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Laura wins Emerging Engineering Associate of the Year 2023

Having been exposed to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers from her process engineer father, Laura Miranda had always considered studying engineering. 

"My father used to send me articles about biomedical engineering inventions that would change the healthcare industry," explained Laura.

Born in Colombia, Laura moved to Australia in 2015 with aspirations of creating infrastructure that shapes people's lives. Settling in Brisbane, she was amazed by the highway, train station and drainage system infrastructure, which further ignited her interest in engineering.

"I paid close attention to how the water ran on the local roads and was intrigued about the local stormwater networks – it was very new to me and different from what we have back home. I quickly became passionate and curious about how things work."

After finishing her English course, Laura was looking to start engineering undergraduate studies, and knowing university was not an option because of costs, her student agency recommended she attend an education fair, which introduced her to TAFE Queensland.

"I learned about the Associate Degree in Civil Engineering (HED001) and was impressed with the hands-on approach to training, the subjects taught, and the credits to go to university afterwards."

Beginning her associate degree studies in 2016, Laura was blown away by the facilities, teachers, and skills she learned during her training.

"TAFE Queensland's facilities are excellent, and during my third and fourth semesters, the South Bank campus became like my second home. I would spend so much time in the computer room, finishing my assignments and studying with friends."

"My teachers were extremely supportive; Tom, my maths teacher, has been one of my favourite teachers ever. He cares about his students' performance at the academic and personal levels. He made learning calculus something fun and stress-free - I have such good memories of his classes."

"My road design and engineering project professor, Sean Quilty, is a gun designer and civil engineer. He has so much industry experience and understands the skills you need in the real world. He's supportive, empathetic, and friendly - I am in touch with him today, and we even worked together for a few months."

Laura credits her course and excellent teachers for giving her the job-ready engineering skills and foundation knowledge she needed to enter the industry.

"I learnt problem-solving, civil engineering, planning, strategic, design and drafting skills that have significantly improved since graduation. They were cultivated through the course and continue to be polished with time, experience, collaboration with other peers and involvement on different projects," explained Laura.

Now a civil design drafter and marketing assistant at BG&E Consulting Engineers, Laura works in her dream career, sparked by her father's career in engineering, her love of math and science, and her TAFE Queensland training.

"A strong value of mine is to contribute to society. I was curious to learn about all these engineering solutions so I could one day do this back to Colombia and be involved in humanitarian engineering projects."

Her passion saw her win the National Emerging Engineering Associate at the 2023 Engineers Australia Awards after being nominated by BG&E.

"The application process was enriching, as it made me reflect on all the incredible projects and volunteering I have been involved in. Being recognised in front of a technically excellent audience was terrific. The fact that I was nominated was just incredible.

"Reflecting on my journey of arriving in Australia eight years ago, right after high school, without language proficiency - it's surreal to think that I now stand as a winner for my contributions to the engineering profession. "

Being rewarded, valued, and appreciated by your peers is a special feeling, and this award represents dedication, perseverance, and a commitment to continuous growth," said Laura.

This year, Laura decided to undertake a business degree to learn about strategic planning, marketing, and human capital to contribute to the business development of the industry she loves.

“Equity and diversity are big factors in my decision-making, and I want to ensure companies implement this from an organisational level,” she explained.

Laura hopes to promote STEM careers, like engineering, to more women and minorities, to break stereotypes, and to emphasise that the role of engineers is to share the fundamental skills required in the field, which extends beyond mathematical abilities.

"Engineers do amazing things, and it's a career you can thrive in. I chose it because I am passionate about helping others and interested in sustainable and inclusive designs. I am creative and enjoy problem-solving and teamwork," she said.

"I'm so glad I undertook the Associate Degree in Civil Engineering (HED001) with TAFE Queensland. It provided me a route into a rewarding industry."

"As an international student, I firmly attest that the course cost and the enduring benefits I've gained from it remain entirely justified even five years post-completion," concluded Laura.