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Venturing into uncharted territory

20 February 2017
Engineering students explore water desalination in Saudi Arabia

Two chemical engineering students head to Saudi Arabia for industry placement as part of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering’s Major Industrial Project Placement Scholarship (MIPPS) scheme.

Grace Henry and Isaac Carney

When you think of Saudi Arabia images of a barren terrain and oil reserves come to mind; but when University of Sydney students Isaac and Grace think of Saudi Arabia they’re filled with excitement and anticipation.

For the next six months the students will complete a placement with Dow Saudi Arabia as part of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering’s Major Industrial Project Placement Scholarship (MIPPS) scheme, which has been providing real-world learning opportunities for high-achieving students since 2000.

This year 16 students, the biggest cohort to date, will be working for companies like BOC, Dow, Sydney Water, Qenos, Parkes Shire Council, Ab Mauri, Goldenfields Water County Council, Hazer Group, Oil Search Limited, Orora and Visy, within Australia and across the globe, and will get a taste of life as a professional engineer.

Masters of Professional Engineering third year student, Isaac Carney has received his placement at Dow in Sadara, Saudi Arabia, where he will be working on the manufacturing of reverse osmosis membrane to improve water desalination.

Isaac is awed at the opportunity to work at a plant with the size and scope of Dow and will develop his Master’s thesis through the research he undertakes during his placement. “The scale of Dow’s work means their projects are cutting edge. The things you get to work on can only happen at a plant of that size,” he said.

“Desalination in the Middle East is vital and anything I can do to improve the capability will be such an achievement for me.”

The MIPPS program is what attracted Isaac to the Masters of Professional Engineering degree and in particular the Saudi project. “Being able to live and work in Saudi Arabia for Dow has always been a goal of mine, and was my main motivation for studying at Sydney University,” he said.

The MIPPS program is the only one of its kind in Australia and has been a huge success over the years, helping students get a foot in the door at companies to secure positions after completing their degrees.

This year marks a turning point for the program, with Grace Henry being the first female student to receive a placement in Saudi Arabia. Grace will be based at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal where she will also research reverse osmosis processes to test new water desalination technologies.

Grace is currently in the fourth year of her Bachelor Engineering Honours (Chemical and Biomolecular) degree and feels nervous but excited about the experience. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime for me. As tourist visas aren’t available in Saudi Arabia unless visiting family or friends, not many people experience what I will have the chance to,” she said.

“It will be fantastic to learn from Dow researchers who are world leaders in research and development. The opportunities available for female engineers are fantastic and my experience in Saudi Arabia will only add to the many avenues on offer for me after university,” she said.

For other stories about student experiences around the globe like Isaac and Grace’s, follow #USydOnTour through Facebook and Twitter.