Hi, my name is Zali, and I just graduated from UNSW with a double degree in Engineering (Honours) and Science, but when I graduated high school I had actually enrolled to do a double degree in Teaching and Science at UNSW. So what changed? Let me tell you!

During Year 12, I loved physics, chemistry, geography and maths. I had an incredible physics and chemistry teacher, and I wanted to teach others in the same way I was taught. I thought it would be the perfect job as I loved working with others, problem-solving and maths. So I took a gap year, worked in a high school assisting in the maths and science departments, and loved it. But after a conversation with my family, they told me to try engineering and science because engineering is for people who enjoy STEM subjects, working with others, and problem-solving. So I did.

UNSW Material Science Students in a Lab UNSW Material Science Students in a Lab

In 2018 I started at UNSW, enrolled in flexible first-year engineering and science. Being from the country, I moved into Basser, one of UNSW’s on-campus colleges. I was set on majoring in renewable engineering as I am passionate about sustainability, clean energy, and chemistry because I loved it at school. However, after a term in chemistry, I decided I didn't like doing too much lab work and tried out material science instead, which is a mixture of applied physics, maths and chemistry to work out the properties of materials like ceramics, metals and polymers etc. Turns out I loved it!

In the same year, I spoke to someone who worked in a hydropower company, and she told me that they needed mechanical, civil and electrical engineers to work on their projects. I loved ENGG1300 the first-year introduction to mechanics, and so that was it - I decided to study mechanical engineering and material science.  That is the beauty of flexible first-year engineering - getting to try out lots of subjects to ensure I picked a stream that I was interested in.

Basser College Dodge Ball Team Photo Basser College Dodge Ball Team Photo

But graduating from Uni is so much more than just leaving with a qualification - I’d say it’s only half of it. I have made many friends and been involved in some really cool things that made my time at UNSW special. In 2019 I was the president of Basser College, which meant I helped to coordinate events for an incredible community of 150 regional, local and international students. I was a member of the executive team for the UNSW Women in Engineering Society as the Marketing Vice President and got to help design the jumpers for their 50/50 campaign in 2021 (see image below). I also go involved with the societies relevant to my degree including Mechsoc and Matsoc!

UNSW Students in the 2021 Edition of 50/50 Merchandise UNSW Students in the 2021 Edition of 50/50 Merchandise
Zali holding the ZELK Prototype Zali holding the ZELK Prototype

I was also involved in UNSW’s largest pitching competition, the Peter Farell Cup, where three other female engineering students and I made a dispenser for dining rooms to help reduce the waste generated by spreads. We won the People's Choice vote and came 5th overall! This taught me all the skills I needed for presentations for the rest of Uni, and I strongly recommend it! Here is a photo of me with one of our prototypes!

Zali  Giving a talk at a school as a student ambassador Zali  Giving a talk at a school as a student ambassador

I also was a Student Ambassador for UNSW Engineering. I got to work with students as part of the Girls in Engineering Club. This role was so rewarding - I was able to visit schools and talk to students about the incredible opportunities that come from studying and working in engineering. 

So now that I have graduated, I am about to start a role in a graduate progam for a Hydro Electricity company as a mechanical engineer. Even as a mechanical engineer I get to work in renewable energy! In a funny way, it also turns out that I am like my physics and chemistry teacher from school, who did a Material Science PhD at UNSW too!