Industry project gives Huy Pham an employment advantage

For student Huy Pham, one of the biggest attractions of furthering his studies with a Master of Engineering (Chemical) at the University of Melbourne was the opportunity for an industry placement.

Not only would it give him real-life experience in his chosen profession, but it would also provide a clear advantage in the job market.

Huy had completed his Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne and had spoken to his friends about the advantages of the Master of Engineering.

“It has a very good reputation, and my friends were very keen about the Industry Project, which they told me would be a good opportunity to interact with industry. When you apply for a job after graduation it’s so important to have experience,” he says.

Huy Pham

The Industry Project unit places students in an industrial setting, where they are challenged to plan and conduct an independent project. They develop a research plan, analyse and evaluate their findings and, at the project’s completion, present a detailed written report.

It has a very good reputation, and my friends were very keen about the Industry Project, which they told me would be a good opportunity to interact with industry.

Students are provided with a shortlist of projects from which to choose. During his undergraduate degree, Huy had done quite okay with a unit focusing on thermodynamics and heat transfer, which attracted him to a project analysing the cooling systems at the food manufacturing factory Kez’s Kitchen in Melbourne.

Kez’s Kitchen

For just under two months, from late December 2019 to mid-February 2020, Huy worked with the family-owned biscuit factory to conduct a heat transfer study for its production line. The management team at Kez’s Kitchen was enthusiastic in welcoming Huy to analyse its procedures. They were keen to maximise their product quality while also reducing energy costs.

“Product quality depends largely on the procedures applied, including baking and cooling the biscuit after baking,” Huy says. “If the biscuit is packed while it is too hot it can favour bacteria because the vapour can condense on the inside of the plastic packaging.

My aim in this project was to extend the shelf life of the product and shorten the waiting time of the biscuit in the cooling area, to save energy and improve the quality of the packed product.

The freedom to conduct experiments in the factory’s cooling area enhanced Huy’s practical experience. “The chance to work individually in a university is not always so available. In Kez’s Kitchen I was able to conduct my experiments as I chose.”

Project success

Head of Operations at Kez’s Kitchen, Mark Fink, says the Industry Project has given the business a much better understanding of how to arrange its workflow to minimise cooling time. That means we can be more efficient in our operations, he says. A more efficient operation leads to lower costs and higher quality.

Huy analysed and identified factors influencing the cooling process, including experimenting with the velocity of air flow and its direction. He was able to reduce the cooling time for the biscuits from 40 minutes to under 30 minutes, reducing energy use by 25 per cent.

Mr Fink says the project gave the business access to engineering skills it didn’t have in-house and also proved to be a rewarding process that was well worth the effort.

A more efficient operation leads to lower costs and higher quality.

For Huy, the experience has given him the confidence to approach real problems in an industry context. It is, he says, something a more conventional course would not teach, and which has made all the difference to him as he looks forward to his professional career after graduating at the end of 2020.

I was not so confident before I undertook this project, he says, but it gave me the confidence to trust myself. Now when I begin in the workplace, I will know how to use my knowledge and apply my studies. I feel I have the ability now to know which piece of knowledge to apply to solve a problem.

Related topics

Collaborations Student industry experience
Master of Engineering (Chemical) Student Industry Projects: Industry guide