14 December 2006

To be an Olympic speed skater would usually involve many hours at the track doing lap after lap.

But for Mark McNee, it also meant using his studies in Mechanical Engineering at The University of Queensland to give him a technical edge.

Mark teamed up with some colleagues in maths to use some high powered algorithms to come up with a new type of blade for his skates.

“What we developed was curves at the bottom of the blades,” he said.

“This gives me a distinct competitive edge.”

This edge has given him the opportunity to compete at two Winter Olympics while completing his studies at UQ.

Mark will graduate on Friday with a Bachelor of Engineering after seven years of balancing an elite sporting career with his desire to become an engineer.

“I found the first couple of years really hard,” he said.

“But I had a sports scholarship through UQ Sport and they were very helpful in getting me to find a balance.”

And while not being the most outstanding student, Mark has been nominated at the Engineering, Physical Sciences & Architecture Faculty’s valedictorian.

“I probably have the lowest grade point average of any valedictorian yet,” he said.

“But it does show that there is more to uni than just study. It pays to have a balance.”

Off the speed skating track, Mark was also the vice-president of Engineers Without Borders at UQ, a group dedicated to using their skills to help others.

“One of things I believe in strongly sustainability and I want to be able to aid in the development of clean energy solutions to the way we do things,” he said.

Mark is already on his way in his chosen career working for Bassett Consulting in Brisbane.

Another student aiming to make an impact is Genevieve Thomson who is graduating with a double degree in Chemical Engineering (Bachelor of Engineering) and Asian languages (Chinese) and cultures (Bachelor of Arts).

Genevieve has achieved the best ever academic record in Chemical Engineering at UQ and won the 2005 Hawken Memorial Scholarship for best all-round engineering student, which is quite an achievement considering she was doing a dual degree.
“I found that the two degrees worked well together as the subjects were very different,” she said.

“When the engineering was getting too much I could escape to the language and vice versa.

“And while the chemical engineering degree was sometimes quite intense it was made so much more enjoyable by the close knit UQ chemical engineering community.

“Because a lot of the study is group based, chemical engineering is a very social degree and I’ve made a lot of lifelong friends.

“Especially when working insane hours to get through some of the subjects.”

She was also heavily involved in Skirts in Engineering, a group that fosters greater participation of women in the male dominated profession of engineering.

“The club is a great networking tool for young women studying engineering,” she said.

“It promotes social interaction between female engineering students of all disciplines whilst also providing a social network between students and women who are working in engineering industries.”

Genevieve, like most of her colleagues in chemical engineering, has already been hired and will start her career with BP at their Bulwer Island refinery in Brisbane next year.

The EPSA Faculty graduations will take place at the UQ Centre on Friday, December 15 at 11am (for the Schools of Information Technology & Electrical Engineering and Physical Sciences) and another at 6pm (for the Schools of Engineering and Geography, Planning & Architecture).

Guest speakers at the ceremonies will be Professor John Puttick, the Chairman of GBST Holdings Limited, at the 11am graduation; and Dr John Fenwick, the Executive Director (Structures) Main Roads Queensland, at the 6pm graduation.

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