Five degrees of separation

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Jeremy Smith isn’t your typical graduate. For most, a single degree from a national institution such as the Australian National University (ANU) is a huge achievement. However, Jeremy has gone above and beyond.

He has dedicated his career to working and studying at ANU, and will graduate in December 2019 with his fifth degree from the institution, achieving the highest academic award of a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Jeremy will join an exclusive group of only 44 people who hold five degrees from ANU in the history of the institution.

He attended Hawker College before coming to ANU in 1993, to study a combined Bachelor of Engineering/Bachelor of Information Technology. He then completed a Master of Philosophy and Graduate Certificate of Higher Education.

Jeremy has been working as a teacher and researcher at the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science for 21 years. He will be conferred at a ceremony on Tuesday 10 December, for his thesis in Humanitarian Engineering Education.

Jeremy’s passion is humanitarian engineering, and he has been integral in making ANU a global leader in the field.

“Humanitarian engineering is all about working in collaboration across disciplines, people and communities to create positive social impact through engineering knowledge, tools, skills and technology”.

“It’s an area that requires an understanding of a wide range of skills, knowledge and collaborations. There is so much to learn and it is great to have the opportunity to explore that. It’s also diverse across different disciplines, knowledge and people,” he said.

In 2017, Jeremy won one of the coveted Australian Awards for University Teaching, presented by the Commonwealth Department of Education.

Jeremy headed up the effort to introduce a new Humanitarian Engineering minor to the Bachelor of Engineering at ANU, which was rolled out at the start of this year.

He hopes the minor will, “give more of a structured pathway for students to think about how their engineering and technology can have a positive impact on human wellbeing and quality of life, particularly for marginalised and vulnerable communities, both in Australia and overseas".

The humanitarian engineering electives have traditionally attracted a diverse cohort, with between 40-45% women enrolled, making it one of the few programs that is close to reaching the College's goal of gender parity.

Jeremy believes engineering will play a key role in solving the world’s biggest wicked problems.  

“Engineering and technology have, and will continue to, contribute directly to economic, social and environmental sustainability in both positive and negative ways.  We have to consider how our work can positively impact in all these areas,” he said.

Jeremy’s career achievements have been impressive. In August this year, he was awarded one of the seven inaugural Reimagine Fellowships to pursue his idea of creating an Engineering Positive Impact Hub within the College.

Through the Hub, Jeremy hopes to extend the impact of our existing humanitarian engineering initiatives, and create new opportunities for long-lasting positive change.

“I’m passionate about Reimagine, because it is about looking at things differently. The Hub will bring new and existing expertise in the College to bear on challenges of disadvantage, marginalisation, and vulnerability around the world,” he said.

He was also successful in securing two significant grants from the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s New Colombo Plan Mobility program. These were the only successful ANU-led projects to receive multi-year funding from the 2020 round.

The funding will go towards transformative experiences for our students, supporting overseas travel for study and short-term learning opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region.

Jeremy encourages his students to “think about how you can be creative with engineering and technology, but also how you can incorporate other disciplines into engineering, such as health, economics, social science, art and design”.

Despite all his professional achievements, Jeremy regards the personal connections he has made as the highlight of his time so far at ANU.

“The staff, students and partners I have been able to work, study and collaborative with, they've been motivated, collaborative, creative and basically just nice people,” he said.



Updated:  10 August 2021/Responsible Officer:  Dean, CECS/Page Contact:  CECS Marketing