A day in the life of a materials engineer
Luke Thompson (BE(Mat)(Hons) 2009) appears to start his workday the same way as most of us, with coffee. He also checks his email. As a Materials Engineer at Aurecon, an engineering and infrastructure advisory company, he scans his inbox for any changes to his current projects. That done, he’s free to plan his day. Luke provides cathodic protection (to control corrosion of metal surfaces) and structure durability services to the construction industry.
“I might first review requests for information or summarise the results from recent site visits. I then tackle a larger, more difficult task, like designing remediation of a structure or preparing a durability plan for new construction,” explains Luke. “About 10% of the time, I’m on site – I enjoy observing construction in progress, as well as how a structure may have deteriorated over time. I also monitor cathodic protection systems.”
Like all jobs, working as a materials engineer presents its challenges. “I’ve struggled with my design documentation skills,” shares Luke. “Technical writing courses have helped me overcome this. I’ve learned to concentrate on a document’s clarity and conclusions, and to focus on actions, so that clients can more easily follow it.”
Luke has also figured out where his strength lies, and to exploit that. “You have to work out what you do better than other people, and then try to compete in that area,” he remarks. “I’m good with technical details so that’s where I channel my efforts.”
Although Luke has never received any formal mentoring, he spent the early part of his career as a Technical Manager at Infracorr Consulting where he developed a close working relationship with Managing Director and founder, Ian Godson. “This offered me great access to his talents,” says Luke. “I learned a lot from him about working in remedial and corrosion engineering.”
Given his penchant for technical details, it’s no surprise that Luke points to “the change from older full-bridge, oil-cooled rectifiers to switch-mode rectifiers for conversion of AC current to DC current in cathodic protection systems” as one of the greatest innovations he has seen. Not only has this reduced the cost of the systems, it has reduced the cost of running them.
When it comes to offering advice on finding a career path, Luke keeps it simple: “Take the time to understand the day-to-day work of the jobs you’re looking into and find if it interests you.". And find out about the economic future of that industry before moving into it. It’s much easier to get ahead if the industry as a whole is prospering.”