Tuesday, May 24, 2011

California, Mining and Career Opportunities

Mining is everywhere.

There's no doubt mining is intimately intertwined with the Australian economy. Across the Pacific Ocean in California, this is no different. In fact, it was the Gold Rush in the 1800s that kick-started the economic prosperity of California.

During the days of the Gold Rush, San Francisco grew from a small settlement of about 200 residents in 1846 to a boomtown of about 36,000 by 1852. Roads, churches, schools and other towns were built throughout California.

New methods of transportation were developed and used to carry miners. Steamships were used to carry miners 125 miles (201 km) up the Sacramento River to Sacramento, California. By 1869, railroads were built across the country from California to the eastern United States. Agriculture and ranching expanded throughout the state to meet the needs of the settlers.

The mining and resources sector is no less relevant and influential today in Australia than it is back in the days of the Gold Rush. Although, thankfully, the equipments and safety standards have certainly dramatically improved.

Therefore, for young people today, the resources sector promises an invaluable opportunity to be in demand and to make a difference.

So for those high school students deciding their career options, I humbly offer my advice: if you are going to spend the next 4 whole years doing a degree at University, study a major that allows you to make a positive impact in the world. Study a major that enables you to leverage your knowledge to build and connect societies. Study Engineering.

And being an Engineer in the resources sector represents so much more than just a financially rewarding career. It is about being the change you want to see in the world. It is about delivering resources profitably, while keeping social and environmental responsibilities as your upmost priority. Most importantly, it is about seeing the outcome of your hard work improve the lives of people around the world.

For more info regarding mining related degrees and career opportunities in Queensland, Australia, visit drillin.com.au

Below: the Hearst Mining Circle, and Hearst Memorial Building at UC Berkeley. There used to be a notable view of the Golden Gate from this location.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Break and other things

The long awaited spring break finally arrived! It's literally impossible to upload all the pictures - but I've selected a few below. Enjoy!

Below: Point Reyes

Below: The Grand Canyon. The view is absolutely astonishing (and somewhat dangerous for those with ambitious photo poses).

Below: Another Grand Canyon shot. This part of the Grand Canyon, the West Rim, is owned by native Indian tribes.

Below: The Badwater Basin: the lowest point in North America, with an elevation of 86 meters below sea level. It's not snow you see on the ground - that's salt.

Below: View from Zabriskie Point in the Death Valley National Park. To the aspiring Mining Engineers out there: they used to mine Borax in this place!

Below: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas - except this picture.

Below: Stanford University. Disclaimer: Stanford and Berkeley are rival schools. Currently my loyalty belongs to Berkeley.

Below: A shot of the Doe Library back at Berkeley.

Below: The Golden Gate Bridge. That's what engineers get to build. I'm just saying - but why would you want to study anything else!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Californians & Awesome People

My exchange experience would never be complete without the wonderful people I met, and the awesome experiences I had with them.

I lived in the International House (I-House) at Berkeley. It is one of the more expensive housing options at Berkeley but definitely worth every cent. I-House has a very vibrant community, allowing me to meet the smartest people from almost every corner of the world.

At I-House, even eating at the dining hall can become an eye-opening experience: as you may well be chatting with PhD students specializing in the next Nobel Prize-winning research initiatives. In addition, there are always parties and events at I-House to keep your social life very fulfilling.

Below: The I-House crew for Spring 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Berkeley: the Promised Land

Attending University of California at Berkeley, as a part of my Engineering degree at UQ, has proven to be one of the best decisions I have made personally and academically.

The sheer thrill of Berkeley lies in being in the midst of so much energy and intelligence. It could be exhilarating, intimidating, sometimes even discouraging - but always challenging and never boring.

As I have mentioned in my previous post, Berkeley is really at the forefront of Engineering research. There are 25 Berkeley alumni who have received a Nobel Prize! Therefore, as one would expect, the academic life at Berkeley is invigorating and demanding. This semester, I selected 4 upper-division mechanical engineering classes: Dynamic Systems & Feedback, Mechanical Measurements, Composite Materials, and Intro to Nanotechnology.

All of these classes, many of which are not offered at UQ at all, were taught by renowned professors who have extensive ground-breaking research and publications in their respective specialty. (In fact, walking through the faculty office is like walking through the engineering hall of fame.) Hence, the lectures were certainly insightful, and the material being taught was really the latest and the greatest.

And when you need a bit of a break - San Francisco is right next door to fulfil your social life! Below: the infamous Golden Gate Bridge behind my room mate at International House and myself.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Another reason why it is great to study Engineering at the University of Queensland (UQ) is that the university encourages its students to undertake a semester or two overseas as an exchange student. And the established reputation of UQ globally enables its students to undertake exchange in some of the most prestigious and renowned universities in the world.

As part of my Engineering degree at UQ, I am attending the University of California at Berkeley. The engineering faculty at Berkeley is arguably one of the best engineering colleges in the world. It consistently ranks among the top 4 engineering schools globally. Berkeley has had 21 Nobel Laureates in its faculty: 8 of whom are currently teaching.

The picture above is the Doe Library - the main library of the campus. Completed in 1911, the library houses some of the University's most prized collections. Just below where I was: a four-story underground structure consisting of 52 miles of bookshelves.

And the cultural diversity, intertwined with its vibrant and rich history, becomes quite apparent as you simply walk through the campus. From the Free Speech Movement to the opposition of the Vietnam War, Berkeley embraces its proud heritage of student activism.

This semester surely promises to be the most exciting one yet. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 15, 2010


One of the great advantages of completing an Engineering degree is that companies (especially in the minerals industry) are very willing to train students during their degree. This is very beneficial since no textbook can replace practical experience.

After completing my first year of Engineering at University of Queensland, I had the exciting opportunity of working at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the premier Australian national research organisation and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world. Notable inventions of the agency include the Wireless LAN (Wifi), which was developed from CSIRO's pioneering work in radioastronomy. The Wifi technology was patented by CSIRO way back in 1996, and sparked the wireless evolution which revolutionised the computer industry for the next decade.

To coordinate and develop large-scale, long-term, multidisciplinary science to address Australia's major national challenges and opportunities, CSIRO pioneered ten National Research Flagships.

Specifically for the Australian minerals sector, the Minerals Down Under Flagship has been established to develop and enhance the competitive advantage of Australia in this global industry.

My work at CSIRO was based in the Queensland Centre for Advanced Technology (QCAT), which houses Australia's largest integrated research and development precinct for the resources and associated advanced technology industries. I worked with the CSIRO Earth Science and Resource Engineering (CESRE) Automation Group. The group is an integral part of the national flagship and has pioneered renowned cutting-edge technologies such as the Longwall Automation Project.

I was tasked with assisting an initiative to explore how space-related technologies can be transferred to benefit mining automation. Specifically, my work included the development of a radio astronomy station using a NASA-designed receiver to measure decametric radio waves from Jupiter. Building the station involved the development of hardware, software, data processing and communication components that are also highly applicable technologies for advanced mining automation systems.

More information on my work can be found on this CSIRO press release, and this QRC press release.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mining and Scientific Research

Think "Mining" - and you would probably think of big trucks and draglines.

Think "Scientific Research" - and scientists with white, spotless lab coats may come to your mind. Mining definitely has nothing to do with scientific research, right?

Well, think again.

The minerals industry has long faced commodity specific research challenges that span across various stages of production - exploration, mining and processing. These technical challenges often define the sustainability and profitability of any mine sites. A few examples of the challenges include:

- Can we increase the chances of discovering new metalliferous resources in the vast surface deposits of Australia, all without significantly increasing the costs of exploration?

- Can we just remove the ore and keep miners out of hazardous environments as much as possible?

- Can we enable mining and processing to have minimal surface expression?

- Can we add value to lower grades of iron ore by advanced processing that increases its purity without significantly increasing processing costs?

To address these challenges, in 2005, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) launched a discussion with government, industry and research institutions on developing a new initiative called Minerals Down Under. The purpose of Minerals Down Under is to identify and solve scientific and technical challenges that hinder the future competitiveness of our resource base in an increasingly globalised industry.

More info on CSIRO Minerals Down Under Flagship can be found here.

Over the last summer holidays, I have had the opportunity to work at CSIRO for my vac work. The experience opened my eyes to the intimate and productive relationship between scientific research and mining. I will post more on my exciting experience shortly. Stay tuned :)