Holstein Wong graduated from the School in 2013 with 1st Class Honours in BEng Materials Science and Engineering. She was awarded the University Medal in Ceramic Engineering, one of the most distinguished awards to be bestowed on an undergraduate student. Holstein is now a Graduate Processing Engineer for BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance.

Why did you choose to do a Materials Science degree?

I was drawn to the interdisciplinary possibilities of Materials Science. Bridging science and engineering, the subject matter had a good coverage of both the theory of why and how materials have the properties they do, and practical applications in industry.

What was your experience being a Materials Science student?

Being both a scientist and engineer meant working with a diverse group of students and academics, so I had a fantastic time at Uni! Many people still ask what we do and are surprised at how relevant our field is to many others; it's a great conversation starter. In the later years, the close-knit community at MSE really shone through, especially the support we gave each other during our Honours thesis research projects.

Where are you working now and what is your role?

I've moved to sunny Central Queensland to work at Peak Downs, a mine at BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance that produces metallurgical coal. My role is Graduate Engineer - Production Processing.

What does this involve?

I work in the Coal Preparation Plant (CPP) where we upgrade the run-of-mine material and reduce the ash content to meet the specifications of our international customers. As a Graduate Processing Engineer, I support the plant operations to optimise the recovery of product and reagents. Various responsibilities include analysing and benchmarking production performance and quality, trialling equipment and processing initiatives to produce more tonnes for less unit cost, and much more.

After graduating, how did your career path evolve?

This is my first role since graduating in November 2013. The great thing about most graduate programs is that you get tangible development opportunities, such as rotating across different sites. I've started my career in mining, the most upstream point of the materials processing spectrum, and it truly is a great foundation for a career in materials.

Do you have any advice for school leavers considering studying Materials Science at UNSW Australia?

Materials Science is a pathway to an exciting domain of inquiry. Even if you don't end up working in the field, knowledge about materials is relevant to every aspect of the world around us, which is why I find it fascinating. Keep in mind though that Materials  Science at UNSW, like all tertiary courses, requires curiosity and dedication to get the most out of the experience. Ask the questions and you will be amazed at just what a big impact materials advancement has had on our society.

Do you have fond memories you'd like to share?

There are too many to recount! O-Week, MATSOC barbecues and merchandise, the special space that is the G10 Computer Lab, being mentored by senior students and in turn mentoring the next intake of materials scientists (usually in the aforementioned Computer Lab), and sharing stories from exchange are just some of the memories from my time at MSE.