21 December 2009

A University of Queensland graduate has been awarded Australia’s most prestigious postgraduate scholarship to study at one of the world’s leading universities.

Civil engineering graduate Joseph Gattas is one of eight Australians to receive a General Sir John Monash Award for 2010 which recognise academic excellence, leadership and community service.

The awards are Australia’s equivalent to the Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships, but are for study anywhere in the world rather than being limited to Oxford, as Rhodes scholarships are, or the USA, as is the case for Fulbrights.

Mr Gattas will use his award to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering Science at Oxford University.

He will focus his studies on the design of low-cost deployable structures which can easily be dismantled, transported and erected in any location.

Mr Gattas said he hoped his research would help communities which had been affected by natural disasters.

“For me, the difficulties of relocating families following Australia’s recent bushfires and floods, highlighted the shortcomings of currently available post-disaster infrastructure,” Mr Gattas said.

“I hope to study and develop deployable technologies with the ultimate aim of creating an emergency housing system that could be used in Australia as temporary housing in the wake of natural disasters.”

After completing postgraduate studies, Mr Gattas said he was looking forward to using his skills as a structural engineer.

“I would like to work as a structural engineer with a multinational corporation that is involved with both research and community aid projects,” Mr Gattas said.

“I hope to use the skills I acquire as a young professional to continue the research and design of emergency housing.”

The awards were established in 2002 and are named in honour of General Sir John Monash, who commanded the Australian Imperial Forces in World War I, developed Australia’s electricity industry and promoted public service and education.

An accomplished pianist and cellist, Mr Gattas has most recently held UQ’s Hawken Memorial Scholarship and the Thiess Engineering Scholarship in Memory of Roger Trundle.

Associate Dean (Academic) of the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology Professor Caroline Crosthwaite congratulated Mr Gattas on his award.

“The General Sir John Monash Awards specifically target young Australians who will be leaders in their fields and leaders of the community,” Professor Crosthwaite.

“This is a great achievement for Joseph and also highlights the calibre of UQ Engineering.”

Mr Gattas is the second UQ Engineering student in two years to receive the award. 2008 UQ Engineering and Science graduate Katie Quinn was awarded the General Sir John Monash Award for 2009.

Mr Gattas received his award from UQ alumna Governor-General Quentin Bryce AC at a special ceremony at Government House, Canberra, on December 2. He graduated with first-class Honours on Friday, December 18.

Media: Alice Walker at the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology (a.walker1@uq.edu.au or 07 3346 7696)