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Study Chemical Engineering in Australia

Student Experiences studying Chemical Engineering at UNSW

Name: Andrea Iris Scher

Country of Origin: Germany

Place of Study: University of New South Wales

I am currently finishing my PhD in Chemical Engineering in the UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology in the School of Chemical Engineering and Industrial Chemistry. I am looking at removing natural organic substances from drinking waters which become carcinogenic when chlorinated.

My initial degrees are an Honours in Physics Engineering (Germany), a Masters in Environmental Engineering (France) and a research degree (D.E.A.) in Process Engineering (France). I have worked on membranes in many places (Germany, New Zealand, France) and fell in love with them before ever starting to study! During my time in New Zealand, I started to like research, loved the working conditions and began to consider a PhD. So after my final year in France, my partner and I decided to go to Australia.

The UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology was famous for what I wanted to do, while the Photovoltaics Special Research Centre at UNSW served the other half. So here we were, yet to face many difficulties associated with red tape and moving far away from home for a very long time. But we made it, now both with scholarships, finances to go to conferences overseas, and what I really love is the freedom to do what I want. I always wanted to work with or supervise visiting students and although this is not usual in the Australian system, I am able to do this and achieved a much broader experience that way. What is very nice as well is the incredibly good library at UNSW and the fact that I can access analytical instruments all over the campus and generally people are helpful.

To write up my PhD I moved out of the city air to the coast near Wollongong (70km south of Sydney), literally overlooking the sea and the sound of the waves reducing stress levels. This has been a wonderful experience of the Australian countryside. People are friendly, are less rushed and it is a lot easier to make real friends than in the city and especially to meet people who think about other things than PhDs. Being an outdoor fanatic I spend most of my spare time bushwalking or exploring the numerous national parks in the area and there is plenty left for a post-PhD holiday. Finally, the research I did over the last three years at UNSW is internationally very competitive and I would do it again.

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