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Student story

Stefan Cook

20 July 2023

"I like how the methods and techniques taught in courses are transferable to the professional world..."


Bachelor of Science in Geology

Professional Master of Engineering Geology

Engineering Geologist, Tonkin + Taylor

Working at Tonkin + Taylor has been a great opportunity for Stefan to be involved in important infrastructure projects, with his current role as an Engineering Geologist.

"The work is fun and variable, which keeps you thinking on your feet. A couple of awesome projects include prospect dam drilling to determine permeability and rock mass characteristics, along with site walk overs to establish landslide and slope stability issues on public and private land.

"It’s awesome seeing and understanding how the land behaves at different locations. The work also has a great office and field balance, which suits me really well," he says.

Having studied an undergraduate degree in Geology and the Professional Master of Engineering Geology, a master’s qualification unique to Australasia, Stefan was set up well for the working world and very quickly started his career not long after graduating from UC.

"Some of the useful skills that I learnt at UC include undertaking desktop studies, communication skills, field and laboratory skills to analyse the big geologic picture to figure out what is going on. I continue to use and fine tune them today. I like how the methods and techniques taught in the undergrad and postgrad courses are transferable to the professional world."

Stefan looks back on his years at UC fondly for the academic and social experiences he had, including some one-of-a-kind experiences through his studies. His master’s research on the stability of the Crater Lake outlet at Mt Ruapehu earned him a Tongariro Natural History Society Scholarship.

"Some of the highlights from my UC degree include the awesome field trips, meeting great lifelong mates, researching interesting topics, and a chopper flight to the Crater Lake, Mt. Ruapehu," he says. "Getting outdoors and making observations, recording the data succinctly, and discussing interpretations with classmates is where Geology takes on a whole new perspective.

"UC have an excellent postgraduate engineering geology programme, there was no need to look further afield. You can also ski and surf within an hours’ drive at amazing locations."

Stefan was inspired to study Geology originally from his travels around the world for professional kite surfing.

"It was my curiosity of the different coastlines and beaches at each location. Why did one beach have amazing surf, and 500m up the coast, the surf was flat? As my curiosity increased I wanted to understand why beach profiles, coastal geometries, and material changed from each region. I researched to understand waves and coastlines, so I knew when particular surf spots were pumping.

"I eventually decided to head to university, originally with a focus on physical coastal geography and geomorphology. Within my first week at uni, and a year after the Christchurch Earthquakes, Geology took me by surprise and my larger questions were being answered. I majored in Geology because it felt like a challenging degree, the Geology labs and field trips were really interesting, and the lectures challenged your opinion to think in a scientific manner."

Outside of work Stefan continues his kite surfing and a number of other outdoor pursuits, including mountain biking, stand-up paddle boarding, surf-foiling, producing videos with his aerial quad copter, and living in his self-built, off-grid Tiny House.

He hopes to work on accreditation with IPENZ next before continuing his involvement in infrastructure projects, eventually as a project manager.

"Once you get into Geology, there are many paths you can take. Geology is a very diverse subject and there are multiple career options. Like most things in life, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out."

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