The Civil Engineer – Quan Lau
Since delivering the valedictory speech to her graduating cohort in December 2012, Quan Lau has wasted little time establishing her civil engineering career. Having landed on her feet at global consultancy AECOM, Quan has been putting what she learnt at the Melbourne School of Engineering into practice – all the while maintaining her extensive volunteer efforts.
“The most exciting thing about my job is working on real projects that will affect real people and enhance the world we live in,” says Quan, reflecting on her position as a graduate engineer at one of the world’s largest engineering firms.
These projects have spanned a diverse range of areas, including climate change flood-risk assessments, integrated water management and model stormwater flows in urban environments.
Being exposed to this work has helped Quan work towards her career ambition of “making a meaningful and effective difference to the world” – an ambition also embodied in her volunteer work.
As a student, Quan became involved with the not-for-profit organisation Engineers Without Borders (EWB) via its University of Melbourne chapter, which is made up of students with a dream of combating engineering challenges in developing countries.
“The work of EWB is incredibly meaningful and makes a big impact in the communities we work in,” says Quan, who is the regional vice-president for the organisation’s Victorian chapter.
“I believe extreme poverty can be ended in our lifetime and organisations like EWB are part of a global movement working to achieve this goal.”
Quan’s commitment to this goal saw her travel to southern India with EWB in 2013. She spent three weeks visiting renewable energy projects and observing integrated water management in rural Tamil Nadu.
Her volunteering extends beyond EWB to Oaktree, Australia’s largest youth-run aid and development organisation. In 2012 Quan was the national director of a program supporting international schools through fundraising efforts.
“As national director I managed a team across six states to implement our development education and mentoring programs, and in December 2012 I led a trip to Cambodia to visit our partner schools,” she says.
For Quan, giving up such extensive time to these causes is an easy decision based on a deep-seated philosophy of giving back.