The team around you makes a huge difference to your PhD experience

PhD student Joshua Simmons surveying the beachJoshua Simmons is a PhD student at WRL, investigating advanced methods for optimising coastal erosion models for use within the context of forecasting systems.

His work in applying the Generalised Likelihood Uncertainty Estimation method to the calibration and optimisation of the coastal erosion models XBeach and SBEACH; has led to a detailed comparison of the performance and calibration data requirements of these models that will be presented at next weeks Coasts and Ports Conference in Cairns.

Why did you get into engineering?

“I actually got into engineering because I was fascinated by the design and construction of large structures like bridges and high-rise buildings. I followed the path to becoming a structural engineer throughout my bachelor degree, however my interest in water engineering grew. After taking a coastal engineering course in my final year I was finally converted and I haven’t looked back since.”

What do people not understand about what you do?

“People are often confused by the regular survey program we conduct along Sydney’s Northern Beaches. In particular, the GPS equipment used to measure the elevation of the beach is often mistaken for a metal detector (“I’ll give you five dollars if you can find my keys in the sand!”). These regular measurements contribute to a survey program that stretches back over 40 years at Narrabeen beach. “

What advice would you give to prospective engineers interested in undertaking a PhD?

“I’ll limit this to two pieces of advice:

The first: take the time to carefully choose your supervisors for the project. The team around you will make a huge difference to your experience and the work you produce. Make sure you will be surrounded by a suitable team from which you can learn a lot; and who will get the most out of you.

The second: throughout your PhD take time to pursue your intellectual interests, even if they lie outside your field. Often the concepts and techniques you learn don’t seem immediately applicable to your work, but all the knowledge you pick up along the way will help your PhD work and will allow you to bring something unique to your field.”

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