From Canberra to Cambodia, New York to Peru, Bachelor of Engineering/Arts student Emily has immersed herself in university life not only at ANU, but the world over.
Tell us a little about why studying Engineering at ANU appealed to you?
I chose ANU because it offers me the flexibility and quality I require to study a diverse range of subjects and come out with an internationally respected degree. In high school, my interests were really diverse. I loved maths, economics and science, but also enjoyed the more creative subjects like English and philosophy. ANU offered a program that would challenge me and provide me with a well-rounded university experience.
I chose my degree because by combining Engineering and Arts, I could study a variety of subjects from mechanics and electronics to Spanish and philosophy. The inclusion of honours in the engineering program was also important as it means I have the opportunity to do a focused research project and get formal recognition for it. The systems engineering focus at ANU is the perfect way for me to study engineering. I get to study a variety of engineering disciplines, learn about project management and innovation, and develop skills in problem solving and systems analysis.
Have you always wanted to be an engineer?
My interest in engineering started very late in my school life. I had never participated in any workshops run by amazing groups like Robogals and I assumed for a long time that my interest in maths and science would lead to a science degree. The year before I started at ANU, I had a conversation with a student in her third year of Engineering at ANU. I had never heard of systems engineering, but with a little encouragement from her, I decided to look in to it. The more I considered it, the more I liked it and the more obvious it was that it was what I had been looking for! It was the perfect way to pursue my interest in science in a practical and challenging way.
What are the benefits in pairing engineering with arts?
Because of my Arts degree, I have much better writing and communication skills, which people always underestimate the need for in Engineering. Learning a language is a useful skill in itself, and gives me the cultural knowledge to tackle another nation’s issues,
Ultimately, I see my Engineering degree as giving me the scientific know-how to land a job in the field, with my Arts degree giving me a life education.
Can you describe your normal week at ANU?
In an average week I am involved in a crazy range of activities. On the academic side of things, I have lectures, tutorials, labs and workshops! There’s variety in the structure of my classes and my timetable each day. I also have a lot of meetings to attend. These vary from Engineering Students Association meetings, and coffee dates with outside groups such as Engineers Australia or the Australian Computer Society. There’s someone new to meet every week! Amongst this, I still have time to work part-time at a GP Clinic, attend challenging fitness classes at ANU Gym and play team sports like soccer and softball.
We know you’re passionate about encouraging more girls to study in STEM-related fields. Can you tell us a bit about the work you’ve done with ANU Fifty/50?
Most people agree that we need more women to start and stay in STEM fields, especially engineering, computer science and maths. I definitely agree. I think women, men, businesses and the world in general have a lot to benefit from increased participation of women.
I co-founded ANU Fifty/50 with another student. It’s a student-run organisation dedicated to promoting gender equity in STEM. We ensure students in STEM degrees feel supported, are empowered to pursue careers in STEM fields, and are part of a healthy culture while at University. We have had numerous high-impact mentoring programs, industry and advocacy events.
To grow my knowledge in this field and find inspiration for further development of Fifty/50, earlier this year I travelled to New York to the Womensphere Emerging Leaders Global Summit. Since leaving New York, we have expanded our first year women in engineering and computer science mentoring program which we are hoping to open up to all genders next semester.
I’ve also been to Sydney for the Connecting Women in STEM National Symposium. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about how other institutions and organisations are working to improve gender equity and what they have been able to achieve. This gave us plenty of ideas for future events and programs and we’ve returned from the symposium ready to make a difference for everyone in STEM, and particularly those within the College.
We’re creating a network and we want as many people to get tangled up in our web as possible!
As part of all engineering degrees, you need to undertake 60 days of work experience. Where will you be doing this?
From November 2016 to January 2017, I’m spending three months volunteering with WindAid, an organisation that works with rural communities in Peru to set up wind turbines.
I’m going to be working on a project for the organisation to build windfarms whilst also assessing the suitability of the turbines. I’ll work with local communities (speaking in Spanish!) to assess their needs and see if the turbines are meeting them.
It’s kind of exactly what I was thinking when I chose Spanish; it’s led to this and hopefully in the future it will lead to other things!
Your degree has taken you overseas before; do you think this will help prepare you?
Earlier this year in February, I took part in a Design Summit for Engineers Without Borders. I spent two weeks in Cambodia completing workshops, community visits and working on solving design problems for local communities. We stayed in a remote village for five days with a family who had never had westerners there before. We asked questions, got to know the locals, and did the work they do while we were there. It was an unforgettable experience.
I was also lucky enough to receive the ANU Health Science and Technology Scholarship earlier this year and took part in the 2016 Health Sciences and Technology Summer Institute at Harvard-MIT in Boston. I worked with the Tearney Laboratory, part of the Harvard Medical School, to help design a capsule to enable more reliable and affordable diagnosis of coeliac disease.
You are more than half way through, are you thinking about what will happen after you graduate?
When I graduate, I will have a more diverse skill set than other engineering graduates I am competing against because of my systems engineering degree and also my combination with Arts. I will be more adaptable than those with different qualifications and this is important in a dynamic job market.
So what does your future look like Emily?
My career goals include working in the humanitarian engineering field. Once I have the skills and experience, I would love to volunteer with a not-for profit like Engineers Without Borders. I also want to spend time in a role where I’m working with younger generations of engineering students and encouraging more people to follow the STEM path!
Any wise words for new students?
Yes - ask current students what they think of ANU! There’s no better way to get a feel for a university than talking to people who spend every day there, and I’m sure they’ll have you convinced on its merits pretty quickly.
My best recommendation to students starting at ANU this year is attend market day! Sign up for any relevant societies, clubs and sports for you. Definitely like their pages (and ANUSA’s) on Facebook to keep in the loop. I’d also recommend they set time aside to explore the whole campus. There’s a lot to discover and you’ll find a lot on a walk down to Lake Burley Griffin.