The future is bright for international scholarship recipient

11 May 2021

CQUniversity alumnus Reuben Smith is on cloud nine after being named the recipient of a prestigious international scholarship.

The Gladstone local was recently awarded a Fulbright Future Scholarship where he will be hosted by Washington University in St. Louis (Missouri) to complete a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering.

'I remember I was at work and my phone started ringing with an unknown Canberra number showing up on the screen'' he recalls of the moment he received the call to advise him of the scholarship.

'I had been getting a tonne of scam phone calls at the time' so I almost didn't answer it...for a little while afterwards I had this weird sense of bewilderment' almost to the point of asking myself 'out of the massive pool of applicants' why me?

'How on earth I managed to be seen as more deserving than hundreds of other talented individuals is beyond me' but here I am!'

A Fulbright scholarship is a combination of a cultural and academic exchange. The scholarship is fully-funded and also covers other expenses such as health insurance' return airfares and monthly living costs.

Despite the current COVID-19 climate' Mr Smith said he would complete the scholarship abroad.

'I'm due to leave for St. Louis in mid-to-late August of this year'' Mr Smith said.

'Fortunately' things are working out better for this year's group of Fulbrighter's' compared to the 2020 cohort.

'Over a third of the USA's adult population has now been fully vaccinated against COVID and that' combined with the potential to receive the jab myself before I go' has made the outcome a lot more promising than it was say' six months ago.'

Mr Smith undertook a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) and Diploma of Professional Practice (co-op Engineering) at CQUniversity and graduated in 2016.

'My first co-op placement was with Walz construction as a third-year undergraduate engineering student. Following this I was fortunate enough to undertake my second placement with NRG Gladstone Power Station (during my fourth year). I then left the power station the semester before I graduated' travelled for a bit' and was then offered a job back at NRG in early 2017. I've been there ever since.'

Mr Smith said that like most people' he was working exclusively from home for a portion of last year and had quite a bit of 'spare time' to look into other 'opportunities' outside of work.

'I've always wanted to go a little further with my tertiary education and really warmed to the potential idea of being able to combine additional study with international travel'' he explained.

'Also' having spent a good chunk of time working in industry as a graduate and convincing myself that I still have a few years left before I'm ready to 'settle down'' I thought I would throw my hat in the ring to see if I stood a chance.'

And so he applied for the Fulbright scholarship' with full support from former CQUniversity lecturer and thesis supervisor Dr Ashfaque Chowdhury.

'Reuben always applied the best of his ability whilst working through his units and showed great interests in the subject matters beyond the necessary level required to complete the units successfully'' Dr Chowdhury said.

'He was a hard-working student who is passionate about learning and showed excellent leadership skills in many projects that he completed in my units. He was eager to do well in all fields he pursued' was a high achiever and was awarded the campus medal at his graduation. It was therefore a great pleasure to support Reuben in his application for a Fulbright scholarship and I am thrilled to hear that he has achieved it.'

Mr Smith said he chose to do a Masters in Engineering as it was the 'terminal' degree that would allow him to enhance his understanding and performance in a professional setting.

'Specifically' I aim to align my major with thermofluids and the engineering associated with energy generation from hydrogen fuel. I currently work at a coal-fired power station' so I'm privy to a lot of the talk (and rumours) regarding the phase-out of coal as a primary energy source and the transition to more environmentally friendly energy sources. In light of this' I hope to be able to apply the additional technical knowledge gained at university to upcoming energy infrastructure projects across Queensland.'

The modest 27 year-old' who considers himself to be a pretty 'regular' guy' provided some words of wisdom to anyone thinking about applying for a scholarship.

'Just go for it!

'I always have and always will feel like a regular' unspectacular kind of guy who would never have dreamt of being chosen to partake in something like this. Put your best foot forward and you'll be surprised at the opportunities that will be there waiting for you.'