From career highlights to dream projects – this month, we heard from Peter Gostomski, Strategic Project Director at the University of Canterbury.

What is your role at the University of Canterbury?

My role has changed quite a bit over the years. I was Head of Department for Chemical & Process Engineering for quite a while. Recently was the acting Executive Dean for 7 months and currently I am a Strategic Project Director with the goal of bringing an academic perspective to a number of projects at the University.

Peter_ photo

A recent photo of Peter. Photo: Peter Gostomski

Tell us about three of your career highlights working at the University of Canterbury?

  1. Working with my colleagues to deliver a creditable teaching programme in the months after the 2011 earthquake. It was classic engineering, we identified a major problem, broke it up into pieces, different people took responsibility for different parts and then we delivered the best programme we could in challenging conditions. The University was great, we kept them informed and they primarily let us get on with what we were doing.
  2. Working with colleagues, the architects and the contractors to build our new lab building. It was incredibly frustrating at times but we are very happy with the building at the end.
  3. Getting the opportunity to work with all the research students over the years on a variety of projects.

There are many disciplines of engineering, why did you decide to specialise in chemical engineering?

Well I sort of fell into it. I liked chemistry and spoke to my neighbour who was an industrial chemist. He said if I was good at math I should consider chemical engineering as it gave more opportunities after 4 years then a chemistry degree. I didn’t like the idea of having to do postgrad so chemical engineering it was even though I didn’t know much about it. I didn’t really like it at first but by my 4th year I was really enjoying it. And then ironically after working for a couple of years in industry I ended up going back to do my postgrad degree.

I think it is important to contribute to the profession and look for opportunities for professional development

What would be your dream project to supervise?

Hmm, that isn’t easy. I am always excited about what ever project I am working on. Like most of us, I hope to be involved in a research project that has a clear impact on society beyond contributing to the overall scientific knowledge.

If a student is having difficulty with an engineering problem, what advice would you give them?

Persistence counts for a lot. Talk to your classmates, talk to your lecturer and just keep chipping away at it.

Complete the sentence. ‘A world without engineers would be ..’

.. very, very difficult.

Why are you a member of Engineering New Zealand?

I think it is important to contribute to the profession and look for opportunities for professional development.

What is your favourite piece of engineering in Christchurch?

Chemical engineers don’t usually develop things that end up on postcards or tourist lists. I do think the waste water treatment plant is pretty cool but my children never forgave me for taking them on a tour of it.

What do you do in your spare time?

Just a bit of yard work, some running in the hills around Lyttelton and fixing the holes in the fence that our dog creates to escape.