Webinar recap: Land your dream career in STEM with Hazer Group’s Declan Burke

22 Feb 2022

By Evan Jones 5 min read

Accel iQ host Miles Campbell is joined by Hazer Group’s Declan Burke and Careers With STEM’s Karen Taylor-Brown to talk about careers in engineering.

It’s the final instalment of our three-part webinar series Land your dream career in STEM. Joining host Miles Campbell this week is Declan Burke, Research Assistant with Hazer Group, and Karen Taylor-Brown of Careers with STEM. In this webinar recap our panel discusses Declan’s career path, the importance of studying subjects outside of STEM, combining other passions with STEM careers, the benefits of honours degrees and much more. 

If you couldn’t make it, you can catch up with a full replay of the webinar below to see what you’ve missed. You can also read a more detailed account of Declan’s study and career pathway with our feature profile.

There will always be blow-off units you can take at your university for an easy high distinction – don’t do those units because they’re easy, do units that you’re interested in"
Declan Burke, Research Assistant – Hazer Group

Declan’s role at Hazer Group:

“I’m a research assistant. On any given day I might be working on a grant application or trying to procure stuff for our commercial demonstration plant. One of the key things I’ve worked on has been, for instance, we want to pass a material through a pipe and we want to pass that material at 40 metres per second, 9 bars of pressure, 900 degrees centigrade. What’s going to happen when that material tries to turn a bend? Is it going to be fine, or is it just going to wear through the pipe entirely and burst out the side in a huge fireball? And no one has time to find out the answer to that question, but we need an answer to that question, and so what I do, is I go away, I find out the answer to that question and I write a six page document with 25 references and give it to the engineers and the technical officers.”

Declan on important career skills:

“The biggest thing is communication ability. Scientists, and people in STEM, a lot of the time we have a reputation as poor communicators. The two most important things I have to do is research – so learning a topic I have no background in from the ground up – and then communicating that information effectively to other people who also don’t have a background in that field.”

Karen on the job market for sustainable STEM careers

“Jobs in the area of sustainability and the environment and renewable energy are definitely on the rise but as you can imagine it’s not just one job and just one person, it’s a whole contributing team that’s solving these really complex problems and the team needs to have people with different skills, different interests. The good news is that Australia really is at the forefront of the renewable energy area. We’ve got a fantastic abundance of things like solar, wind, water that we can make renewable energy out of. It’s interesting to see the types of industries that are searching for people with the skills within these areas, and it’s not always the areas that you think. For example, the mining industry – they’re really trying to switch to renewable sources of power and they’re really trying to recruit and employ more people with these skills.”

Declan on philosophy and studying areas of interest outside of STEM

“There will always be blow-off units you can take at your university for an easy high distinction – don’t do those units because they’re easy, do units that you’re interested in.

Philosophy was not easy, but it was a lot of fun and I did it out of interest. When you’re interested in studying something, the amount that you achieve and the degree to which you do well in that subject is massively increased. The soft skills that you pick up along the way from that, the soft skills that I use in terms of research or communication or argumentation or formal logic, I learned those better because the subject that I developed them doing was interesting to me.”

Karen on studying non-STEM subjects

“I am all on board with smashing those stereotypes that STEM professionals don’t have broad, creative interests. In fact, it really gives them a bit of an edge when looking for a job. There’s also areas where STEM and humanities or creative arts really go hand in hand. It’s having these skills which can ensure that the technology which is being created or the problem that’s being solved is actually going to solve a community or social need and really connect with people that are going to be the end users. People with an interest in humanities are increasingly in demand within technology careers. For example, linguistics graduates can be employed to train natural language processing in artificial intelligence.”

Declan on Honours

“I learnt more in my honours year than the whole of my undergraduate about how to do research and how to study and how to learn and how to communicate. It definitely had an incredibly steep learning curve and it’s really hard, but if you’re really serious about STEM and you want to go into a hard STEM career, you should do honours. It’s hard and it is worthwhile.” 

Karen on finding a STEM career

“We have a formula at Careers with STEM, we call it ‘STEM + X’. STEM is a foundation, but it’s not necessarily your destination, so your X is your passion. And you can combine that in any way. You might be engineering plus the environment, and there’s ways of combining that. You might be interested in maths plus sports, and you could become a sports statistician. Or technology plus fashion and work out to create sustainable clothing. You don’t always have to start with STEM as your main thought.”

Missed out on the previous webinar episodes? Catch up with a recap and full replay of Google’s Harrison Mbugi and Arup’s Danika Smith as they discuss their pathways to STEM careers.