Written by Jessica Barton.
My name is Jess, I am a final year BE-ME(Fire) student at The University of Queensland. I enrolled into the BE degree after completing high school with the intention to major in civil engineering, however, after spending some time in the fire lab during a research-based course in my first year, I decided that fire engineering was a career path that I was interested in exploring. In my first year of engineering I received the WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff Women in Engineering Scholarship that opened doors for me to get a job in the fire engineering sector. As a result, I was able to gain experience in the field and complete my vacation work at the same time. After three years of intermittent vacation work with WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff I changed into the BE-ME(Civil+Fire Safety Engineering) program.
After the coronavirus hit, the loss in work hours opened up the opportunity for me to explore other fire safety engineering sectors and how they differed from private consulting. During this time, I worked with Ted Simmonds at the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC); in the non-conforming building products sector discussing fire safety issues in buildings and the legal issues surrounding this. In my time there I was able to obtain a good grasp on my moral responsibilities as an engineer, something I had not yet experienced during my studies, as well as the process of recognising non-conforming building products and identifying who is responsible for their mismanagement.
Working with QBCC not only provided me with a great network of people, but also opened my eyes to the bigger picture about how complicated these systems are. In having just started my final semester, I am able to entwine these factors into my thesis project, thus gaining a better understanding of how the organisations involved operate and what legal and technical responsibilities they hold. Working with QBCC, even for just the small period of time, was an invaluable experience; one which I would have struggled to find anywhere else. I am now much more aware of just how large the opportunities are for those in the fire engineering discipline and, because of how young the profession is, how much development still is to come.