Chris Compton - Class of 2012

"Something that I think is mirrored by a lot of people studying Materials is the satisfaction of understanding how things around us are made, what they are made of, and the consideration that went into their creation and application."

Chris Compton studied a Bachelor of Engineering in Process Metallurgy, graduating at the end of 2013.  He is now working as a Graduate Process Engineer at BHP Billiton - Mt Arthur Coal.

Why did you choose to do a Process Metallurgy degree?

Although I grew up primarily in Sydney, I spent a lot of time working on my grandparents' farm in West Wyalong. From this I always loved working with my hands on machines and the land. Throughout high school I was always attracted to engineering and wanted to combine the two.

Originally, I intended to apply to do Aeronautical Engineering at UNSW, however, I discovered Materials at the UNSW Open Day and from here liked it more and more. After receiving an academic and subsequent industry based scholarship, I decided to change my preference to Metallurgy.

The personality and quality of the staff and school itself, along with the future prospects of graduates were also a large part of why I chose Process Metallurgy.

What was your experience being a Process Metallurgy student?

My first year was more based around courses for general engineering principls and enjoying university. Making new friends at first year camp and across other engineering disciplines, getting involved in MATSOC and uni events and spending too much time at the Round House made first year a lot of fun.

Throughout the latter years, I really got to appreciate the quality and how tight-knit the School was. Developing a close materials group the access to school labs, the open-door policy of staff and the balance between academic and social life made my experience both valuable and memorable.

Where are you working now and what is your role?

I am currently working in the Upper Hunter region of NSW at BHP Billiton Mt Arthur Coal. Mt Arthur Coal is one of the largest single thermal coalmines in Australia, which produces up to 24 million tonnes of coal for domestic and export markets. Here I am a part of the Process Analysis and Improvements (PA&I) department in the Coal Handling and Preparation Plant (CHPP).

What does your current role involve?

My role is centralised around understanding the processes in the plant that drive coal preparation and improving them for greater efficiency, throughput and reliability. This is achieved through plant performance and consumable monitoring, equipment testing and optimisation, process support for other departments analysing delay data, developing maintenance strategies and lots of troubleshooting. In my role there is a strong focus on planning and prioritising tasks, intercommunication between departments, working with production technicians, safe work culture and professional development.

After graduating, how did your career path evolve?

Prior to graduating, I was lucky enough to have completed three internships during each summer break. After my first year, I worked with Stork Cooperheat, a heat treatment and non-destructive testing company where I took x-rays of welds for a summer. After second year, I moved into the mining industry working in central Queensland for Xstrata in a heavy medium processing and lead-zinc concentrator at Mt Isa Mines. After this vacation period, I decided that this was what I wanted to do. In my penultimate vacation period, I joined the PA&I team at BHP Billiton Mt Arthur Coal. After my tenure here, I was offered a full-time position upon graduation.

Do you have any advice for school leavers considering studying Process Metallurgy at UNSW?

Do it.

Consider where you might like to end up and work from there. If you are not too sure, pick what you think is best, follow your interests and as you progress it will become clearer.

In order to fully utilize your time at uni, I would suggest seeking as many opportunities for industry experience as you can, as early as you can. Doing this provides you with the best job prospects but more importantly, it will accurately prepare you for life in industry or broaden your knowledge base for higher research.

Finally, while you are at uni, enjoy yourself!

Please share any fond memories you have of your time at UNSW

My fondest memories mainly revolve around my group of friends that tackled an engineering degree together. Late morning coffees, living in a computer lab, cramming in G10 and sleeping many people on a couch, was a terrific experience.

Again, the openness and friendships developed with the lecturers and staff was tremendous and I believe this sets Materials far above other schools.

Of special academic mention was pulling an all-nighter for Mark Hoffman's final computer modelling assignment and Runyu Yang's first Advanced Processing assessment, and struggling to understand which line meant what in Chris Sorrell's phase diagrams. Being lucky enough to work alongside Nagy Valanoor for my thesis project and the winning the UNSW futsal competition were also terrific experiences.

Finally, most of my fond memories started with first year camp and I would encourage all new Materials Engineers to go.