Ruth Kravis graduated with a University Medal for outstanding scholarship and had life-changing experiences studying abroad, but it was the connections she made on the ANU campus that she values most about her undergraduate days. “Some of the best parts of my degree have come not from the formal coursework elements, but from things like being involved in student societies, with my cohort, with my peers, taking opportunities to do those extra things to have conversations with people outside of your field,” she said.
The University Medal recognises students who have obtained First Class Honours (or Masters Advanced Equivalent) and demonstrated exceptional academic excellence across their studies. Ruth graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor of Engineering, R&D (Honours) and Bachelor of Arts degrees. In Februray of 2022, she was asked to speak to new starters at the ANU College of Engineering (CECS) Welcome event.
Asked what advice she would give, she said, “Lean in to the experience, the whole experience, and all of the things that sit on the edge of it.”
Having done a lot of arts and humanities subjects as well as a lot of science at school, the option to be able to combine all of her interests in a double degree was appealing. “I really thought that it was important to bring a little bit of the art to the science and engineering and also vice versa,” she said. “That’s why I chose to do the double degree and it’s really great to have that option. The philosophy side of things, the art side of things really brought a lot of colour and flavour to engineering.”
As part of her mechatronics major, Ruth did courses in computer vision, robotics, and light field imaging and believes that it has given her a really useful set of skills to take into the future. “It was really exciting. Blending those three disciplines was what really attracted me to mechatronics. It’s definitely going to be part of our future, we see it everywhere”
Choosing to study something that you enjoy is obviously critical. But being able to use it to make a positive impact in society is what really motivates Ruth. “For me this came in the form of some work I did in the renewable energy space”, she said. “Australia’s at a pretty important moment in our energy transition and being able to contribute through my work placement in industry was really important for me”.
Ruth participated in an ANU program in partnership with Engineers Without Borders, spending time in Nepal where she worked on human-centred design with a team focused on managing waste in a small, mountain community.
“It helped me feel like I was actually making that impact and not just getting the degree and then going and having the impact. Being able to do that within the degree was really valuable.”
The ANU Capstone program — which partners students with industry to solve real-world problems — also gave Ruth an opportunity to make a difference. Working on a project to remove mercury from water sources allowed her to see first-hand the positive outcome of research. “Taking the designs and the ideas that you have, and actually turning them into reality and testing them and talking to people who will use them, that was really one of the most valuable parts of the degree for me,” she said.
When we spoke to her during the week of her graduation, Ruth said she planned to continue to work in the renewable energy space.
“I’d like to keep doing research, hopefully start a PhD focussing on energy transition problems. Looking at ways in which we can decarbonize our energy systems and move towards a more sustainable future. So using the tools from engineering to do that, using some of the philosophy, asking the right questions, including having the right people in the conversation.”
This August, she is headed to the University of California at Berkeley to do just that. Her PhD will be in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.