Student accolades in the form of awards and prizes have long been an integral part of the Faculty of Engineering. As early as 1964, when the first Engineering Student Handbook was produced, the awards, scholarships and prizes intended to support and encourage students were clearly listed and detailed.
The scholarships, awards and prizes served various purposes. They were a way to acknowledge, reward and assist students either financially or by the prestige associated with being the recipient of an award. But these awards and prizes were also a way that links could be forged between industry and the Faculty of Engineering at Monash. Establishing a scholarship fund or perpetual award was an important way that industry groups could connect with Engineering and support students, graduates and research. As a result, over the last fifty years there have a been a variety of awards and prizes available to engineering students, ranging from university funded scholarships, private sponsored prizes and industry awards.
Each year, the Faculty of Engineering hosts an Engineering Awards Presentation Dinner. This dinner is the major forum for the presentation of awards and prizes to Engineering students. The majority of these awards and prizes, as well as the dinner itself, are made possible by the generosity of sponsors. In fact, in 2010, students were awarded close to $100,000 of prize money in total, all of which was donated by generous industry sponsors and personal benefactors. ‘Many of these award presenters are themselves former students and it is great to see them back at Monash’, commented current Dean Professor Tam Sridhar at the most recent awards night.
The granting of these awards often has a lasting impact on their recipients. For example, former graduate and Colombo Plan student, Professor Freddy Boey – recently appointed Provost at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore – was the recipient of a monetary scholarship during his undergraduate days. He reflected that:
One of the most memorable incidents involved Professor Polmear applying, on my behalf but unbeknown to me, for a cash prize for which I only got to know when he congratulated me in front of the whole class. Considering that I was driving a taxi around Melbourne part time to earn money for my livelihood, this was money most welcome, and at the right time as well! This experience alone motivated me to start a fund within the School of Materials Science Engineering [at Nanyang Technological University] to provide part time jobs for its financially needy undergrads, working within the school.
The history of giving to students and of rewarding and supporting their academic endeavours stretches back to the first year of the Faculty’s life. In November 1961, the Faculty decided to offer one annual prize of £20 for each course, to ‘be awarded to the student showing the greatest proficiency in the annual examinations in each course, provided that he is of sufficient merit’.
Then, in 1962, a generous donation of £20,000 from the two sons of highly successful businessman and engineer, Sir Alexander Stewart, brought about the establishment of the first external, ongoing award fund. ‘The money’, reported CHAOS, the Monash University Union Newspaper, ‘will be used to establish a fund known as the Alexander Stewart Memorial Fund to assist graduates of the Faculty of Engineering to further their study of the practice or principles of engineering either at home or abroad’. This included the pursuit of multidisciplinary studies, something that was not normally encouraged with research grants.
The Alexander Stewart Memorial Fund was the first substantial scholarship for engineering at Monash. Monash graduate Peter Rogers was one of the first recipients of this scholarship. Rogers reflects on winning the scholarship:
When I was getting towards the end of my course it seemed like an opportunity for me to broaden it out a bit more and I subsequently did apply and was awarded this scholarship which I got for two years, and in fact I finished up submitting a thesis at Melbourne University and got an MSc for it. It involved me, towards the end of my course actually doing some Social Science … it was, I think an opportunity to broaden, which fitted the times, which you possibly would do in a different way now, but I thought it was a great thing.
The Alexander Stewart Memorial Fund scholarship was awarded every year from 1963 until 1993. The remaining balance of the fund was put towards building a new lecture theatre for engineering, the Sir Alexander Stewart Theatre, in 1993. In 2010 some of the former recipients of the Alexander Stewart Memorial Fund scholarship began exploring ways they might re-establish the scholarship for undergraduate students. The possibility of linking the award into the Faculty’s Leadership Program is being investigated/considered. ‘So we’re hoping to revive it, albeit perhaps in a slightly different form’, says Rogers.
Another significant prize currently awarded within the Faculty of Engineering is the J W Dodds Memorial Prize. This is a medal and monetary prize of $1000, which is awarded to a student who, after completing their BE in Mechanical Engineering, is considered to be the most outstanding – with academic excellence an indication of professional promise. The prize is donated by Dodds Consolidated Industries Ltd.
Dariel de Sousa was the recipient of this award in 1990. She commented on the significance, as she sees it, of receiving this award: ‘getting recognition along the way is very important in motivating students to strive for more and for me that was the beginning of that drive to achieve more and more’.
Some of the Foundation Professors of the Faculty of Engineering had awards created in their honour. The Professor K H Hunt Award honours Foundation Dean Ken Hunt and the contributions he made to the Faculty of Engineering. A prize of $2500 and a medallion are awarded to the best PhD thesis in the Faculty annually.
The Owen Potter Award for Chemical Engineering Excellence was established in 1991 in recognition of Foundation Professor Owen Potter, and the contributions he made to the Department of Chemical Engineering as well as the chemical engineering profession in Australia. The award is a medallion presented to the first class honours graduate with the highest marks in Chemical Engineering for that year.
The I J Polmear Materials Engineering Prize was established in recognition of the contributions made by Professor Ian Polmear, the Foundation Chair of the Department of Materials Engineering, and is awarded annually to the student with the highest marks in Materials Engineering.
The Douglas Lampard Electrical Engineering Research Medal was established in honour of Foundation Professor Doug Lampard, who retired in 1990. The prize is awarded to the research student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering whose thesis is considered to be the most outstanding either as a contribution to the fundamentals of electrical engineering science and/or as an application involving hardware using electrical engineering principles. In addition to the inscribed medal, the winner receives a prize of $1000.
Staff members and former postgraduate students and their partners attended a dinner on Friday, 12 November 1992 to witness the presentation of the first two Douglas Lampard Electrical Engineering Research Medals. The recipients were Rick Alexander, who completed his PhD on ‘High Accuracy Non-contact Three Dimensional Shape Measurement‘ in 1990, and Wang Xinhua, who completed his PhD on ‘Finite Element Methods for Nonlinear Waveguides’ in 1992.