16 December 2002

Adam Khan was told repeatedly during high school that he lacked intelligence, application and self-control and university study was well beyond him.

The University of Queensland will award Mr Khan, now 30, with his Bachelor of Engineering (chemical) degree at a ceremony at the new $20 million UQ Centre on Tuesday, December 17.

“I was a terrible student. I literally failed everything at school,’’ Mr Khan said. “I dropped out early and joined the army just to get away from everything.’’

Mr Khan said the turning point in his life was meeting his now ex-wife, who encouraged him to fulfill his potential.

“She just said to me, “I`ll support you in what ever you want to do, but
there are no boundaries if you set your mind to it’. Once I found out that
Fleur had enrolled me at a mature age college and arranged everything, I had
all the inspiration I needed!

“It was a hard slog, no doubt about it. For the first year, I did subjects like basic maths and basic English but when I asked the teachers what that would give me at the end, they said it wouldn’t get me into university, so I switched subjects for Year 12.’’

Good results in double maths, English, physics and chemistry helped Mr Khan gain entry to chemical engineering at Curtin University in Western Australia, where he lived.

A move a year later to Queensland saw him start his UQ studies and he has not looked back.

“My whole motivation was that people had said that I would not be able to go to university. I wanted to prove them all wrong,’’ he said.

Mr Khan worked two jobs while studying full-time at UQ, but said the punishing daily routine was worth it.

“I have always thought of engineers as being in a prestigious profession. I have always admired engineers’ ability to think laterally in problem solving. I always thought it would be a wonderful thing to be one of them, and after taking the long way around, I finally am.’’
Mr Khan said he would start his “new life’’ by starting a European adventure in Germany in February.

“I just want to see the world,’’ Mr Khan said. “I think I will probably come back to Australia eventually but for the moment I want to do everything and experience everything.’’

A highlight for Mr Khan this week was completing a project he had been working on for the past two years on biodiesel production in the chemical engineering department laboratory.