In between studying hard and landing a job overseas even before she's graduated, UNSW student Kate Fairlie has spent a lot of time getting other students as excited about engineering as she is.

Kate is this year's winner of the Jacobs Australia Engineering Leadership Prize - a $2,750 award given to a UNSW engineering undergraduate who demonstrates outstanding leadership, management and academic ability.

Kate, 22, has already shown herself to be an outstanding student: when the time came to do her industry internship last year, she organised a placement in the Netherlands, working for energy giant Shell.

While doing her internship, Kate went above and beyond the duties of her job, becoming president of the Shell Student Society and working to make the transition from university to company life easier for international student interns.

Kate has demonstrated the same sort of enthusiasm at UNSW, where she is an Engineering Student Ambassador and holds promotional and research roles with a number of industry organisations including Engineers Australia.

The additional duties have been a significant load for the final-year student, who also works 20 hours a week to cover living costs, but, she says, it's been worth it.

"Through my own experiences I have, finally, come to the realisation that yes, there are limits to where an engineering degree can take you but these consist of only yourself and your own initiative," Kate said in her Jacobs Prize submission.

"In line with this, the main theme of many of my activities is providing young surveyors and engineers with this same awareness and providing opportunities for our goals to be recognised."

Next year Kate will take up a posting with Shell in Scotland as a geoinformation analyst.

Head of the School of Surveying and Spatial Information Systems Professor Chris Rizos said Kate was the first student from the school to do an internship with Shell in the Netherlands.

"From day one she was always going to be an exceptional student," he said.

"She's in a discipline where there are many job opportunities nationally and internationally.

"Overall she's got the world at her feet - good students have lots of opportunities these days."

As for the prize money, Kate has got this far in her degree without a computer of her own, instead using PCs at work and the university. Now she is thinking about splashing out on her first laptop.