John Zhao

Engineer, Hydroflux Pty Ltd

John Zhao Headshot
What initially sparked your interest in Chemical Engineering?

I graduated with a dual degree in Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical Engineering and Bachelor of Commerce in Finance. When I was first applying for university, I was considering studying agriculture – a path that I obviously didn't take. As I delved deeper into the available options, I found myself drawn to chemical engineering, largely due to its holistic approach to engineering problems, which I consider to be unique to this field. What intrigued me most was how chemical engineers don't just focus on one narrow aspect of a project. Instead, they often need to step back and collaborate with engineers from various disciplines to ensure that the plant or system they design is not only fit for purpose but also practical. For me, it's this intersection of different backgrounds and knowledge that ultimately attracted me to chemical engineering.

Can you tell us about your current role and what your hope is for your career in the future?

Currently, I work in a wastewater treatment company based here in Sydney. My role mainly involves completing the initial concept design for industrial wastewater treatment plants for F&B, infrastructure, and other industrial clients around Australia and the Pacific region. This is definitely a position I enjoy now and will enjoy in the future, as not only do I have the opportunity to use what I have learned at university on a daily basis to solve real-world engineering problems, it also gives me a sense of accomplishment whenever I see a plant that I was involved in being built, commissioned, and ultimately contributing to the environmental protection effort that we have all been working for.

How did your Australian education prepare you for your career in industry?

I use the knowledge I gained at university daily, such as mass balance, thermodynamics, and membrane systems, to name a few. I would say my study at UNSW also prepared me for the real world of engineering. A case in point would be the CEIC4001 Design Project that I'm sure every chemical engineer student at UNSW would have to go through. For my year, our topic was to design a wastewater treatment plant for a (fictional) abattoir in Victoria. During my interview for my current role, my interviewer was really impressed with my experience working on the project and it ultimately becomes what I do on a daily basis - identify problems, solve problems, and create solutions.

What advice would you give to current students in China who are considering pursuing their higher education at UNSW?

Growing up in China, I understand how Chinese students have a tendency to focus on academic results above all else, which understandably is important. However, my experience on this would be, take the opportunity during your university study to also spend time outside of class - join a society, go travel, or simply spend some time with friends. Moving to a new country can be daunting, but there are no other places better than a university for you to learn the culture, the society, or simply the different ways of life in Australia. These experiences can be a real asset for your future life and career, whether that may be in Australia or elsewhere.

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