Qualifications: 

  • BE Petroleum Engineering (Hons 1) 

  1. Congratulations on winning the university medal, how do you feel?

    Thank you for the recognition! To be honest, winning the university medal was not my ultimate goal in university. Starting from my foundation year, my sights were  set on being a high achiever. This can probably be attributed to the way I was brought up and to always try to be the best I can. Thankfully, I was in a position to win the medal and quite frankly, it feels great. I believe that it was an accomplishment commensurate with the work that I put in, and the feeling that I got when looking at my transcripts was unparalleled. It was a mixture of being proud of myself, knowing that I made my family proud, and knowing that this is hopefully a key to a brighter future. 

  2. Why did you choose to study petroleum engineering at UNSW? 

    I’ll split this question up into different parts. To start with, engineering in general has always fascinated me as a result of my upbringing. The ability to think outside the box and solve complex problems that are present in our world today is a driving motivator behind my interest. Growing up in a rapidly developing world showed me that we as humans are advancing at an unprecedented rate. 

    Therefore, this naturally piqued my interest and drove me towards engineering. Furthermore, I knew that Saudi Arabia was at the forefront of exporting energy and therefore fueling much of the world’s advancements. Being able to take part in that revolution is a privilege for me. As a result, I tried to seek out the strongest university in this field, and one of the most internationally recognized ones was UNSW, which is why I chose to pursue my degree here. 

 

  1. What did you like about your degree and what were your favourite classes? 

    I enjoyed many parts of my degree. One of the best parts was being able to be taught by and collaborate with some incredible people in the hydrocarbon industry. Many of our lecturers were greatly accomplished professionals in their fields, and it was reflected by the way that they taught. Gaining this knowledge from them was a great opportunity for me. Furthermore, being able to pursue industrial training in both Saudi Aramco and Delft University in the Netherlands had a  big impact on my professional development and has helped me gain insight into the future of our industry. In relation to the future of our industry, some  of my courses, including Reservoir Characterization taught us cutting-edge technologies and theory that has transferred nicely into my professional career. Furthermore, all three of my reservoir engineering courses helped build the theoretical foundation that I have in this field today.  

 

  1. Did you hold a scholarship and what did it mean for you?

    Yes, I was lucky enough to hold a full-ride scholarship to UNSW sponsored by Saudi Aramco, which is the largest energy company in the world. I say lucky because I was greatly attracted to petroleum engineering, so being able to have the opportunity to study it and work for Aramco in the future is a privilege.

    Therefore, not only did it mean that I felt successful, but it also meant that I had one foot in the door in terms of success, thanks to the company and their generosity to sponsor students like me. 

 

  1. What were your favourite things to do in or around UNSW and how can students make the most out of the UNSW experience?

    I’ve actually been excited to answer this question ever since I received the invitation for this interview. I lived in New College Village for my first three years of university, and was therefore always on campus meeting people, studying, and just enjoying the scenery wherever I was. My favourite thing would probably have to be getting coffee either at Tyree building or the main library, sitting either on a table or on the warm grass, and relaxing. If I was seeing friends, there would be no better place to see them than at Arc-sponsored activities, such as the international night markets. Some of my fondest memories were there at the  Middle Eastern Food and Culture Society. I believe students can make the most of their time at UNSW by not being afraid to take risks. I define risks as anything that can help improve your quality of life at UNSW. This includes approaching societies, potential friends, and professors. The confidence to take smart risks can greatly improve your experience at the university. 

 

  1. What challenges did you face while studying and what would you have done differently?

    To be quite frank, the biggest challenge I would say is having a decent work-life balance. At times, university can feel very overwhelming both mentally and emotionally. It is very easy to convince yourself that you do not know what you are doing, which can facilitate giving up. The key to combatting challenges like this is to understand that you are not alone. In fact, even the professors putting the workload on you only want the best for you. Therefore, reaching out to available outlets like a friend or university-provided services can greatly ease the challenges that students are going through. Furthermore, it is very important in challenging times to take a step back and reflect in the third person. Once you do that, you will realize that the problems you are facing are likely only in the moment. I’m a firm believer that people often come out of hardships stronger and more resilient. 

 

  1. What is the most valuable thing you took away from your time at UNSW? 

    The most valuable thing I took away from UNSW is to never let a good opportunity go to waste. My definition of opportunity is quite broad. An opportunity can be a chance to go out and meet new people, or to network with a lecturer, or to study the hardest you possibly can for exams to ensure that you excel. Your degree can be a huge key to a bright future if you take advantage of it. It is important to realize that capitalizing on opportunities is not just to get good grades. Rather, it is to have a good balance in life and to finish university knowing that you have fulfilled everything you wanted. 

 

  1. What do you think is the relevance of your degree and why do you think it exists? 

    Despite being a relatively niche subject, petroleum engineering is critical to meeting the world’s increasing energy demands. The hydrocarbon industry, which is the focus of petroleum engineering, is the 3rd largest global industry, which underscores the importance of producing high-quality engineers at institutions such as UNSW. 

 

  1. What are your plans after completing your degree? How do you think your studies at UNSW will help in your career aspirations? 

    My plan after completing my degree is relatively straightforward. Thanks to my scholarship, I was able to get a job at Saudi Aramco, which is the biggest energy company in the world, and the biggest company in the world by revenue. My success in the job will hopefully be a result of the high-quality education that we received at UNSW, since many of the lecturers are accomplished professionals in their field with many years of cumulative experience. 

 

  1. Can you share something about the minerals and energy industry that might interest someone considering studies and a career in this industry? How do you see the industry evolving? 

    The minerals and energy industry play a vital role globally. The industry is important for the  economy and it is crucial on every aspect of our lives. This industry involves a lot of travelling to many different countries which may attract the interest of someone to pursue it. I believe the industry will evolve over the next few years taking into consideration the impact of climate change. 

 

  1. How do you think more women can fill the talent gap in the minerals and energy industry? 

    In general women are under-represented in engineering. Something that I found  can be incentive for women to join are more scholarship opportunities for them to allow them to explore their passion more freely. From personal experience, this has helped me, and I am sure it’ll help other women fulfill their aspirations as well. 

 

  1. What advice would you give to a new/future student on how to excel at your degree? 

    Doing well in my degree personally does not only include achieving high grades. It also means finishing university being more mature, cultured, and more educated than when I originally started. I think it is crucial for any student starting their degree to surround themselves with a group of people they trust. This can be either friends, families, a pen pal, or anything in-between. 

    Furthermore, it is incredibly important to stay on top of your studies. This is not just to get good grades, but it is also to build a foundation for your work ethic and to build the critical skills required of any good engineer. 

Q&A with Dr Ankita Singh

Qualifications:

  • BE Petroleum Engineering (Hons 1)
  • PhD Petroleum Engineering

1. Congratulations on your Dean’s Award for your Thesis? How do you feel?

Thank you for the wishes for the award. It is the most satisfying feeling in the world to have received it after a challenging yet rewarding marathon of solving problems where google can no longer give you the answer because you are your google in a research degree. Research is never a one-man-show, and for me, this award is a testimony of the effort that my supervisors have put in to nurture me to be an independent researcher. It is a mark of all the effort put in by the journal editors and reviewers to provide me feedback that has shaped the content of my thesis. It is proof of all that UNSW has taught me as an undergraduate and postgraduate student: to be diligent, persevere until you get results, and be kind to everyone around you. I can never thank everyone in any amount of words for helping me through this journey, believing in me, and encouraging me to carve my way to impact the research community.

2. Can you tell us more about your PhD thesis, “Computer vision and textural analysis for characterization of X-ray images of rocks,”?

Petroleum rock samples extracted from drill holes during the exploration and development stages of a reservoir provide key insights into the rock geometry. It also allows us to answer, how much & how easily can the stored oil and gas be recovered. These rocks samples are imaged using X-ray micro-computed tomography to create a 3D digital twin that can be analysed using supercomputers. While the field of image analysis has progressed at lightning speed, one of the areas that still needs more research is how we can make our interpretations less subjective to human bias and robustly automate workflows.

In my PhD thesis, I address this concern and propose to address this using computer vision and texture analysis techniques. These are the same techniques that a doctor used to detect cancer in organs or fractures in bones. These techniques have also been used in remote sensing and satellite imaging to detect forest vegetation or mineral exploration variations.

Throughout my PhD, I attended several domestic and international conferences through the Medibank, HDRSS, and PRSS Conference Grants. I met Industry professionals who used the same computer vision and texture analysis techniques as I did in my PhD, but instead of applying to petroleum rocks, they applied the same methods for mineral identification as done in the Mining Industry. This is how I learnt that my skills were transferrable across industries. This was one of my motivations to apply for jobs in the Mining sector.

3. Can you tell us about your current role as a Graduate Data Scientist at Rio Tinto?

I am currently employed as a Graduate Data Scientist with the PACE analytics team at Rio Tinto. PACE analytics is an internal advanced analytics consulting team that builds data science solutions for different business units within Rio Tinto. My role involves working with the team of data scientists and engineers to develop data science solutions on the business problems we are solving.

4. What led you down your current career path and how did you get your current role?

I enjoy making new discoveries, solving complex problems, and improving the existing systems that allow us to work at the best efficiency possible. In addition, the field of data science provides me with the opportunity to dig deep into data, find ways and build solutions that can help businesses operate efficiently and maximize profitability. I feel thrilled to be a part of the Minerals and Energy Resources Industry, such a dynamic and evolving Industry that provides the world with necessary minerals and energy resources while making their process more sustainable and climate friendly.

I applied for Rio Tinto’s Graduate Program during the final year of my PhD. Having a strong publication record, attending conferences, and previous data-science internships allowed me to better prepare myself for the interviews and I was offered a Graduate Data Scientist role.

5. Why did you choose to study Petroleum Engineering at UNSW?

Computers always fascinated me, so I signed up for courses to learn coding, HTML & CSS, and Animation software. As I grew up, my interest in mathematics grew, and I started to get exposed to other Engineering disciplines through my friend’s parents. I realized that I could combine my interest in Computer Science, Mathematics, and a non-traditional Engineering discipline to solve bigger problems. In the end, I found my sweet spot is in the technology disciplines of the Minerals and Energy Resources Industry.

My dad is a Chemical Engineer at Shell, Qatar. When I was in high school, he would often take me to his workplace to meet his colleagues. They would tell me about the fascinating work they were doing to help meet the world’s energy demands and how they solved complex problems using their maths and computer science skills. An even bigger coincidence was that some of them were from UNSW. So, I sealed the deal and decided to pursue Petroleum Engineering at UNSW.

6. What is the most valuable thing you took away from your time at UNSW?

UNSW has taught me to ‘Never stand still’: Hussle, Ask and Persevere until you achieve what you want to. It is important to put yourself out there and never be afraid to ask questions. Great things take time to happen, having an impact takes time, and it always starts small. I was always given help when I asked for it, whether it be from my friends or lecturers, but the key here is that you need to ASK. Once people know that you are passionate, honest, and committed to doing things, the plethora of opportunities that will come your way will shock you. It is all right there; you just have to be proactive.

University days were one of the most carefree days. I can never forget the feeling of being surrounded by supportive friends, studying late nights in the Tyree computer labs, our annual petroleum engineering dinners, and the quick escapes to the best burger outlets around the university right before lectures. During my undergraduate degree, I remember a particular time when I had my internship interviews in parallel with group assignment submissions, which accounted for a big share of my final mark. I knew I could not do both together, and that’s when my friends stepped in and carried the entire workload until I finished my interviews. I can never forget what that meant to me. Those moments will forever be a part of my memory lane.

7. What challenges did you face while studying, and what would you have done differently?

For me, it was particularly challenging to transition from being an undergraduate student to a research student. In a coursework degree, you have a defined path and clear goals. A research degree is completely the opposite – you have to review the literature in your field, find the areas that need to be explored, and have unanswered questions until you find answers that will form your thesis. The catch here is that you do it with your supervisors and experienced PhD students rather than by yourself.

Also, achieving results takes time. Looking back, I realize that one of the things that would have made this whole transition and journey more relaxed was clarifying expectations with supervisors and talking to recent PhD graduates. Doing so would have helped me have more realistic expectations realize that PhD is a marathon, not a sprint where you can achieve your goals quickly and made me enjoy what I was doing rather than thinking that I was not achieving enough.

8. Is there anything that has affected your experience in the world of engineering? What would you like to see change?

I feel the world of Engineering needs to adapt to change better. It is important for the younger generation of Engineers to first understand the legacy processes and why things have been done a particular way. Then, find ways to make these processes better, more efficient, environmentally friendly, and sustainable. These goals can be a reality only when we challenge the way we work and come together to improve these processes.

9. How do you see the Minerals and Energy industry evolving?

Unlike the past, where profits drove businesses to do better, Sustainability, Climate Change, and Technology will be the three key pillars that will drive business hereafter. There is a pragmatic shift in our approach to extracting minerals and energy resources to be more environmentally friendly, keep our carbon footprint to a minimum, and design scalable processes. Engineers aspiring to be in the Minerals and Energy Industry need to bring this change and keep driving the goal to incorporate renewable energy sources and as safely as possible.

10. What is your advice for someone considering an Engineering degree at UNSW?

Our economies are progressing at speed like never before and technological innovation bringing dreams to reality. UNSW provides you with a platform to expose yourself to real-world problems through hackathons, business case studies, coding challenges, and society activities where you can gain hands-on experience and build things. You need to take every opportunity that comes your way to experiment and learn by doing. This is when maximum learning and growth happens. While you sharpen your mind, be grateful, be kind, and be the motivator to bring everyone together. You never know your group of mates, and you could start the next Facebook or Tesla

Q&A with Dr Huasheng (Bill) Lin

Qualifications:

  • BE Mining Engineering (Hons 1)
  • PhD Mine Geomechanics

 

1. Congratulations on your Dean’s Award for your Thesis? How do you feel?

I am very thrilled to receive Dean’s Award and I feel the work that I put in during my PhD is very well paid off. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank my supervisors Dr. Joung Oh and Prof. Ismet Canbulat at UNSW. They came up with this great research topic and pointed out the direction. I just followed in their footsteps.

2. Can you tell us more about your PhD thesis and how it has led to your current career path?

Safety is always the No. 1 priority in Mining Industry. My PhD aimed to provide a better understanding of stress in underground environment in a cost-effective way, which in turn can help improve the safety of operation from feasibility stage to short term operational support design. This was achieved using borehole breakout data. As borehole breakout is related to in-situ stress in the field and its data is easily accessible from mandatory logging, reliable stress estimation from this type of data is practically free of cost. The outcome of this research has been implemented at numerous mine sites in Australia and helped me secure a job at Glencore.

3. Can you tell us about your current role as a Graduate Geotechnical Engineer at Glencore?

As a Graduate Geotechnical Engineer at Glencore, I have had the opportunity to work at both mine sites as well as corporate offices across open cut and underground operations. It has been a great experience so far and I have learnt heaps of field knowledge while being involved in long term geotechnical projects. While working in a corporate office, I also had the opportunity to conduct research on the applications and practicality of cutting-edge technologies. The experience has broadened my understanding of the Mining Industry as a whole.

4. What led you down your current career path and how did you get your current role?

I was inspired by my supervisors. Both of my supervisors have spent significant time in the industry and returned to academia later in their careers. Hence, I’d like to go out to the field and learn how to be a real engineer first.

My PhD has helped me land a job at Glencore since my research project was funded by Australian Coal Industry Research Program and Glencore is one of the funders. The beauty of conducting research at School of MERE is the practicality of the projects. A lot of PhD projects are funded by Industry Partners, and we are required to solve a real-world problem that mines are currently experiencing. Your research output can be quickly implemented at mine sites across the country.

5. Why did you choose to study Mining Engineering at UNSW?

To me, choosing to study Mining Engineering at UNSW was a no-brainer. UNSW is a world-class university and Mining Engineering is one of UNSW’s best degrees. Plus, I had the chance to stay in Sydney. My first dream job during childhood was to be an astronaut.  As I grew up, I realised I probably should “come back down to Earth” and study engineering since I was good at Math and Physics.

6. What is the most valuable thing you took away from your time at UNSW?

Be proactive and committed. UNSW provides enormous opportunities to its students, but we need to be proactive to find out about these opportunities and be ready to take part when the opportunities come.

Another valuable thing that I now can think of is commitment. I will use a quote from my first supervisor (Dr. DS) at Glencore who completed his PhD a while ago:

 “You do not need to be very smart to complete a PhD, but you need to stay committed”.

 It is not easy to focus on one research question for four years to which you may not necessarily come up with a solution, hence “commitment” is the key. 

7. What challenges did you face while studying and what would you have done differently?

Well, I would say language was the first challenge that I faced while studying in Australia. I remember in my first math exam I could barely understand the questions. Of course, my English got better later on otherwise I would need translator to understand the questions. 

One thing that could have done to improve my English at a faster pace while making more friends was to join the language exchange program. It is a great program designed by UNSW to build a bridge between international and local students. I highly recommend it.

8. Is there anything that has affected your experience in the world of engineering? What would you like to see change?

One thing that was eye-opening to me when I first started working at Glencore was the importance of each Engineering discipline in a Mining operation. Mining does not solely rely on Mining Engineers. You need Electrical and Mechanical Engineers to ensure the equipment are working, Environmental Engineers to take care of the rehabilitation; and Civil Engineers to construct the critical infrastructures.  It is really a collective of work between different Engineering disciplines.

Although we work as a team at the mine site, students studying these degrees are semi-disconnected at university and rarely have opportunities to work together in 3rd and 4th years. It would be good for both students and university to have more interaction across different disciplines and even different faculties. 

9. How do you see the Minerals and Energy industry evolving?

I would say automation, data and multidisciplinary collaboration. Autonomous trucks are rolling out in Western Australia and data is playing a more and more critical role in the industry. Numerous resource companies have opened research centres to better understand and utilise their data. Cross-disciplinary research and application is also receiving more attention. Research in the Resource Industry is no longer an isolated field and is now coupled with other disciplines including computer visions and surveying etc.

10. What is your advice for someone considering an Engineering degree at UNSW?

I would recommend that you should stop thinking about other universities and come to UNSW. You will never regret your decision as UNSW has unlimited opportunities for its students and will get the best out of you!

Q&A with Dr Chenhao Sun

Qualifications:

  • BE Petroleum Engineering (Hons 1 & University Medal)
  • PhD Petroleum Engineering

1. Congratulations on your Dean’s Award for your Thesis? How do you feel?

Thank you very much. It is a great honour for me to be the recipient of Dean's Award for Outstanding PhD Theses. I probably become the first person in School of Petroleum to be awarded the Dean's Award for best performance of undergraduate degree (2015/2016), University Medal (2017), and Dean's Award for my PhD thesis. I am really excited and feel very honoured.

2. Can you tell us more about your PhD thesis and how it has led to your current career path?

The traditional wetting theory is based on the thermodynamic laws, but it has a lot of limitations. For my PhD thesis, I, for the first time, develop the wetting theory from the geometric perspective (based on the principles of topology and integral geometry). And the developed general relationship for interpreting wetting behaviour holds for any multiphase system without assumption. It is a major advance for surface science and porous media community, especially oil and gas industry, for characterizing wettability and therefore accurately predict multiphase flow in complex and confined porous systems.

3. Can you tell us about your current role as a Lecturer at the China University of Petroleum?

At present, I am a lecturer in College of Geosciences at China University of Petroleum (Beijing), and I was selected to join the Talent Recruitment Program, and my salary and other benefits are equivalent to the full Professor.

4. What led you down your current career path and how did you get your current role?

During my PhD study, I published three high-quality research papers and all of them were published in top journals. In addition, two of them are ESI highly cited papers (Top 1% most cited). My research is well received and recognized by well-known scientists and experts all around the world, such as Martin Blunt (the member of UK's Royal Academy of Engineering) at Imperial College and Alex Hansen at NTNU, and of course some influential professors and Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) members in China. All of these make my current role possible.

5. Why did you choose to study Petroleum Engineering at UNSW?

Both of my parents have been working in the Petroleum Industry for more than 30 years. I was influenced constantly by my family, and it made me interested in Petroleum Engineering since I was a child. I picked UNSW due to the reputation of the University. Due to the COVID-19, I have not gone back to the campus since the end of 2019, and I really miss the campus and all my friends at UNSW.

6. What is the most valuable thing you took away from your time at UNSW?

The most valuable thing I took away from my time at UNSW would be 'Patience' and 'Devotion', both of which are essential to scientific research and finally make me to achieve success.

7. What challenges did you face while studying and what would you have done differently?

I faced some challenging time during my research. For example, I often cannot find a correct and efficient way to figure out the research problem. Therefore, I frequently communicate with my supervisor Ryan and my collaborators from Shell, Virginia Tech and ANU. They helped me avoid tough situations.

8. Is there anything that has affected your experience in the world of Engineering? What would you like to see change?

For now, the new energy vehicles have affected my experience in the world of Engineering as it is a good way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I also want to see the advances in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. The CCS technology is another way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and it needs to be improved as soon as possible.

9. How do you see the Petroleum and Energy industry evolving?

The conventional oil and gas resources are running out rapidly, so there is an increasing demand to explore and develop the unconventional resources, such as shale gas, shale oil and gas hydrate. Also, with the high consumption of fossil fuels, the amount of greenhouse gas increases significantly. To change this situation, I can see that the energy industry now is more focused on efforts on the new/renewable energy and its application.

10. What is your advice for someone considering an Engineering degree at UNSW?

Firstly, choose the major that they are interested in and works best for themselves. Secondly, I highly recommend the students to consider studying the degree at School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering at UNSW, since they have the best teachers and the best study environment throughout the degree.