Yang-Ming Goh receives University Medal for outstanding academic results

Yang-Ming Goh has always liked to build things, so it was no surprise she enrolled in a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Scholar), majoring in Electrical Engineering, at the University of Wollongong (UOW).

Her passion for seeing how things work has seen her win one of this year’s University Medals, which recognises outstanding academic achievements, for the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences.

However, the Dean’s Scholar has also discovered that there is a lot more to electrical engineering than she first thought after spending 18 months in China as UOW’s first student to take part in the New Colombo Scholarship Plan. A signature initiative of the Australian Government, the New Colombo Plan (NCP) aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific region in Australia by supporting undergraduate students to study and undertake internships in the region.

The NCP scholarships allow recipients to immerse themselves in Indo-Pacific cultures, learn new languages, further their studies, and gain invaluable work experience through internships with organisations across the region. Only Australia’s best and brightest undergraduates from all universities across the country are selected.

Yang-Ming spent 12 months studying at Beihang University in China, which had signed an exchange agreement in 2014 with UOW. She was the first student from Wollongong to take the opportunity to take part in an exchange there.

She then spent six months at Bluescope’s coating plant in Suzhou, within the engineering projects team as the electrical engineering intern. The team was responsible for implementing upgrades to the plant.

“My team was made up of Chinese nationals with an Australian project manager, which was an interesting dynamic to be part of,” Yang-Ming said. “The environment was instrumental in the development of my language skills, which was necessary for me to communicate clearly with fellow engineers and trades.”

During her studies, Yang-Ming also minored in International Studies and said the subjects opened her eyes to the possibilities of where an engineering career can lead.

“It was bit of chopping and changing [while studying] but it helped me develop skills I wouldn’t necessarily have gained by just doing engineering,” she said.

“I realised that I also liked explaining how things work to people, not just building them,”

When Yang-Ming first decided to pursue a career in engineering she said it was at a time when the focus on energy was beginning to rise. She chose electrical engineering in the hopes of helping to find ways to solve a looming energy crisis.

“That was my interest at first but now I am interested in the automation side of things, especially as to how it can relate to agriculture.”

Yang-Ming said the chance to expand her knowledge, not just in electrical engineering, but also in the culture of China has been an invaluable experience.

“You get a bit pigeon-holed while studying in the first couple of years so being able to go away and get perspective and learn about different ideas, especially when you are involved in technical things has been great,” she said.

“It helped me to understand the importance of communicating with customers and stakeholders, many of whom are from around the world.”

Yang-Ming is now back in Wollongong and is working in Bluescope’s main headquarters. The most important advice she could offer new engineering students was to take any opportunities to learn they are offered.

“You definitely always work harder on the subjects you are interested in because if that is your interest you pursue it,” she said.

“But don’t let your first impression of any subjects steer you away from exploring it. Anything you learn will always come in handy even if you cannot see the connection to what you are studying.

“Electrical engineering is such a broad area and although some of the other subjects may not seem as interesting, all the concepts you learn are transferrable.”

Words by Keeli Cambourne. Originally published on UOW Media Centre.