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Student Profile: Jane Alexander

27 August 2020

Fluid Mechanics PhD Candidate Jane Alexander talks about her passion for sustainability.


UC Civil Engineering PhD candidate, Jane Alexander talks about her passion for sustainability. She says, “I was always interested in the environment and sustainability, but I didn’t realise until my Engineering Intermediate Year at UC that there was a type of engineering for that: Natural Resources Engineering.

Luckily I was still able to change my chosen specialty and four years later, I found myself working as an engineer at an environmental consultancy, involved in projects all over New Zealand, from pipe design to resource consent assessments. One thing that really attracted me to the specialisation was the idea that the environment shouldn’t be just another constraint that we have to design around, it should be something that we consciously integrate into our engineering processes – particularly in New Zealand where our water, air, and land are so important both culturally and economically.

It’s been great to see this low impact design philosophy become more prevalent – particularly in the Christchurch CBD where you can spot rain gardens designed to filter rainwater before it goes into the Avon, and some green walls and native planting dotted around. I’m looking forward to seeing where we’ll go with this in the future! Between industry and academia, we’re lucky to have such a strong engineering community in Christchurch. Since coming back to UC for a PhD, one of my most valuable experiences has been working as a teaching assistant to help support the next generation of engineers.”

In her PhD, Jane is looking at how pressure waves known as fluid transients can be used to non-invasively diagnose faults in water supply pipes. “These are the same kind of waves that people may know as water hammer, but on a more controlled scale. They travel through the pipe, reflecting off any anomalies like leaks, air pockets, and blockages. The idea is to characterise how different faults will affect the wave propagation so that we can measure pressure disturbances in response to a controlled wave generation and draw conclusions about the condition of the network.”, said Jane.

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