Engineering for the next generation

Young Monash graduate and engineering mentor Fahad Mubashshir uses his leadership skills to help students build bridges to rewarding industry careers.

As a child in Bangladesh, Fahad Mubashshir dreamt of working in the zero gravity of outer space. Education, he decided, was the way to realise this glorious ambition. He fixated on obtaining a degree in aerospace engineering.

Mubashshir has since grown up and education proved every bit as transformative as he had hoped – just not in quite the way he anticipated as a child.

“I realised in time that I was merely fascinated by the way astronauts look when pictured in free fall, far above planet Earth,” he admits, laughing at the recollection. “I did give up on space technology. But not on engineering.”

And not on travel that challenges and tests you.

From Bangladesh and with deep ties to Bengali culture and language, he travelled to Melbourne as an 18 year old to attend Monash University. There, he swapped out aerospace in favour of chemical engineering.

"Chemical engineering is about designing processes that convert raw material into products as diverse as energy, medicine or food,” Mubashshir says. “It offers more opportunities to make a difference and have an impact, especially given all the challenges the planet faces."

Mubashshir in Bega
Mubashshir is now based in regional NSW, where he works as a project and process engineer for Bega Cheese Ltd.

Helping hands

But Mubashshir is making a difference through more than just his specialist field; throughout his life he has taken opportunities to help others.

When he was in Bangladesh, the teenager had volunteered at the Leprosy Mission International clinic at Notre Dame College. And during his first year at Monash he helped fellow international students settle in, even as he struggled to overcome his own initial culture shock.

“To top it all off, while I was confident in my written English, I was not accustomed to speaking it,” he says.

He overcame those hurdles and bonded with people from all over the world as he took on leadership roles at his residential college, Turner Hall. As residential advisor, he supported and represented the students, and he ensured activities focused on the environment and charities.

Real-world impact

However, when it came to his studies, Mubashshir isolated himself, attempting to master chemical engineering by putting in long hours on his own. Only in second year did he realise that he needed other people to help cope with the intensity of the course.

The insight was transformative.

He formed friendships within a close cohort of students who supported and pushed each other to succeed. With the help of “inspiring” teachers he mastered concepts foundational to chemical engineering. These span thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and mathematics.

In his third year, ideas that had previously seemed dry and esoteric clicked and he learnt to apply them to solve real-world problems.

I could see the bigger picture and the engineering processes we were designing struck me as beautiful."

Enthralled by the power of his chosen discipline, Mubashshir volunteered with Engineers without Borders. He joined its committee for Ideathon, a two-day event where teams are challenged to develop innovative solutions to a more sustainable future. He also worked in its School Outreach program, which inspires students to change the world using science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Engineering in industry

Mubashshir's current charitable activities are inspired by his honours year industry placements.

In one posting, to Visy, he analysed and optimised the process to extract and recycle metal from landfill – a requirement before paper waste is burnt to generate electricity.

His other posting was to Bega Cheese Ltd based in regional NSW, where he now works as a project and process engineer.

Mubashshir started as a graduate with the technical team at Bega, developing new formulations including for different types of processed cheese that sit on supermarket shelves. He then joined the engineering team, improving food processing designs and commissioning or retrofitting related capital works.

And despite missing his family as COVID-19 restrictions stopped international travel, he has settled well into his new home, enjoying the relative quiet of the “gorgeous” Bega Valley, snorkelling and paddle boarding in his downtime.

Power of mentoring

Experiencing first-hand what it takes to thrive as a student and graduate, he is now guiding others at Monash.

I want to help more people to succeed through the power of mentorship,” he says.

In 2020 Mubashshir was Bega’s industry advisor for the highly demanding Final Year Design unit of the Monash chemical engineering course. This involved guest lectures and supporting students with design-related information about dairy processes and related business cases.

Impressed by his precocious leadership skills, Monash Head of Chemical Engineering Professor Mark Banaszak Holl appointed him to the Monash University Chemical Engineering Industry Advisory Board. It’s a position that allows him to offer fresh perspectives on the professional development of students and enhance practical learning opportunities through industry collaborations.

“Monash gave me a sense of belonging, inspiring teachers, guidance and mentorship,” he says. “I learnt the value of these things and now I proactively look for opportunities to give back.”