I was able to apply the knowledge that I had gained there - through witnessing all the stages between the concept and a launch - into the creation of a new product for a potential supermarket client.
I gained so much valuable experience working in a small team on this placement, and it gave me skills with recipe development, time management and process knowledge which I use every day in my graduate role. Not only did I gain confidence but my placement also widened my knowledge about future career opportunities - things I had never have thought of!
How did the lecturers support your learning? Have you kept in touch with the University since graduating?
Throughout my time at QMU I felt that my lecturers, specifically Julien Longchamp and Catriona Liddle, provided the guidance and support I needed to complete the degree. Both of them were able to share their own industry knowledge as well as providing support outside of class times during submission deadlines. Not only this, but they provided further work opportunities after I graduated with job links, recommendations and job interview support.
"I wanted to gain the experience I needed to get my dream career but also be involved as much as possible when it came to the university life."
What were some of the challenges your encountered with the course and/or university life? How have you overcome them?
In the first few years, the challenges of working, studying and having a social life were tough; however, as I approached 3rd and 4th year, I got into a good routine. I was able to find the time where I felt most productive, and fit that around work, socialising and the cheerleading society. Most importantly of all though, I found a way to separate uni work stress so that it stopped impacting my life and from their I was able to enjoy my university life outside of classes and assignments.
Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in applying for this course?
Be completely open minded. The food industry has so many opportunities in development, manufacturing, research and even teaching that you might not have thought of yet. Try to gain experience anywhere you can - even if the experience isn’t in the field you end up in, all the skills you build are transferable.
Were you a part of any extracurricular programmes?
During my time at QMU I tried to be involved as possible. I spent the majority of my extracurricular time in the QM Sapphires Cheerleading Squad on campus. I was involved with the group for three years and acted as the club treasurer for my final year. In my last year, I won the ‘Society Scarlet of the Year’ and ‘Society Personality of the Year’ awards. Outside of sport, I was the environmental and ethics officer for Queen Margaret University Student Union (QMUSU) and a student trustee on the QMUSU board of trustees. Plus, I was also a student volunteer for open days. From all my experiences, i gained invaluable social and organisational skills which I use in my job on a daily basis. I also gained a lot of independence and confidence in my abilities which, when in a graduate position, are essential for getting daily tasks complete.
What’s your top tip for making the most of being a student?
Join a sport or society. Joining the Queen Margaret Sapphires (Cheerleading Squad) was the best decision I ever made. The club became my emotional support during exam weeks and especially during my honors project. And, take every opportunity you get to be involved - even if it’s only a couple of hours a week.
What have you been up to since you graduated? Are you working in the field you studied?
Six months after graduation I was successful in gaining a role in food manufacturing as a process technologist. In this role, I run factory trials for new and upcoming products for major supermarket retailers. In addition, I’ve continued with my interest in Cheerleading and am currently serving as Treasurer for Scottish Student Cheer.
Looking back on your time at QMU, what was the most valuable thing you learned?
I learned not to compare my progress with others. At the start of university I saw others in my class with a more science knowledge doing better. I never thought I would end up graduating with a 2:1 classification! However, by focusing on my own goals and routine, I was able to gain everything I needed and more from my university career.
Published August 2020