Meet Georgie Mansfield, currently in her final year of a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons)/ Science, and her sister Alice, who graduated in 2023 with a degree in Food Science and Technology, both from the School of Chemical Engineering.

Raised in a family that values complex problems and critical thinking, the sisters have forged unique paths within their shared field, driven by their distinct interests and ambitions.

In the Q+A below, we delve into their motivations, experiences, and the dynamic interplay of sibling support and competition that has shaped their academic and personal lives. Georgie and Alice's story highlights the power of family and the pursuit of excellence in chemical engineering.

1. What motivated and inspired you both to choose chemical engineering as a field of study, and as sisters, do you believe your family background and upbringing influenced your academic pursuits?

Georgie:  Our parents really encourage us to push ourselves and do things we are passionate about so my interest in chemistry and motivation to challenge myself led me to chemical engineering. Chem Eng also plays such an important role in almost every material we handle, and I was excited by the possibility of contributing to solving problems or being part of something that improved people’s everyday lives.

Alice: Georgie and I were both raised to love science and to “argue the ridiculous”. Because of this I think we were both drawn to a field that is highly innovational and requires critical thinking. Our parents met when they were studying food science so I would say that all things to do with food and chemistry run in our blood!

I was motivated to study food science within chemical engineering because I wanted to have a career in the agrifood industry and a good understanding of chemical principles and their application to food. UNSW offered the most appealing program for this.

2. What specific areas of chemical engineering are you most passionate about, and how do your interests align or diverge?

Georgie: I have really enjoyed delving into the water industry and innovation. It’s an exciting sector for chemical engineers that I’ve been able to pursue through my thesis, recent internships, and coursework projects.

Alice: I am more interested in food science, agriculture, and technology. Our interests are different in the actual areas that we study chemical engineering in; Georgie is more focused on water innovation, but also worked as an innovation intern at Brickworks whereas my experience was very focused on the food industry from work experience in Arnotts R&D Department and as a R&D intern at the protein start up, Harvest B, where I actually worked with UNSW Alumni, Daniel Mulette.

We are both very interested by critical thinking and complex problems within our respective fields which is why we are both going to be consultants at two of the Big 4 firms.

3. Do you find that you approach your studies differently, and if so, how?

Georgie: Yes. I find that I give university hours of study and dedication, working methodically through whatever I’m doing to properly grasp my understanding and have confidence in what I’m talking about. On the other hand, Alice is very good at working efficiently and can grasp concepts quickly, so she tends to get her exam study and assignments done faster.

Alice: We both enjoy been pragmatic about our studies, but we are still quite different. Interestingly, we work quite well as a team when we complete projects together.

4. How has having a sister studying the same discipline shaped your university experience, academically and socially?

Georgie: It’s a unique experience. Academically, I do feel a bit more accountable knowing my younger sister will take similar courses and compare how we have both performed. However, having a sister in the same discipline is convenient because I can get instant feedback or help with a question from someone who knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Socially, we have pursued different opportunities. This makes for the funny occasion where we’ve gone home together and my friends/peers have been shocked by how similar we look or that “another one exists”, as well as lecturers confusing us for each other.

Alice: As I am the younger sister, it has been fantastic having an older sibling go to university and study the courses first! It’s like having your own personal tutor for any university course. I think it shaped my university experience academically because Georgie was able to help me with concepts that she had understood well, understand what each course required of me or even just provide me with advice on which electives were interesting.

Socially, we spent very little time with each other at the UNSW campus, even though we were often in the same building. I think having a sibling there gave us the confidence to go and find our own friends, although a few of our friends (and lecturers!) have confused us. We also encouraged each other to join societies and initiatives at UNSW which greatly contributed to our UNSW experience because it helped build cross-discipline relationships, allowed us to work on different problems and to expand our understanding of people and experiences.

5. How do you support and motivate each other?

Georgie: Being sisters, we talk a lot! Whether it’s about university generally, our specific courses, or extra-curriculars. Although we study in the same field, we both have different broader interests and personalities which gives us different perspectives when talking through decisions we both make. I think having grown up together also allows us to support and motivate each other towards our goals so that we see a growing fruition of our ambitions across our lives in a way no one else has.

Alice: We are quite competitive with each other. Usually, Georgie will complete a course first and I will try to beat her, so Georgie acts as an impetus to achieving better results for me. I think I support Georgie by encouraging her to go for it and try as hard as she can to reach her goals. It is great to be able to talk to someone in your family who knows exactly what is going on and can really empathise with your exams and assignments and provide confidence that we will both be able to succeed.