Steel graduate to show her mettle on the national stage

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 5 Apr 2019

British Steel graduate scheme star Federica Lisa has made it to the national finals of a prestigious technical contest. 

The 24-year-old Italian, who joined the Scunthorpe works after coming to the UK for university, is vying with the best in Britain at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining’s Young Persons’ Lecture Competition.

Closing in on the end of her placement after nearly two years, she won through the first Lincolnshire Iron and Steel Institute-hosted event in early March, and then the North East region she will now go on to represent.

Her technical paper focuses on huge potential cost savings at the plant, as she examines the power and graphite electrode consumption at ladle arc furnaces.

Arriving in North Lincolnshire via Nairobi and Leicester, the prize-winning chemistry graduate of the city’s university has immersed herself in the works, and having got to grips with the staggering size, is flourishing as she closes in on permanent employment options. 

“It was a real surprise, I was really not expecting to win through,” Federica said of the journey so far. “I was hoping to win the LISI local heat as I really worked hard on the project, which is progressing, and the presentation. Now I’m going to London, at Armourers’ Hall, which will be quite an experience.”  

Initially learning English as a foreign language at her Italian primary school, the family moved to Kenya when she was 14, and at international school she completed GCSEs, AS and A levels.

Finding herself enjoying and excelling at maths and sciences, she selected her preference.

“Chemistry is such a wide area, and it can apply anywhere,” she said. Gaining a first, she opted for a graduate scheme, attended various interviews, with the first offer coming from British Steel. 

“When I came here it was something completely new,” she said. “Such is the scale with so much going on, it was a big change for me, but I have been able to see in the steel-making process the chemistry involved.”

Her time in the Basic Oxygen Plant is her fourth rotation on site, and she has thrived with the technical level. “For me, this is the most interesting one,” Federica said. “I am in the development area, working on data, looking at previous performance and providing data for other people to make decisions.

“The work my paper is based on is still ongoing and in more depth,” she said. “The production of electrodes is increasing in cost because of the fluctuation of crude oil and the limited amount of raw material. We are also using more power. I have been understanding how we can reduce. It is such a huge plant, so everything has an effect on it. It is not just a single element, it is much more complicated. An important factor is what comes before, and how raw materials are received also has an impact. In terms of the learning process, it was two months, but every day I am still learning.”

Having studied chemistry with forensic science, as part of the degree she spent a year with British American Tobacco in Southampton. She is one of six finalists competing on May 1, with three men and three women coming through.

And Federica has seen a big change in demographics in her brief time in industry. “When I first started people looked at me on site like I was an alien,” she said. “Now I am seeing more females on plant. It is definitely changing and becoming better.” 

UPDATE: Federica wasn't placed in the final, with Megan McGregor, judged the winner from the South East, with 'The world's hottest superglue: Materials requirements for better sealing in jet engines'. She was followed by James Grant, South West, for 'Electrophoretic materials: The resurgence of E-link through Frustrated Total Internal Reflection (F-TIR) films' and Jack Saunders, North West, with 'Watching paint dry: How to stop corrosion'.

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