Faculty of
Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

Mikayla Rousham
Mikayla Rousham
Meet Mikayla Rousham

What do you study?

Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical and Environmental Engineering

What/who inspired you to choose engineering?

After my first year of university (studying a Bachelor of Science) I changed into engineering on a whim. My friend encouraged me to give it a go because they thought it would suit me and be what I was looking for in a profession. I wanted a career that would be diverse in opportunities, allow me to travel, be challenging and interesting and would be beneficial to society. I didn’t realise that engineering ticked all of those boxes until I actually looked into it and considered it as something I could actually do. I am thankful that person told me to go for it!

Why did you choose the discipline you are studying?

I chose to pursue chemical engineering after completing the ENGG1100 course, which was my first year engineering design project. We had to design a process that used source-separated urine as a feed and turn it into three useful products - a fertiliser, a disinfectant and clean water - to help a remote community with poor soil, poor sanitation, drought conditions and no sewerage treatment facilities. We had to work within some tricky design constraints in terms of size and capacity, building materials, cost, usability, and product specifications to name a few. We also had to consider so many things outside of the actual process design as well, including our social impact. How do we engage this community and design our unit in a way that would actually be useful to them, and how do we educate them on its use and challenge the taboo they had about handling and repurposing human waste? I was fascinated that we were able to put this process together from our research, build the unit and see raw waste processed to form the products. I was also surprised about how holistic engineering is and that the technical aspects were not the only thing that mattered. This was my first exposure to chemical engineering and I haven’t looked back since!

What is one thing about university or engineering that you wished you knew earlier?

For university, I wish I knew that it was okay (and not uncommon) to extend the length of your degree for ANY reason, especially to cut down on the semester study load if you are struggling. I spent so long trying to keep up with my peers with the full-time study load, when I had completely different circumstances to them. University is not high school – you can go at your own pace! In fact, extending my degree by a year was the best thing I did – it has given me so many opportunities and made my university experience more enjoyable.

For engineering, your grades are not the ‘be all and end all’. Companies appreciate and encourage the work/life balance and seek a diversity of personalities with different strengths and backgrounds and you always bring more to the table than your GPA.

What made you pick engineering at the University of Queensland over other universities?

UQ has a good reputation nationally and internationally for its research and higher-quality education. The St Lucia campus is beautiful, the student culture is rich and diverse and the facilities are world-class. The engineering degrees at UQ have been recognised as some of the best in the world, and we have some world-leading researchers as our lecturers. UQ Engineering also has partnerships with many industries, which gives many opportunities to its students. UQ also provides advice and resources for your degree, employability, university exchanges, research and vacation work / graduate jobs. From what I have seen and heard, no other universities in Queensland come close to UQ for engineering.

Your best tip for first-year engineering students?

  1. Apply for all the scholarships! There are so many scholarships offered to engineering students. Some scholarships offer job or networking opportunities as well as cash so it is worth having a look at the qualifying criteria to see if you’re eligible.
  2. Get involved with as much as you can from the get-go in terms of work experience opportunities, volunteering and socialising. You will meet so many more people and build up your social network, develop your soft skills, learn more about yourself, and find so many more opportunities. It will really enrich your university experience and look good on the resume too!
  3. As soon as you start your degree, your career has started. You are studying alongside future potential colleagues and people that you will come across in industry, so make sure you conduct yourself accordingly. Your peers will remember your reputation from university so make sure you leave a good impression.

Your favourite example of amazing engineering?

Bacteria do most of the work in removing the nutrients and organic compounds found in wastewater  – your sewerage is ‘treated’ by a host of different bacteria types that feast on your waste. In fact, your waste can come full circle in a sense: the nutrients in wastewater (which primarily comes from urine) can be extracted for agricultural applications as a fertiliser. Additionally, a wastewater treatment plant can generate electricity by taking advantage of the microorganism metabolism. By digesting organics in the absence of oxygen, these little guys will produce a biogas as a by-product which is then extracted, combusted and used for energy to power the plant or even put into the electricity grid!

Dream engineering job when you graduate?

My dream job is to be in the energy sector and help facilitate the growth of sustainable technology in Australia. I am really interested in Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology, where carbon dioxide is extracted from the atmosphere, and can be converted into a fuel! It is quite novel and I hope to see this developed and implemented in Australia in the future.

What do you hope to achieve as a WE student leader?

I hope to share my experiences and help other students who are struggling with the same things that I have faced. I hope to inspire future students to consider engineering as a vocation and to study at UQ. I hope to see more students get involved in the student societies and other student-led initiatives on campus. I hope to encourage and see more students take on innovative projects like UQ Space. I want to see the UQ Engineering culture continue to flourish and for students to have a great university experience like I have.