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Student story

Jane Alexander

20 July 2023

"I think being involved in the international community is a great way to learn more..."


Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Natural Resources Engineering

Studying towards a PhD in Civil Engineering

A semester on exchange to Aarhus University, Denmark, in her third professional year inspired Jane to look towards an international career in engineering.

"I think being involved in the international community is a great way to learn more about both the engineering industry and society in general," she says. 

"After my experience in Denmark, I would absolutely recommend study exchanges to other students. I learned a lot when considering a different country"s perspective on my subject area, but the most important things were the people I met, the places I was able to travel to, and the personal growth it allowed."

Jane is unusual in that, when it came to choosing what to study at university, she took her inspiration from the school subjects she found hardest. 

"At high school, I really had to push myself to get results in physics and calculus. However, I really enjoyed the challenge and decided this was the area I wanted to get into at university. I chose Natural Resources as my specialisation as environmental science has always been close to my heart. During my study I discovered a keen interest in water resources.

"It was so interesting to learn scientific theory and how it applies in a real situation where economic and human factors also come into play. It gave me the chance to get involved in innovative areas and hopefully improve the quality of life for some people in the world."

The range of practical experiences offered in her BE(Hons) was the best part of her studies, as well as good preparation for work in the industry.

"I had a lot of chances to learn outside the lecture theatre, on field trips, in labs and through site visits," she says. "One of my favourite things about studying at UC was the passion of the academic staff. They are all really excited about what they do, which motivates the students to do their best, push their boundaries and find the field which gets them excited."

She quickly lined up her first graduate role at environmental consultancy PDP in Christchurch, where she has gained a variety of experience within projects for clients, doing environmental assessments and monitoring.

"The toolbox of skills I graduated with enabled to me to get involved with fascinating environmental projects right from the start," she says. "There are a lot of technical skills I picked up at university that I've been thankful for, and all those group assignment experiences are invaluable when it comes to working on real-world projects."

Having had such a fulfilling start to her career, Jane encourages other students considering Engineering to explore the different areas for new interests.

"It is really good if you can find your passion. There are a huge range of papers available in Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, from structural to materials to geotech to environmental. Giving as many a go as possible might help you find that one subject you really get into.

"But don't sweat the small stuff and remember to enjoy yourself. While the assignments are important, working with friends and remembering why you are there is important for your overall sanity!"

After her experience in the industry, Jane was motivated to contribute further to engineering research, and returned to UC for PhD studies in Civil Engineering focused around fluid mechanics.

"I am working on a project investigating the use of fluid transients (pressure waves which travel through water) for detecting faults in water supply pipelines, with a focus on air pockets and zones of deterioration. This is a potential solution for improving our existing condition assessment procedures, allowing targeted removal and repair plans to be implemented and optimising the efficiency of our supply networks."

Jane has also supported UC's Women in Engineering retreats as a spokesperson to help inspire other women into the engineering fields.

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