7 December 2005

Two Romanian cousins, who grew up like sisters, have graduated from The University of Queensland (UQ) on the same day with their PhDs.

Drs Nicoleta Balliu and Monica Barbu attend the first of two Faculty of Engineering, Physical Sciences and Architecture graduation ceremonies on December 7 at 5.30pm at the UQ Centre.

Originally from Bucharest, in Romania, the two cousins were encouraged to come to UQ to do their undergraduate degrees by their families who highly valued education, but it was still a big step to travel to the other side of the world and leave their families behind.

The ceremony was extra special for Nicoleta, whose father passed away a few months after she left Romania, and she has dedicated her PhD thesis to him.

“Coming to a new country is not easy for anybody,” Nicoleta said.

“Having their children on the other side of the world was the most difficult experience that our parents went through.

“They have inspired us throughout our whole life and we will never have enough words to thank them for their unconditional love, faith and support.”

With a grandfather a petroleum engineer and both parents electrical engineers, it was only natural for Nicoleta to study engineering as well.

She chose chemical engineering to specialise in and her PhD looked at process modelling and simulation with particulate technology, two areas of interest for Australian industry.

Her research dealt specifically with the problems in the design, control and operation of complex dynamic processes that can be addressed through the use of computer aided modelling and simulation environments

Nicoleta is now a lecturer in chemical engineering at Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia.

Monica, whose father was a civil engineer and mum a teacher, chose a path of mathematics and followed her cousin to UQ.

Her PhD dealt with financial mathematics to introduce and analyse new stochastic models for the commodity market, in particular a seasonal model for weather factors and for pricing weather sensitive commodities.

Monica now works for Carmen Systems as a software tester. Carmen Systems develops, markets and implements resource optimisation solutions for clients found primarily in the transportation industry.

Another member of the EPSA fraternity who attended the graduation ceremony was Dr Joanne Nightingale, whose research into climate change and its effects on forests is now being used as the basis for estimating carbon fluxes in North America and around the world.

Joanne studied as an undergaduate in the School of Geography, Planning & Architecture before taking up her PhD studies.

She is currently working at Oregon State University, but spends most of her time at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada on a NASA funded project looking at forest growth and productivity of forests across the USA.

The guest speaker at the ceremony was Martin Albrecht, AC, Chairman of Thiess Pty Ltd. You can listen to his speech by clicking here. Mr Albrecht, originally a civil engineer, was managing director of Thiess from 1985 to 2000 and during that time the company grew ten-fold, into one of Australia`s largest multi-disciplined construction and engineering services companies, offering clients fully integrated engineering solutions.

Mr Albrecht continues to take an active interest in a wide range of community organisations. He is patron of the Brisbane Regional Youth Orchestra, past Chairman of St Peters College Foundation and Member of School Council.

The second EPSA graduation ceremony will take place on Monday, December 12, at 10.30am and will feature students from the Schools of Physical Sciences and Information Technology & Electrical Engineering.

Guest speaker at the ceremony will be Professor Garth Gaudry, the director of the International Centre of Excellence for Education in Mathematics.

Professor Gaudry is a former graduate of UQ who has worked all over the world, including Yale University.

He is also a strong advocate for quality sciences and maths programs in schools and has a high media profile in regards to educational issues.

Media inquiries: Andrew Dunne at UQ Communications (3365 2802).