Profile - Conrad Wasko
Being a PhD candidate in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNSW Sydney is both a challenging and rewarding experience. In the first 12 months of my PhD I have travelled to conferences in Melbourne and Brisbane and later this year will be presenting my research at an international conference in San Francisco, USA.
The opportunities to travel and work with leaders in the field are boundless. Already I have been offered opportunities to undertake research at universities in New York and the United Arab Emirates.
However, with these rewards come challenges. Research is a unique field to work in because, by definition, we are constantly undertaking things that are novel and without precedent. This, though exciting, makes for a steep learning curve, and we are not just cautiously venturing into unknown territory, but being pushed into it head first by academics who know what we’re capable of and are only too willing to get the best out of us!
On a more day-to-day basis, there are two things which make studying in the School of Civil and Environmentally Engineering particularly enjoyable. The first is the administration staff. Undertaking research can involve a lot of red tape, especially when it comes to international travel. However, we are quite fortunate to have School staff who are only too willing to lend a helping hand. Their doors are always open and if you ever need to have a rant about how your day’s going, they’re always happy to listen.
The second is the Civil and Environmental Research Student Association (CERSA). Although research is collaborative and you do spend a lot of time interacting with academics, most of the hard yards of research are done working independently, either in the lab or behind a computer going round and round in circles before you find the solution. The opportunity to socialise then with other students is a welcome relief and CERSA organise plenty of activities on and off campus so that we can meet with other students and let off some steam.
To sum up my experience, I feel blessed to be undertaking research at the UNSW School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The academic staff are leaders in their field and are only too willing to help. The students are wonderful and I already know that I have made friends for life with students not just from Australia, but from abroad as well. Being a research student is challenging and at times can be incredibly stressful when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel – but I know I am being pushed to become the best I can be, and feel fortunate to be surrounded by such a great bunch of people!