John Wilson

Rising to the top

When John Wilson completed his Bachelor of Engineering in 1980 with first class honours, he was primed for success. Fast forward a few decades and you’ll now spot him at the Sarawak, Malaysia campus of Swinburne University, where he serves as Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer.

How did he get there?

Upon graduating from Monash, John landed a job as a Structural Engineer at the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. This was followed by another great opportunity at Ove Arup and Partners in London, where he was a Senior Design Engineer. “I spent my first 12 years in industry carrying out major design projects in earthquake engineering, engineering systems, sustainable buildings, and infrastructure policy and performance,” he explains.

During this period, John also managed to squeeze in a Master of Science and a PhD. Great preparation for the next phase of his career. In 1992, he made the leap to academia, assuming both teaching and research roles at the University of Melbourne. Then, in 2005, he moved across to Swinburne where he has previously held positions as Professor and Deputy Dean of Civil Engineering, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology, and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Academic Strategy Implementation.

“I’ve managed a STEM faculty with $120 million turnover, 350 staff, 500 PhD students and 6000 undergraduate and postgraduate students,” John reveals. Not only that, he has had continuous Australian Research Council (ARC) funding since 1993, receiving over $4 million in research grants from ARC and industry sources. No mean feat.

John’s research outcomes have been disseminated in some 150 journals, 120 refereed conference papers and 30 non-refereed conference papers. He has been awarded four Chapman Medals and one Warren Medal for best journal publication in Engineers Australia civil and structural journals, respectively.

Despite his rigorous schedule, John has made a valuable contribution on various professional committees. He has played an active role in Engineers Australia, serving as their Victorian chairman and Chair of the Australian Earthquake Loading Standard since 2002. He was also President of the Australian Earthquake Engineering Society for three years. And he has been Chairman of Judges for the Victorian Engineering Excellence Awards since 2011.

Success never comes easily, but John certainly makes it appear that way.