Start with science, but don’t stop there: Why two scientists switched to engineering to build a better tomorrow

Start with science, but don’t stop there: Why two scientists switched to engineering to build a better tomorrow

Engineering isn’t in competition with science. In fact, it’s the natural extension of it. As an engineer, you apply theory to solve real-world problems. You deploy your analytical mindset out on project sites – and in the boardroom.

With the current shortage of skilled engineers, qualified engineering professionals are more in demand than ever. (And attracting lucrative salaries too.)

We sat down with two Monash lecturers who embraced engineering – and haven’t looked back.

Changing careers from science to engineering

“I’ll never stop being a scientist,” says Dr. Roger Dargaville.

“But I now approach my research with an engineering mindset. To take the theory a step further to design practical solutions.”

Roger first completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours). But as his research into renewable energy became more applied, he morphed from scientist to engineer.

He’s now a senior lecturer and researcher at Monash’s Department of Civil Engineering, specialising in climate change and transitioning energy systems.

Similarly, Dr. Wynita Griggs, Roger’s colleague at the Department, started with a Bachelor of Science and Arts, with an Honours year in mathematics. But during her postdoctoral years, she developed a desire to contribute to society in a more concrete way.

“While solving theoretical problems contributes to our collective knowledge base, this is not necessarily a tangible contribution,” says Wynita.

“I wanted to be able to look out of the window, point to something real, and say: Yes, I helped build that. Which is what I’m doing – and enjoying – today.”

“I’ll never stop being a scientist, but I now approach my research with an engineering mindset. To take the theory a step further to design practical solutions.”

Transferable skills, grounded in STEM

During her postdoctoral fellowship in Ireland, Wynita expanded her engineering toolkit. She learnt how to code, collaborated with industry partners and seized opportunities to apply theoretical ideas in real-world scenarios.

But she wasn’t starting from a blank slate – far from it. Her strong mathematical foundation steered her approach.

Wynita had published papers on mathematical control theory (used in vehicle speed advisory systems). And for her first venture into engineering, she designed and built a vehicle-in-the-loop traffic emulation platform. She used the platform to validate a number of vehicle speed advisory system algorithms that she and her colleagues had developed.

“Having only previously worked on theoretical mathematical problems, I was eager to try something new. And I enjoyed it immensely.”

She then joined the European Union’s Horizon 2020 ENABLE-s3 project to build and validate autonomous systems across the automotive, maritime and aerospace domains. In particular, she collaborated with IBM Research - Ireland to develop and test a context-aware, in-car reasoning system, and secured patents on the technology.

“Contributing to a real industry project was extremely rewarding and spurred my professional development.”

Likewise, Roger credits his science background for cementing the value of critical thinking, data management, programming and clear communication.

“In particular, my ‘question everything’ approach proved immensely helpful in engineering. That curiosity has steered me to look beyond surface-level problems – to unearth underlying challenges and opportunities in energy systems,” says Roger.

Engineering a better tomorrow

Now, as Monash lecturers, Wynita and Roger are just getting started.

Roger is researching how to design and optimise large-scale (continental) electrical energy systems. A major component is understanding how weather variability impacts demand (for example, hot days result in greater air conditioning demand), and the electricity output from wind and solar technologies.

By deploying his atmospheric physics and mathematical skills in an optimisation programming framework, he’s building a roadmap towards a low carbon energy future – one that’s technically and economically viable.

“My sights are set on accelerating Australia’s transition to a low carbon energy system. I’m working with the Australian Energy Market Operator on its energy system plan and with energy retailers to decarbonise their generation fleet. And I’m publishing papers on system modelling, storage technologies and electric vehicles.

“On top of that I take great pride in seeing my undergraduate and postgraduate students make their own impact too. It all adds up. And it’s exciting to be building momentum.”

For Wynita, she’s continuing to explore the applications of control theory in smart city innovations like autonomous vehicles. And she’s eager to explore the potential for connected e-bikes.

“With motors boosting human pedal power, traditional car concerns like speed regulation can now be considered for cyclists.

“Moreover, creating green waves – where vehicles move in tandem through city intersections – may help improve cyclist safety. We’re developing transport solutions that will change people’s lives.”

“I wanted to be able to look out of the window, point to something real, and say: Yes, I helped build that. Which is what I’m doing – and enjoying – today.”

Make the switch and gain an edge

Are you a science, maths or IT graduate who wants to stand out in the competitive graduate employment market – and develop sustainable solutions for today's global challenges?

With Monash’s Master of Professional Engineering, you’ll gain the industry experience and technical expertise you need to become an accredited engineer in just three years (or fewer). In fact, over 94% of our postgraduates secure full-time employment within four months of graduation.

And when you make the switch to engineering, your science heritage will remain an invaluable asset throughout your career.

“I now see myself as part scientist, part engineer. I still enjoy solving theoretical problems for the pure purpose of wanting to understand the natural and physical world,” says Wynita.

“But then the engineer inside me lights up. I can harness that abstract thinking to design tangible, meaningful contributions to society.”

94%
of our postgraduates secure full-time employment within four months of graduation
Start building a better tomorrow

Extend your STEM toolkit and excel in Monash’s Master of Professional Engineering

Enrolments are now open for 2022 and financial support is available through Commonwealth supported places (CSPs). There’s never been a better time to get started at one of the world’s top engineering institutions – and solve today's global challenges.

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