From a sheep and cattle property near the small town of Wyandra in South West Queensland, to the depths of an underground mine or a platform on an offshore oil and gas rig in the middle of Bass Strait – this is where studying to be a chemical and biological engineer has taken Chloe Webb.
“I never would have expected my career to take such a turn,” says Chloe, a 21-year-old final year student at the University of Queensland.
“I originally began studying chemical and biological engineering to go into medical research and tissue engineering. I have had some amazing experiences with biological engineering, learning how to create cartilage and bone and was even able to genetically engineer a bacteria culture to glow in the dark.”
“Despite this, I found that I enjoyed chemical engineering more and I have had some amazing experiences that I could have never even have imagined before I started my degree.”
Chloe was encouraged to apply for assistance from the Country Education Foundation of Paroo when they visited the local high school where her mother is a teacher.
“It was extremely valuable,” explains Chloe.
“The support from the Country Education Foundation meant that I did not need to work extra days to sustain myself and was given the time to achieve academic results that I am really proud of. These results allowed me to gain some invaluable engineering experience that has, unfortunately, been really difficult to come by in recent years.”
Chloe was able to work as a metallurgist in the zinc/lead concentrator with Mount Isa Mines, touring the underground mines and going inside some of the vessels during shutdown. Chloe also completed studies to optimise chemical additions which were able to make a difference to the operation.
Another engineering experience Chloe was able to participate in was when she worked as a Chemical/Process Engineer at the ExxonMobil Longford Gas Plants and Crude Stabilisation Plant (CSP) and was given two projects to complete.
“My first project was to determine a method to re-stabilise the operation for the CSP compression system due to decreasing crude production rates. The second one was to investigate the effect of a theoretical situation and how best to ensure that if this was to occur in the future, what controls should be implemented to prevent a safety incident from occurring,” said Chloe.
Working and studying in a male-dominated career has not been without its challenges and Chloe describes how she hasn’t found it difficult earning acceptance.
“Everyone I have worked with really encouraged female representation in the engineering teams but in saying that, in all of my engineering positions, I have been the only female which has come with its own challenges.”
One of the most disheartening realisations for Chloe when she first moved to university in Brisbane, was that very few fellow students came from country areas.
“I have met very few people from rural and regional areas at university, which really should not be the case,” says Chloe.
“I think that one of the main reasons for this is the financial disadvantage we have due to having to move away from home. We have some exceptional schools and very bright students in these rural and remote communities and I hope that in the future they are better represented at university.”
“CEF has been very valuable to me during my degree and it is important that other rural and regional school leavers get the same opportunities.”