Why did you choose to study environmental engineering?

I always wanted to pursue a field of study that was versatile, meaningful and technical but also allowed me to zoom out and look at the bigger picture every day. This was a lot to ask for from one degree, so when the time came to decide on a professional path, environmental engineering was clearly the perfect mix of everything. I am now sure more than ever that as environmental engineers, we're not just crunching numbers; we're making tangible, positive impacts on the world. 

I also wanted a profession that was relevant in the global context. Environmental challenges are universal and require international collaboration, meaning the skills and expertise I was learning at university would be transferable across borders and teach me to draw on knowledge from diverse communities. 

I have now realised that my choice to study environmental engineering was more than just an academic decision. It was a commitment to a lifelong journey of safeguarding our planet, advocating for sustainable practices, and ensuring a coexistence between humanity and the environment. Every day, I'm reminded of the immense responsibility and privilege I have as an environmental engineer, and I'm grateful for the education and experiences that have shaped my path. 

You were a UNSW Women in Engineering scholarship recipient. Could you tell us more about your scholarship and how it supported your studies? 

Receiving a scholarship was not only a huge honour but also a responsibility. I saw it as an opportunity to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to make a real difference. Being a recipient of the prestigious Tidswell Women in Engineering Scholarship, I can only try to explain the impact this had on my studies and university life. 

The scholarship enabled me to live on campus, which, as someone who grew up overseas, gave me a support system and an incredible community of people who became my extended family. It allowed me to immerse myself fully in student life, both academically and socially. Living on campus, I was not only able to focus on absorbing as much knowledge as I could from the many opportunities available to students at UNSW, but also to actively give back to the student community. 

This scholarship instilled in me a sense of confidence in my abilities and opened numerous doors. I was able to spend all my time grabbing every opportunity that came my way. Through the scholarship networking events, I made invaluable contacts who I continue to be in touch with years later. 

Moreover, this scholarship made me highly sought after when applying for jobs, thanks to the recognition and prestige associated with it. The UNSW Women in Engineering Scholarship not only supported my studies but propelled my personal and professional growth in ways I could never have imagined. 

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What activities were you involved in at UNSW outside of your studies?

I promised myself to get as much exposure as possible while I was completing my degree, and some of the most memorable and enriching experiences included being elected as social director on my college house committee. It was such a great experience working to plan events and ensure that all residents were having plenty of fun all year. I then went on to become staff as student resident fellow the next year. Outside of college, I was on the academic events subcommittee for CEVSOC; my faculty student body and was invited to be an Engineering Student Ambassador where I was able to be a part of many events for new and current students. In this role, I worked with staff to set up a Women in Engineering student body with a variety of events to include students of different diversity groups. I also worked at the Division of Philanthropy to raise funds for scholarships for other deserving aspiring students. One of my favourite (of many) experiences was the opportunity to be MC for the scholarships ceremony with the Dean of Engineering the year after I received my scholarship!

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You are currently working as a project officer at the NSW Environment Protection Authority. Can you tell us about your role and the kind of work you do?

Working for the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has been an incredible experience. I started at the EPA as part of the graduate program and completed two rotations related to environmental regulations and policies. I then took on a permanent role in the Waste and Recycling Infrastructure Team in the Programs and Innovation Division. My team’s work revolves around attracting and accelerating investment in NSW infrastructure to increase waste recycling and landfill diversion. We also support trials for innovative programs and funding models to deliver circular economy infrastructure. Some of the interesting programs I have been involved in are:

  • Remanufacture NSW: This grant program provides $35 million to maximise recycling and reuse activities for plastic, glass, tyres and paper and cardboard.
  • Plastics Technology Stream: The Plastics Technology Stream provides a total of $60 million with aims to increase recycling and recovery rates of hard-to-recycle plastics.
  • Infrastructure Plan: The infrastructure Plan looks at long-term material flow and infrastructure capacity in the state to inform the planning and development of waste and resource recovery infrastructure in NSW.
  • Travel in NSW: Another incredible part of working at the EPA are the numerous opportunities to go to so many remote and regional areas across NSW that I would otherwise never have been able to visit. My trips have been for varying purposes whether it has been for sampling, awareness campaigns or viewing infrastructure that we have funded.

Our state has such a rich natural environment, and it is our responsibility to protect and restore it. Serving as a project officer for the state’s primary environmental regulator has been motivating and fulfilling, and I am excited to continue learning and contributing to the EPA.

What tips would you give to a young woman who is interested in pursuing a career in Environmental Engineering?

To all the young women out there contemplating a future in engineering, I want to share a few pieces of advice that I have been given by various mentors over the years that has shaped my own journey:

  1. Trust Your Passion: Do whatever it is that excites you most but give it everything you’ve got! Engineering is more than just numbers and machines; it's about problem-solving, innovation, and making a difference in the world. If you are curious, passionate, or have a desire to improve the world around you, engineering could very well be your calling.
  2. Embrace Challenges: No matter what you choose to study, there will be bumps in the road. We’ve all had the days that seem impossible to get through, but it was through facing these challenges head-on that I grew and learnt the most. It is easier said than done, I know, but remember, every challenge is an opportunity in disguise.
  3. Find Your Support: I cannot stress how important this is. Surround yourself with mentors, peers, and friends who encourage and uplift you. The engineering community and wider student cohort, especially at places like UNSW Sydney, is filled with brilliant minds and warm hearts. Lean on them, learn from them, and always be there to support others in return.
  4. Never Limit Yourself: Gone are the days when engineering was a "man's world". Women in STEM are changing the world! Don't let stereotypes or outdated beliefs hold you back. Push yourself to go out of your comfort zone, try new things, meet new people, go to events, be inquisitive, talk to the person next to you in the lecture hall, put your hand up and answer the question, enjoy every single day of your university life (even the harder ones) because this time will never come back.

Engineering has opened up a world of opportunities for me, and I genuinely believe it can do the same for you. So, to all the young women out there, I encourage you to take that leap, follow your passion, work hard and let's build a brighter, more sustainable future together!

For more information about studying environmental engineering at UNSW Sydney visit the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.