Evelyn Storey is a structural engineer and Aurecon’s Regional Director for Queensland. Evelyn has a degree in Civil Engineering and is a Chartered Fellow of Engineers Australia. Evelyn is a Board Member and Deputy Chair of the Board of Professional Engineers Queensland and is an Engineers Australia Structural College Board Representative.
How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I became a member of Engineers Australia in 2004, shortly after I had moved to Australia from the UK. Prior to that I was a Chartered Engineer and member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Structural Engineers in the UK.
Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
My grandfather was a mechanical engineer, but other than that there is no strong family connection to engineering. I enjoyed maths and science at school and decided to study civil engineering at University as I liked the mix of practical and analytical subjects on offer. I spent three enjoyable years at Imperial College in London and realised that engineering could be a creative and challenging career, with tangible outcomes and the opportunity to make a difference to the quality of people’s lives.
How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
I am a Board Member and Deputy Chair of the Board of Professional Engineers Queensland (BPEQ). It is a legal requirement in Queensland for engineers to be registered to practice, and the purpose of the BPEQ is to raise standards across the profession and reduce the risk of loss or harm to the public.
What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
All of the projects I have worked on have been interesting or challenging in some way – I think that is the nature of engineering and why I enjoy the profession of engineering design so much. I think the project I have found the most interesting was the Translational Research Institute in Brisbane. The building was an Australian-first; designed to enable teams of clinicians and researchers to work together to solve health challenges and advance progress from laboratory discovery to application in the community as quickly as possible. The building is designed around the core concepts of collaboration and inspiration, and I feel very proud that the building engineering team are also contributing in some small way to the medical breakthroughs that are being made by the researchers and clinicians at TRI.
What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
I believe the biggest challenge for the engineering profession as a whole is the falling number of young people – both men and women – who are choosing to study an engineering degree at university. We are in a worrying spiral of falling skills and enrolments which threatens Australia’s future ability to drive innovation, remain competitive and preserve our quality of life.
As an engineering profession, we need to work together as a team to encourage boys and girls to continue to study STEM subjects and recognise engineering as a worthwhile, creative career with the ability to impact the sustainability and quality of our life. We need to recognise that “Team Engineering” is in competition with all the other professions – lawyers, accountants, medicine, to name but a few – for the most talented students.
Given the reducing numbers of enrolments into engineering degrees it is more important than ever that we encourage girls to consider engineering at university. It makes no sense to deter 50% of the population from our profession when we are already in competition with other professions. Only once we have equal numbers of female and male engineering graduates entering the workforce can we hope to start to create the diverse engineering teams in all industries and at all employers that Australia so desperately needs.
What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
The engineering profession is critical to protecting and improving our resilience and quality of life by responding to the challenges of climate change, sustainability and security of energy, water and food, health and pandemic-risk, social isolation and the future of work and automation. Australia’s future engineers will need to be more diverse and more creative than ever before to ensure Australia remains innovative and globally competitive.
Who is your engineering hero?
Fazlur R. Khan, the structural engineer responsible for many of the world’s tallest buildings including the John Hancock Centre and the Sears (Willis) Tower. He has a very interesting backstory – born in and educated in Bangladesh but spending the majority of his career in Chicago where he made a significant contribution to the advancement of structural engineering of tall buildings. We know him as a pioneer in computer-aided design in the 1960s and 1970s, and he developed the concept of tubular structural systems for tall buildings. His innovative structural systems used less material and enabled buildings to be constructed taller than ever before. I admire his creativity and his elegant and efficient building designs, which often featured expression of structural form.
Image: BPEQ, provided by Evelyn Storey