'The Intermediate Year is a great chance to see what engineering is all about...'
Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Mechanical Engineering
PhD in Mechanical Engineering
Senior Project Manager, The Project Office
After working for a small technology start-up in Christchurch, and then in Australia on some of the country’s largest ever natural resources projects, Ashton returned to Canterbury in 2013 in a consultant project management role at The Project Office, an independent Christchurch project management firm.
On his return to New Zealand, Ashton worked initially for two years on the UC Earthquake Remediation Project.
‘My responsibilities on the UC remediation project included management of various aspects of building remediation design and construction, from initial damage scoping to building strengthening and cosmetic damage repair.
‘The role was varied and challenging, as each building on campus was affected differently by the earthquakes and required a unique approach to remediation. It was also a rewarding experience for me to return to my alma mater and contribute to the repair and rebuild effort at UC.’
In 2015, Ashton moved from UC to work on various infrastructure projects at Lyttelton Port of Christchurch.
‘Lyttelton Port is a great client to work for and has assembled a great project management team to work with. The infrastructure here suffered significant damage from the earthquakes that will take a long time to repair and rebuild, particularly within a busy operational environment. In addition, the port is investing for significant future growth, so managing and coordinating the portfolio of projects across the port is a real challenge for all of us.’
Ashton says his qualifications helped prepare him for project management work by giving him a solid understanding of engineering, problem solving and communication fundamentals.
‘It’s true what they say about learning most of what you need to know on the job, but engineering training helps with skills as well as knowledge. It’s those skills, like learning how to tackle problems from different angles, which are most valuable.’
Ashton’s PhD at UC was in a new and exciting field, investigating an alternative breast cancer screening method.
‘I was part of a team looking at ways of evaluating the stiffness of an object by looking at how the surface moves. I looked at how we could simulate and compare the motion of soft tissue using computers, and wrote computer code that ran on a high performance computer cluster.’
After completing his research, Ashton worked for a year at Boundary Lifesciences, a start-up company formed to help commercialise the technology he had worked on during his PhD.
‘I was able to further develop the experimental hardware, image processing and tissue reconstruction algorithms, and assist with grant and patent applications.’
Leaving the country in 2008, Ashton joined Chevron Australia and spent the next five years in design and procurement roles on the multi-billion dollar Gorgon and Wheatstone natural gas developments off Australia’s north-west.
Originally from New Plymouth, Ashton chose UC because of its international reputation and appealing environment.
‘Engineering appealed to me because I have a technical mind and I enjoy finding out how things work. I chose Mechanical Engineering because it combined aspects of all types of engineering into one degree.
‘It is hard to know exactly what type of engineering may be most suited to you, but the Engineering Intermediate Year is a great chance to see what engineering is all about and learn more about how the different kinds of engineering compare.’