Dr Anh Tran is a humanitarian engineering researcher. Her research focuses on energy, water, food, and computer technologies for people with limited resources.
Why did you first become interested in engineering?
My primary school teacher inspired my love of science through our lessons on space. I wanted to be an astronaut. In my first year of studying engineering at university, I realised that there were more problems on earth that needed solving than in space –such as poverty and environmental challenges. I could see that engineering and technology could be part of the solution to the global challenges of our generation.
How did you get to where you are now?
I studied English, maths, physics, ICT and chemistry at school in Australia. At university, I studied chemical and biomedical engineering as I felt it was a type of engineering that focussed on people. After that I joined my local Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapter. EWB encourages engineers to make a difference to people.
As the daughter of Vietnamese refugees my work on sustainable energy in refugee communities is very meaningful to me.
What is your favourite thing about being an engineer?
The endless possibilities of how engineering and technology can have an impact on our world, particularly in areas with few resources.
My favourite part is working together as part of a team from all different subjects with communities to develop technological, social and business solutions to improve their quality of life.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Earlier this year I was in Vietnam discussing engineers’ role as healthcare practitioners. Before that, I was in the US presenting at a humanitarian technology conference and before that, working with Brazilian researchers on technology applications in agriculture.
When I’m not travelling, I spend a lot of my time working collaboratively with my international partners using online communication tools.
What would be your advice to young people looking to pursue a career in engineering?
Engineering is diverse and there are many opportunities to apply science, technology, design, social science, and business solutions to solve the global challenges we face today.
Follow your passion and hopefully someone will pay or fund you to do it.
I especially encourage young, aspiring women and those from minority backgrounds to pursue a career in engineering, as voices from different backgrounds enrich engineering and bring new ways of thinking.
What’s next for you?
I’m collaborating with Australian researchers to develop a low-cost tsunami early warning system in the Indo-Pacific region that doubles as a community radio station and education tool.