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Student story

Jan Coetzee

20 July 2023

"The BE(Hons) in Chemical and Process Engineering did a very good job at preparing me..."


Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Chemical and Process Engineering

Graduate Process Engineer, Methanex New Zealand Ltd, New Plymouth

Raised in South Africa as a child, Jan's first language was Afrikaans until moving to New Zealand when he was ten.

Jan was inspired with learning about the world from his grandad, who has a PhD in in-organic chemistry, and spent his career supporting a variety of projects with international companies.

"When speaking to him everyone is always amazed about how much knowledge he has on how things work in the world. He was my original motivation to study my degree," Jan says.

He eventually decided on the Chemical and Process Engineering degree from UC, finding it matched well with his interests in chemistry and potential career paths.

"The intermediate year was a great opportunity to get a taste for each of the disciplines," he says.

"The Engineering Department has a great reputation within New Zealand's oil and gas industry which is what I wanted to work in. During my first and second professional years of Engineering we did optional field trips to an MDF plant in Canterbury as well as a trip to Taranaki to visit various sites from different industries.

"I found these to be particularly useful in helping to get a better picture of what these industries look like in the real world and would highly recommend partaking in these."

"Trying new things' being his lifestyle, student clubs were also a big priority for Jan, who was a member of the Student Volunteer Army, Engineers Without Borders humanitarian engineering club, ENSOC Engineering Society, Hundy Club for sports, entré business club and OpSoc crafts club.

"The amount of clubs and extra-curricular opportunities was a big attraction. They are really what sets UC apart from other universities in NZ."

In his final year, Jan started preparing for his career with workshops run by Academic Skills Centre and CareerHub, which ended up being a huge help towards job roles after graduating.

"These included CV support, interviewing workshops, job hunting seminars and assessment centre workshops. I found these tools to be extremely useful in my job search and application process to multiple employers during my final year. It helped identify my strong points and any weaknesses that assessors might pick up on."

He went on to complete a number of internships and placements within different companies, including Shell Todd Oil Services, Fitzroy Engineering Group, WorleyParsons NZ Ltd, and Methanex NZ Ltd, where he worked on various projects related to plant efficiency and onsite equipment operations.

"Over my years of working I have been presented with multiple situations where I have worked on projects with large scopes and a high amount of capital associated to them. Chemical and Process Engineers can end up in a range of fields doing a range of jobs!"

Jan's current role with Methanex sees him working within projects crossing various engineering departments in the company, to gain more technical skills towards day-to-day operations producing methanol.

"My responsibilities include providing support to both the Process Department and Operations Department in order to achieve daily excellence in the areas of operation, reliability, safety, productivity, efficiency and plant change. I provide on-call assistance as part of the Gas Nominations Team and participate and lead hazard and risk reviews," he says.

"The BE(Hons) in Chemical and Process Engineering did a very good job at preparing me for the job I currently have. I regularly refer to textbooks and course notes from my final years of study."

He still maintains some connections with UC assisting with research looking into improved designs that can be incorporated back into Methanex.

"Last year I worked with a group of final year Mechanical Engineering students looking at better understanding the catalyst crushing that occurs as a result of thermal cycles occurring in Methanex Reformers. I also aided a research project carried out by a final year CAPE student determining relationships between peak temperatures in Methanex Reformers and other sections of the plant."

Jan also continues his active lifestyle outside of work, participating in crossfit, rockclimbing, surfing, skiing, mountain biking and tramping, and has just completed his first off-road half marathon.

After completing his training towards becoming a Process Engineer and gaining professional Chartership, Jan hopes to one day progress onto a business management role for more people-focused work.

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