Alumni profiles

Sydney, Australia - August 17, 2012: Students and graduates converge on a lawn before the University of New South Wales (UNSW) library on a clear winter morning

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. 

3. 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.  

4. 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. 

5. 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. 

 

6. 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. 

7. 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. 

8. 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. 

 

9. 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. 

10. 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. 

11. 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. 

12. 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. 

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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

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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!

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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.

 

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Q&A with Dr Dr. Mohammed Abdul Qadeer Siddiqui

Qualifications and current role:

  • BE Petroleum Engineering
  • ME Petroleum Engineering
  • Ph.D. Petroleum Engineering
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate

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

Thank you so much for the wishes. It feels great and honoured to receive the award. It gives a sense of satisfaction that the hard work put in during my Ph.D. is being recognized and appreciated. I would like to render my appreciation to my supervisor Associate Prof. Hamid Roshan for guiding and training me until the end of my Ph.D. I owe my successful Ph.D. completion and this award to him. I dedicate this award to my parents who were a constant source of motivation throughout my Ph.D. journey.

2. Can you tell us more about your Ph.D. thesis, “Theoretical and Experimental Study of Water Loss in Shale Matrix: A Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics-based Two-Phase Flow, Damage Chemo-poroelastic Investigation”?

Hydraulic fracturing is the most common technology in the development of shale reservoirs. It consumes large amounts of chemically treated water of which 60- 95% is often not recovered in flow-back operations. This massive water loss can lead to significant environmental concerns and cause many economic and technical issues for operators. In my dissertation, I developed a constitutive theory using non-equilibrium thermodynamics and continuum mechanics to predict the extent of water loss under the action of coupled multi-physics processes including two-phase flow and chemical damage. The research findings provide valuable insights into the chemo-poromechanics coupling in shale matrix and its important role in causing water loss.

3. What led you down your current career path and can you tell us about your current role at UNSW?

Being passionate about research, I wanted to work on major problems that have no disciplinary bounds. To solve big problems, I needed to be brave to take risks and needed to try things that nobody has ever tried. I knew doing a Ph.D. would give me a platform to take these risks and to easily aim for more ambitious scientific objectives. During my pre-PhD academic life, I got fascinated by porous media theories, mathematics, and physics. This led me to choose a Ph.D. supervisor whose work stretched the boundaries of these specific disciplines. My goal was not to aim only for impact, it was to challenge myself to explore what I didn’t know. I accepted the challenge to explore new areas of non-equilibrium thermodynamics and apply them to a relevant impactful application in the minerals and energy resources sector. This led me to my current research interests in theoretical and applied multi-physics poromechanics.

In my current role at UNSW, I am continuing my passion for research by working as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Geo-Research Lab group supervised by Assoc. Prof. Hamid Roshan. As a postdoc, I am satiating my research interests with a special focus on developing thermodynamically consistent constitutive theories to describe adsorption-induced geomechanical processes in rocks. Such theoretical exposition can be beneficial in underground gas storage applications (e.g. CO2 or H2).

4. Why did you choose to study your degree at UNSW?

Firstly, when deciding on a university to study for my degree, I put in a lot of thought as it was a lifelong career choice I was making. I checked the Ph.D. degree requirements at UNSW and found that the program was superior to other competing universities in the country. My priority was to do my Ph.D. with the best: top-ranking professors in my field in a top-ranking university. I wanted to belong to a community of scientific fellowship and collaboration. I always wanted to ask tough questions and find answers to those questions, to challenge myself, and solve problems. UNSW provided me with this perfect combination. It is ranked amongst the top 50 universities of the world, and specifically, the School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering n is considered as an international hub of producing highly competent mining and petroleum engineers.

5. What did you like about your degree?

My Ph.D. degree was enjoyable due to its multidisciplinary nature where I got the opportunity to work with different people from different research areas. My degree was an interdisciplinary pivot between geomechanics and reservoir engineering. Many unknown factors were worth the risk and my degree allowed me to become a scientific thinker and risk-taker. It instilled in me a combination of curiosity and an appetite for taking risks. Bright minds need to see new perspectives and I believe my degree has helped me immensely to realize this.

6. Did you hold a Scholarship during your study and what has it meant for you to be awarded this Scholarship?

Yes, I held the prestigious and competitive Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship that fully covered my tuition fee and also paid a stipend. The scholarship meant that I could focus on my research with complete peace of mind and work to achieve my long-term goals without worrying about the finances. It truly fostered my journey of self-growth and discovery by allowing me to follow my passion at one of the most esteemed universities in the world on a scholarship.

7. What were your favourite things to do in or around UNSW and how can students make the most out of the UNSW experience? (e.g clubs, memberships, other co-curricular opportunities etc.)

While at UNSW, my favourite thing other than research was to socialize with friends over lunch or evening tea/coffee breaks. Bar Navitas café in the Tyree building was my favorite coffee place. I befriended many Ph.D. students from different schools, and we would often talk about our research challenges and how we were tackling them. Besides work, my favourite hobby was playing cricket with friends on the amazing grounds provided by UNSW (such as the Village Green which is currently being redeveloped), or in surrounding neighbourhood parks. I enjoyed the Arc-sponsored activities such as the food festivals organized by different societies e.g. the Indonesian Night Market, the Multi-cultural Food Festival, and the Middle Eastern Food Night to name a few. The students can make the most out of the UNSW experience by joining any of over 300 societies and clubs relevant to their interests. On a lighter note, every new term, students can stroll through the O-week and grab some freebies as I did with my friends. A Nura Gili coffee cup, UNSW T-shirts, and a pen holder are some of the O-week freebies that I still use.

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

I believe the whole of Ph.D. is a challenge until the thesis is submitted. It is a roller coaster ride with its ups and downs. During the research, several challenges arise. Like many other Ph.D. students, I too faced the challenge of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Working long hours and late nights in the lab, periodic detachments from friends/family to complete a task, the pressure of making satisfactory progress sometimes becomes hard to cope with. But each challenge is an opportunity to learn. I realize now that something I would have done differently was to make every moment count. My Ph.D. journey was one of the best phases of my life and now that it's gone, I realize life goes by faster than we think and we need to make the most of it.

9. 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 as a Ph.D. student was that good things don’t come easy. To be successful and have a good career with emotional satisfaction requires a lot of hard work. Not getting tired of failures, and the ability to learn from mistakes is essential to becoming successful. Apart from quality education, I acquired vital life skills from my time at UNSW including time management, critical thinking, problem-solving, taking constructive criticism, perseverance, and empathy.

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

Today most of the world survives on minerals and energy that come from deep below the earth. Energy transition to renewables such as solar also requires some critical minerals that need to be mined. Natural gas is still the most efficient domestic fuel that is in use today. We do not comprehend how our day-to-day lives are directly or indirectly affected by the minerals and energy sector. The various technical challenges faced by this sector require exceptional scientists to investigate and propose solutions to be executed by highly skilled engineers. Hence, I believe mining and petroleum engineers holding any degree level will be required for a long time to come to sustain the energy economy as well as to aid energy transition.

11. 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?

Australia is a leading producer of mineral and energy resources for the world. Australia produces several useful minerals in significant amounts, from hundreds of operating mines. Coal and natural gas are equally a part of Australia’s minerals and energy industry that enables us to power our homes, cars and industry, and are a key contributor to Australia's economic prosperity. The energy demand is increasing as Australia's economy and population grow. The minerals and energy industry provides economic wealth, jobs, high wages, investment, and tax revenues to Australians.

There are significant career opportunities for the next generation of mining and energy resources engineers as there are newer and expansive projects across most mineral and energy commodities due to the growing energy demand. Based on my interactions with the industry colleagues, thousands of jobs will be available for new graduates in the next decade.

The industry is constantly evolving to tap new regions and resources such as the Beetaloo Sub-basin in the Northern Territory, Galilee Basin in Queensland, The Great Australian Bight, The Canning and Browse Basins, the Paterson Province and the Fraser Range in Western Australia, etc. The industry is also evolving to cater to the hydrogen energy economy of the world as Australia has been recognised, both by the International Energy Agency and the World Energy Council, as potentially the world’s largest hydrogen producer. There has been an agreement by the COAG Energy Council to develop a National Hydrogen Strategy to build a hydrogen industry. Hence, the industry is continuously evolving to cater to the current day’s needs such as climate change and sustainability. 

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

All great nations today have become great because they had engineers to design, build, and sustain the infrastructures relating to construction, transport, energy, tourism, security, safety, and so on. Don’t mind other people’s aspirations, don’t ever let someone else’s goals and dreams influence your vision of life. It’s your path and you decide where it takes you and how long it takes you to see it through. Having studied engineering myself, I must advise that whenever you feel it’s time to act, take action. No matter the outcome, you will end up smarter than before. With hard work and perseverance, you can achieve anything in life. I would also advise experiencing what you have learned through internships, industrial training, etc.  Young people often face difficulties when it comes to putting what they have learned into practice. They can use their knowledge as the fuel that propels their careers.

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Q&A with Yufu Niu

Qualifications:

  • MPhil in Petroleum Engineering
  • PhD in Petroleum Engineering
“Being a research scientist is always my dream since I was a kid. I am excited to conduct research in my research domain because I like to explore new things in the world.”

1. Congratulations on winning the Dean’s Award, how do you feel?

Thank you very much. It is a great honour for me to receive Dean’s Award for outstanding PhD thesis. My thesis was titled “Applications of Physically Accurate Deep Learning for Processing Digital Rock Images.” I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisors – Associate Professor Dr. Ryan T. Armstrong and Associate Professor Dr. Peyman Mostaghimi. Without their help and support, my thesis cannot be completed well. I also would like to say thank you to all my colleagues. In addition, thanks to my examiners who acknowledged my PhD work. Also thank our MERE Admin to assist my MPhil and PhD study.

2. What did you study and why did you choose to study it at UNSW?

I competed my bachelor’s (Marine Geology) in 2012 and master’s (Oil and Gas Engineering) in 2014 at China University of Geoscience (Wuhan). I came to Australia and studied in MPhil and PhD in Petroleum Engineering at UNSW from 2016 to 2022. My education background is in the interdisciplinary engineering between petroleum geology, petroleum engineering and computer science. It is my pleasure to study at UNSW – one of the best Universities in Australia which has ranked 3rd in Australia for graduate employability.

3. What did you like most about your degree?

During my PhD study, I enjoyed collaborating with my excellent colleagues from UNSW, CSIRO Energy and Oak Ridge National Lab. In addition, I like to discuss with my supervisors when I was facing any challenges. Every time I had meeting with my supervisors, I learned valuable research skills. All classes that I attended are beneficial to my research.

4. Did you hold a Scholarship during your study and what has it meant for you to be awarded this Scholarship?

Yes, I received a University International Postgraduate Award (UIPA) from the Faculty of Engineering, UNSW. The scholarship provided me the cost of my tuition fee, a stipend of 27,082 per year and overseas student health insurance for 3.5 years. The scholarship means I can conduct my research without financial burden. In this way, I can put all my concentration on my PhD program.

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

My favourite things to do in UNSW is to meet my friends. When I am free, I like to walk along Coogee beach which is very close to UNSW campus. I suggest new students joining ARC which is a great organisation for UNSW students. There are lots of activities in ARC and you can make many good friends.

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

Challenges are very common for PhD students. Coming up with innovative ideas is one of my challenges in my PhD study. My PhD relates to interdisciplinary engineering between digital rock physics and computer science. To create new ideas for my research, I read through the previous papers in digital rock physics and computer science part. This allows me to think which I can do in my research topic.

7. 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 think and learn independently. My supervisor always encourages me to create new ideas because innovation is very important for research. My supervisors were very happy when I came up with some new ideas every time which made me more confident. Learning independently is also significant in research. Unlike coursework students, PhD candidates do not attend many courses which means you have to learn by yourself. In UNSW, I learned a lot of skills in independent learning.

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

My PhD project relates to digital rock physics technology. In particular, I was focusing on the image processing of digital rock physics using physically accurate deep learning methods. Digital rock physics aims to characterise the pore-scale structure of porous reservoir rock and simulate the corresponding physical process for various applications such as enhanced oil and gas recovery, hydrogen storage, carbon capture and storage, ground water management, etc. Image processing is a very pivotal step in digital rock physics. Traditional image processing algorithms have more or less disadvantages. My PhD research opens up a new path for physically accurate image processing which can facilitate the entire workflow of digital rock physics.

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

I joined CSIRO Mineral Resources on the 1st of March 2022 as a full-time CERC postdoctoral fellow. UNSW’s global reputation helps me in job searching. I am very proud of being a UNSW graduate.

10. 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 is experiencing a transition from conventional operation to information digitisation operation. There are many research gaps on developing digitised applications in petroleum engineering, mining engineering. Recent advances in artificial intelligent and data science can narrow these gaps which are very promising to minerals and energy industries. In addition, with the rapid improvement in computational performance, the connections between micro scale, laboratory scale, and field scales can be reviewed in a new way.

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

I would like to give the following advice for new/future MPhil/PhD students in our school.

  1. You need to think about what research you are interested, then find an appropriate supervisor. Communication between you and your supervisor is important in your study.
  2. Literature review is very critical at your first year. Good literature review can give you insights on what you can do in your research field.
  3. Self-learning ability is significant as a research student.

Q&A with Sarvesh Kumar Singh

Qualifications:

  • PhD Mining Engineering
  • Research Assistant, LIME, MERE
“The growth of humanity depends almost entirely on minerals and resources as this is one field which is always going to be at the forefront, as resource demands will never end.”

1. Congratulations on winning the Dean’s Award, how do you feel?

While I thought completing a PhD within the given time frame with a decent grade and publications in itself is an achievement, the Dean’s award is the cherry on top. My thesis was titled “Optimising Mobile Laser Scanning for Underground Mines.” It gives me immense pleasure and pride that the relevance and importance of my works were recognised and I was deemed worthy of this award among the pool of excellent candidates. This would not have been possible without the excellent supervision I received at UNSW and the support of my family and friends.

2. Can you tell us about your current role at UNSW?

Currently, I am working as a post-doctoral research assistant at the Laboratory for Imaging the Mining Environment (LIME), UNSW to help advance the mining industry towards automation using remote sensing.

3. What did you study and why did you choose to study it at UNSW?

I pursued PhD degree in the School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering (MERE). I have been in academia and pursued a bachelor of technology, master of science by research (MSR) and PhD degrees in the process. In terms of choice of discipline, it wasn’t something which I had dreamed of as a kid. All my interests developed successively with more knowledge. During engineering, I was exposed to several subjects one of which was remote sensing. I immediately realised its immense potential and impact on our daily lives upon exploring the subject. As such, I pursued a master's by research degree in remote sensing where I graduated from one of the top universities in India, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.

 There were several reasons behind choosing UNSW. Foremost, it was the interaction with UNSW academics at one of the international conferences in India, who then went on to become my PhD supervisors. They briefed me about the available projects, facilities, future potential of the discipline and reputation of the university. Upon further research, I found that UNSW was globally ranked within the top 50 with MERE school being in the top five among all the universities around the world. Subsequently, to further delve into application-oriented remote sensing, I was offered a scholarship to pursue PhD at UNSW, Sydney. Finally, the scholarship, city, international diversity and degree time frame were other lucrative factors which prompted me to join UNSW.

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

I really liked the supervision, industry interactions, international conferences and local events organised during my PhD tenure. PhD degree allowed me to present research work at several international conferences which not only expanded my professional network but helped me explore new places. The degree allowed me to work at my own pace as long as I met the milestones and deadlines. Thus, my social and work life were adequately balanced. Further, I got to meet several people in and outside the professional network which made the entire PhD journey a sweet lifelong experience.

5. Did you hold a Scholarship during your study and what has it meant for you to be awarded this Scholarship?

I held a tuition fee scholarship from UNSW and the rest of my living stipend came from a funded PhD project. As a student coming from a middle-class Indian family, both of these scholarships were a lifesaver. Without these, attending UNSW would just have been a dream. These scholarships ensured that I do not have to work part-time, and enabled me to focus entirely on research to produce the best quality outputs.

6. What were your favourite things to do in or around UNSW and how can students make the most out of the UNSW experience? (e.g clubs, memberships, other co-curricular opportunities etc.)

My favourite thing to do around UNSW was hiking and running. Sydney has some of the most beautiful trails ranging from coastal walks to technical mountain trails. During my degree, I became an active member of the UNSW wandering society, UNSW running society and a few other clubs outside UNSW. As a result, I got a chance to explore areas in and around Sydney. Personally, these clubs played a huge role in overcoming the homesickness I was struggling with in the first two years. There are heaps of volunteering activities and a wide range of clubs in UNSW based on one’s liking which are so much fun. I remember how in my first year I use to be a shy and introverted person. Participating in club activities boosted my confidence and helped me come out of my shell.

Clubs and memberships are a great way to grow professional and social networks, which can last a lifetime. Students should make the most of clubs and use them as an opportunity to develop their skills. Also, clubs and extracurricular activities may act as a stress buster to keep oneself emotional and mentally fit.

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

Some of the challenges I faced during PhD were soft skills which were related to academic writing, presentation-making and professional communication. I was quite adept in research but struggled to portray it clearly at the start of my degree. Over time I learned how to write academically, make high-resolution figures and approach someone in a professional setting.

I wish I had actively engaged with experienced PhD candidates and UNSW academic services at the start of my degree. Sharing and exchanging ideas with them would have helped me grow at a much faster pace. At the time I was shy to approach people but over time I have realised that most academics are happy to support and help. Most important thing is to swallow your ego, overcome the fear of being judged, and be ready to learn whenever an opportunity presents itself. 

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

I would say I have gained more faith in my abilities and skills, and can now handle myself confidently on any given platform. My most treasured aspect is countless sweet memories and lasting relationships during my time at UNSW which are irreplaceable.

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

PhD in minerals and energy resources engineering is very crucial in preparing the next generation of mining engineers. Through this degree, the candidates put forth their research ideas into practical realisation which makes mining safe and sustainable. Ultimately the research will lead to low environmental footprints which are critical for sustainable resource extraction. The skills learnt during the degree can be applied to several disciplines which broaden the range of possibilities for a candidate.

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

I plan to join the industry next to transfer whatever I have learned into actual practice. UNSW has prepared me and equipped me with skills to succeed in multiple industries thus opening up a wide range of options.

11. 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 growth of humanity depends almost entirely on minerals and resources as this is one field which is always going to be at the forefront as resource demands will never end. Careers in the mineral and energy resources industry entail almost every discipline which may include planning, robotics, automation, safety, exploration, business etc. Thus, the industry gives candidates plenty of choices based on their interests and is competitive in terms of salary packages. Also, there are opportunities to switch and explore new roles.

The minerals and energy resources sector is developing at a rapid pace and in foreseeable future, we may see completely autonomous mines with humans working away from hazardous areas. Resource extraction is becoming more sustainable with low wastage, and there are now minimal threats to life and property. Also, with advances in new technologies, the environmental footprints of mining are diminishing.  

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

I would advise a new and future PhD student to consider PhD degree as a marathon. Sprint too hard and you burn out soon. So effective time management and breaks would go a long way. I would tell them to balance work and social life as much as possible, and just enjoy the process. Surround yourself with people, participate in clubs, volunteer in the community and explore this beautiful country which has so much to offer.  

Q&A with Mingyan Lv

Qualifications: 

  • MPhil in Petroleum Engineering
  • PhD in Petroleum Engineering
“One thing I realised since I started working was how transferrable the skillset, I picked up in UNSW is. The theories helped build a solid foundation of knowledge so that I can quickly understand the basics of mining operations.”

1. Congratulations on winning the Dean’s Award, how do you feel?

Thank you very much! I feel so accomplished to receive this award and feel all the hard work has been paid back. I greatly appreciate my supervisor Associate Prof. Hamid Roshan and our lab partners. I am especially happy that another Ph.D. from our group has also received the Dean’s Award this year. I am so proud of our team. 

2. Can you please tell us more about your Ph.D. thesis?

My thesis entitled: A fundamental investigation and ultrasonic characterisation of coal effective stress behaviour, was an Australian Coal Industry’s Research Program (ACARP) funded project where I modelled the stress evolution during CO2 sequestration in coal seams by using acoustic methods. The research funding provided a lot of experimental instruments. We support from my supervisor and lab managers; we built state-of-the-art instruments of the ultrasonics enabled CT transparent triaxial cell as well as coded the in-house interface. The experience was incredibly challenging but rewarding when it started to run successfully.  

Another point I really appreciated was that this project granted me access to numerous filed data, so I was able to link my model with industrial data to make it more applicable. Through validating the model using physical core samples and field data, my model could be generalised in multiple fields. 

3. What did you study and why did you choose to study it at UNSW?

There are a lot of reasons I applied for UNSW. It has the most prestigious programs in engineering nationwide. The School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering provides many courses and academia research covers several areas. UNSW Alumni Network made me connect with many international students, so I got to know the details of the program before I applied. 

Another particularly important motivation was the location. Sydney is a wonderful place to live, work, and travel. It is my favourite city in Australia. Apart from study, I travelled around the city, from the peaceful Coogee beach to artistic New Town, and scenic Bay Run, I was never too tired to explore this place. I could always find diverse cultural events and yummy food. It is impressive to study in UNSW Sydney. As the biggest and most vibrant city in Australia, the job opportunities in Sydney are more than any other place. Students can find part-time jobs to make extra money, or build-up work experience to add merit when they apply for a graduate job.  

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

I have not got the chance to be exposed to many courses since I did research degree other than coursework, but I did enrol in a math course to enhance my analytical skills, which was Mathematical Methods and Partial Differential Equations. It is not an easy course at all, but this in-depth curriculum helped a lot in my modelling work afterwards. I appreciate UNSW HDR providing a wide range of courses that we can choose from. 

5. Did you hold a Scholarship during your study and what has it meant for you to be awarded this Scholarship?

I was really lucky having two research scholarships during my master's and PhD studies. These were the University Postgraduate Award (UPA) for master's and Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) for PhD. The scholarships greatly relieved and allowed me to focus on my research full-time. I think that is an important reason why I was able to publish more than 10 papers during my study.  

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

Arc UNSW is a fantastic organisation for managing extra-curricular activities. I used to book the music room quite often as it is free for students, when I first arrived in campus, until later when I bought my own piano. I was also a member in the Latin dance society at a time. The instructor was from Dominica and was an expert in Bachata and Salsa. The course was terminated because of Covid-19 for a while but I am glad it has resumed now. 

Another service worth mentioning is mental counselling which is free for UNSW students. There was a time I felt stressed, so I asked for help. My counsellor happened to be a PhD student as well, so she understood my situation and provided guidance to cope with stress.

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

Since my project was an industry-funded one, and there were some deliverables/goals set by the industrial monitors, I found it challenging to fulfill the gap between our research and industry needs. UNSW outperforms in fundamental research especially engineering disciplines, but the industry likes to see applications with science. The way that industrial professionals give presentations are vastly different from that of academic researchers as these two categories are different philosophies. 

It is not a simple question, but to communicate more with industrial professionals helps to answer it. I participated in industrial meetings and conferences every year and engaged as much as I could to understand industrial needs and the way they think.  

If I had the chance to do it again, I would do a couple of internships in different departments during my study. By working with professionals from different streams, my views would be broadened so I would not think within my own bubble. How to maximise university strength to better serve the industry? is a question I am thinking currently as an engineer.

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

‘Never stand still.’ 

As a traditional industry, the minerals and energy resources industry has changed greatly now. I have seen many new applications come up using advanced technologies and data analysing methods, like fully automated instruments, applications using machine learning, etc. Some of the geotechnical engineers that I work with are Python gurus and they customise coding for their projects, which highly increase work efficiency.  

Another valuable experience is the time I spent in the lab with my peers. The research time will be on my mind for a long time. After graduation, we always chat and share working opportunities, interview skills and industrial news. Thanks to UNSW, the connection will always be there.

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

Minerals and energy resources are some of the most important strategic topics worldwide. These degrees are highly relevant to meet industrial needs. My previous PhD colleagues now work across multiple places in Australia and other countries in companies and research organisations. 

For myself, rock mechanics is an interdisciplinary study which relates fundamental geomechanics with industrial environment like Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), unconventional oil/gas production, etc. The courses offered by MERE UNSW have been widely acknowledged by industrial professionals. Majority of my current colleagues have a degree in my school, across undergraduate to postgraduate, which makes me feel proud of being an alum.

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

My experience in UNSW helped me secure a job as a graduate geotechnical engineer in the largest gold mine in Australia and one of the largest in the world. One thing I realised since I started working was how transferrable the skillset, I picked up in UNSW is. The theories helped build a solid foundation of knowledge so that I can quickly understand the basics of mining operations. Coding and analytical skills I picked up help a lot in preparing reports. Needless to say, my experience of presenting in conferences allow me to give presentations confidently.

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

It is a good question for me as I am a female engineer in the mining industry. Female representation in some mining companies is actually higher than I thought before I joined, which could be around 40% or even more. Gender balance helps to create healthy culture. Technically, it should not be a male dominated industry because women can do most of the same jobs as men. However, there is still a gender gap in the whole country, even globally in this industry. One reason is that the bias that engineering is not a girl’s preference still exists. I read in the news that fewer and fewer girls are choosing HSC math extension in NSW.  

There is something we can do to promote engineering among high school girls. I have a friend in another university majoring in civil & mining engineering who volunteers with Engineers Australia. She runs regular demonstrations to high school girls about mining related topics in fun ways such as interesting scientific experiments. It is an effective way to eliminate bias and let high school girls know that working in engineering is interesting and rewarding. I am currently participating in the UNSW Career Discovery Mentoring Program as a mentor. This program has paired me with a girl in engineering. Hopefully, I can advise as much as I can to help her with my experience.

12. 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?

Australia is experiencing a new cycle of mining boom and it is an exciting time to join the industry. It offers good pay as well. A lot of civil engineers have moved from construction to mining now. All engineering disciplines can spark in mining which surprised me to see how diverse this industry could be when I first joined. Working in mining is interesting because every day brings something anew. Mines are changing with time and the dynamic process of production is so fascinating when I think of my daily work and decision matters.  

The way the minerals and energy industry operate is evolving as technology becomes a heavy input. As the locations of mines are getting deeper and more challenging, it relies on technology increasingly to reduce production costs. Recently, my employer ran a university event to connect with students and surprisingly found that all final year candidates received job offers. It is glad to see MERE training the next generation of industrial talents.

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

Besides study, I would suggest students develop leadership skills as much as they can because there is no work can be done by one person and teamwork is the key to success in many circumstances. Young people grow faster through peer competition and collaboration. 

After graduation, it still takes a few years to become a competent engineer or researcher, and the learning never stops. There will be multiple choices in your later career path, and there will be a time to make a choice, between private or public sectors, industry or academia, operation, or consultancy, or even to run a start-up. My advice is to follow your interests and make the most of it. Do not have limitations and believe that anything is possible.

Q&A with Xiao Chen

Qualifications:

  • MPhil in Petroleum Engineering
  • PhD in Petroleum Engineering
“The study at UNSW allows me to not only gain a strong research background and diverse skill sets but also expand my social network with UNSW alumni. It boosts my confidence for success and makes me much more competitive in the global recruitment market.”

1. Congratulations on winning the Dean’s Award, how do you feel?

Thank you for the recognition and the wishes for the award! I’m deeply pleased and proud to receive this award. Being recognized by the examiners for my PhD academic achievements is the greatest honour for me. It ‘fuels’ me and ‘burns’ my motivation to keep research as my future career. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my supervisors, Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb and Associate Professor Hamid Roshan, for their selfless help and support. They guided me and carved my academic life through the entire PhD project. I dedicate this award to my parents for encouraging and supporting me to challenge myself and explore possibilities in the world.

2. Can you please tell us more about your PhD thesis in ‘Mechanical Compaction of Highly Porous Carbonates: Instabilities and Permeability Evolution’?

Carbonate rocks have diverse uses, including engineering construction, environmental applications, and energy extraction and storage. Before planning and operating energy and civil engineering applications, it is crucial to obtain an understanding of the mechanical properties, the criterion and evolution of failure and the resultant permeability evolution of carbonate rocks under various geological and engineering loads. To understand the response of the carbonate to various thermo-hydro-mechanical-chemical (THMC) forces and the impact on fluid flow properties, my dissertation presents a comprehensive experimental investigation into the dynamic evolution of deformation bands, their nucleation and propagation in highly porous carbonates and their impact on permeability evolution.

3. What did you study and why did you choose to study it at UNSW?

To broaden my scope of education, gain a global perspective and master valuable skills, I decided to continue my study overseas after completing my bachelor’s degree. Australia attracts me the most owing to its cultural diversity. Besides, UNSW has a great academic reputation and top-ranked Petroleum Engineering, thus, becoming my dream university.  During my postgraduate studies, I have grown to appreciate the stimulating Australian academic environment as the optimum for my passion for research, hence I continued with my PhD study at UNSW.

4. What did you like about your degree?

Even though there were some frustrating periods, I would still say I enjoyed the whole ‘tough’ journey. The PhD journey is full of risks and challenges that need to be solved at the beginning of the research career. You must be a self-taught person and find yourself a proper way to do research. The sweet thing is you can always meet amazing people on this journey, not only your supervisors and colleagues but also the anonymous reviewers who reviewed your paper, researchers who met with you at conferences and other researchers who are interested in your study. That’s all the precious experiences during your pursuit of the degree.

5. Did you hold a Scholarship during your study and what has it meant for you to be awarded this Scholarship?

Yes, during my PhD study, I hold scholarships from the UNSW Tuition Fee Scholarship, China Scholarship Council and Top-up Scholarship. These scholarships covered my tuition fees and daily expenses, which alleviated my financial pressure, so I can concentrate on research work during my PhD study.

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

There are many things that I really enjoyed at UNSW. The one I loved most was the coffee time after lunch every day. My friends and I used to visit Cafe Brioso on the upper campus or the Village Café on the lower campus. It’s a short but creative time, we can share our research challenges and get brainstorm to find potential solutions. There are also some ARC communities and clubs where you can join to meet new people and forge new friendships.

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

To be honest, the most challenging thing would be the PhD journey itself, that is why people joke that a PhD means ‘Permanent Head Damage’.  From my own experience, the challenge would be how to keep a healthy mindset when facing all the difficulties, no matter what their extent. Balancing your life and work is a good trick to relieve stress and anxiety, for example, spending some time in touch with friends and family, finding new hobbies and so on.

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

I think the most valuable thing that I took away from my time at UNSW is the ability to handle the anxiety and pressure of unknown territory. Nothing can obstruct you if you have a positive attitude. Otherwise, you may beat yourself up.   

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

Understanding mineral and energy resources is fundamentally important for hydrocarbon recovery, aquifer and reservoir management, geothermal energy utilisation, carbonate dioxide seal and storage, mineral harvesting by in-situ leaching, mineral exploration, and environmental disaster management. Meanwhile, with the depletion of conventional fossil fuels, other types of energy resources attract more attention, including unconventional hydrocarbon resources, hydropower energy resources and geothermal energy resources. Furthermore, carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been recognised by many countries as an important greenhouse gas mitigation option in the future. researchers and engineers with mineral and energy resources backgrounds would be highly needed to make these achieved in the future.

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

Currently, I’m working in CSIRO Mineral Resource 3D Characterisation Lab as a CERC Postdoctoral Fellow and continuing my PhD research work. The study at UNSW allows me to not only gain a strong research background and diverse skill sets but also expand my social network with UNSW alumni. Indeed, it boosts my confidence for success and makes me much more competitive in the global recruitment market.

11. 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?

Now, we are in a special time, a transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based to zero-carbon by the second half of this century. However, the rapid development of clean energy technologies as part of energy transitions implies a significant increase in demand for minerals. Other related techniques such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) which play an important role in transitioning to Net-Zero will also offer job opportunities for the next generation of mining and energy resources engineers.

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

If you decided to start your PhD journey, please remember to find a healthy life and work balance. Besides the hard work, it would be better to spend some leisure time with your family and friends and develop several new hobbies. Although hardworking is important, you are given health only once in your life, so please take care of yourself before pursuing your dream degree.     

Q&A with Jessica Creech

Qualifications:

  • PhD Mining Engineering
“A degree in mining engineering can open up opportunities in a number of industries, my current career in the space industry being a testament to this.”

1. What did you study and why did you choose to study it at UNSW?

I did a PhD in Mining Engineering, and my PhD project was focused on off-Earth mining, so I got to spend my days thinking about outer space. I was interested in researching space resources, so I chose UNSW for its world-leading multidisciplinary off-Earth mining research program. While I was in high school, I was lucky enough to get selected to go to space school in the USA. At space school I had the opportunity to meet people working in the space industry in a wide variety of roles, and the job title that really stood out to me was planetary geologist. So, I decided to do my undergraduate degree in geology.

It was through my geology study that I was introduced to cosmochemistry, a subset of geology that involves studying the chemical compositions of meteorites to investigate the formation of the solar system. I went on to do a master’s degree with honours in cosmochemistry, where my research was focused on investigating the timing and mechanisms of asteroid formation. Through my master’s research, I made a number of connections with space researchers around the world, which led to a job offer in Europe. I continued to work in research at institutes in Europe for a number of years, before returning to university to do a PhD in engineering at UNSW

2. What did you like about your degree?

The great thing about doing a PhD is that you get to choose a research topic that interests and inspires you. I got to spend my time researching something that I really care about, which was very motivating. 

3. Did you hold a Scholarship during your study and what has it meant for you to be awarded this Scholarship?

Yes, I was very fortunate to hold three scholarships during my PhD: the Australian Government RTP scholarship, the Women in Engineering scholarship, and the Engineering Supplementary Award. Without these scholarships I would not have been able to do a PhD, so I am extremely grateful for the financial support. 

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

I really enjoyed participating in UNSW events for postgraduate students (of which there are many). Being a postgraduate student comes with its own unique set of challenges, so I appreciated having the opportunity to connect in with other students experiencing similar things to me and learn about all the interesting research that UNSW students were involved in. 

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

I think that like many students, I found being a university student during the pandemic difficult. I’m sure that having to navigate such challenging circumstances has instilled a lot of resilience into everyone who was a student during that period. 

I’m not sure that there is anything I would have done differently, I’m very happy with the outcome of my time at UNSW.

7. 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 is the relationships I made with other students and with staff members. 

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

Doing a PhD has given me the opportunity to generate knowledge, discover new things and develop a well-rounded transferable skill set. It is important that PhDs exist because society is reliant on the advice of experts. 

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

I now work at the New Zealand Space Agency, where I get to apply the expertise, I gained during my PhD to solving a variety of real-world problems. Outside of subject-matter expertise, through doing a PhD I honed my skills in critical thinking, project management, research and communication, all of which are valuable in any career. 

10. 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?

I do not work in the minerals and energy industry, but I would say that a degree in mining engineering can open up opportunities in a number of industries, my current career in the space industry being a testament to this. 

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

Representation is really important. I can recall from my days at school, that all of the prominent figures in STEM subjects that featured heavily in textbooks and classroom teachings were men. I think it is important to highlight the achievements and contributions of women in STEM to girls from a young age, to instil in them a sense of belief that they can succeed in careers where women have traditionally been underrepresented. 

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

Seek out opportunities and take them when they come your way.