Student Profiles

Claire Ripley
Rakib Hassan

Claire Ripley

Claire Ripley

Claire Ripley, who now has a fantastic job in India working for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

When did you graduate?
I completed my Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in 2012.

What was the best thing about doing a major and honours in geography?
Geography is a choose-your-own-adventure for those curious about the world; I loved having the freedom to explore almost any global issue. My honours thesis studied the effectiveness of e-governance in improving subsidised food distribution to the poor in the south Indian state of Karnataka. I spent six weeks there doing fieldwork, and the opportunity to conduct self-directed research in a very unfamiliar context really sets geography apart. I also enjoyed the camaraderie among the small Honours cohort and with academic staff.

What are you doing now?
I work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. After a few years in Canberra I have recently relocated to India on my first posting. I am doing three months of Hindi language training before taking up my position as Third Secretary in the Australian High Commission in New Delhi. I’ll be working to advance Australia’s trade and investment relationship with a fast-growing India.

What knowledge/skills are you using from your geographical studies in your role?
The continuing connection with India is clear. My basic knowledge of India’s food security and agriculture policies will come in handy, as these issues fall into my remit at the High Commission.

More broadly, a human geography lens considers the full spectrum of social, political, environmental and economic factors at play in any issue. This was invaluable training for my job, which demands the ability to critically analyse complex global issues and their significance for Australia and to effectively communicate this to domestic and international audiences.

What advice do you have for people wanting to get into foreign affairs work?
There is truly no single path. Foreign affairs is a vast discipline – almost every organisation in government, the private sector and civil society has a global aspect to its work these days. Use your imagination, say ‘yes’ and do what excites you.

It is a great asset to gain international experience while at university. Study a second language, spend a semester overseas on exchange or take advantage of field schools and the opportunity to do Honours fieldwork overseas. Also consider internationally-facing work based in Australia. Be bold in seeking opportunities; for example, discuss your interests with your lecturers and supervisors, all of whom have broad networks of contacts in their fields who might take you on as a volunteer or intern. In this fashion I secured some work with ActionAid Australia writing policy papers analysing food security programs in developing countries.

Rakib Hassan

Rakib Hassan

Rakib Hassan, who now has a great job working for Geoscience Australia

What motivated you to select your course/profession?
Soon after graduating with a Bachelor of Science (Applied Physics) in 2003, I had the great opportunity to work with geophysicists. While working with scientists at the University of Melbourne, Monash and Caltech (USA), I developed scientific software to better understand processes, both shallow and deep within the Earth’s interior, that shape the Earth’s surface. In the process, I developed a keen interest in Earth sciences, which led me to pursue a master of Geoscience at Macquarie University. Subsequently, I had worked in the oil and gas sector, which eventually led me to the University of Sydney to pursue a PhD in geology and geophysics.

Did you undertake prior study? With the Faculty of Science?
I had completed a Bachelor and a Master of Science degree at RMIT and Macquarie University, respectively, prior to commencing my studies at the University of Sydney.

What did you enjoy the most about your course?
I was privileged to be a part of the dynamic and renowned EarthByte research group, which is engaged in cutting-edge research in the fields of Plate Tectonics and Deep Earth Dynamics. Being a part of this group, I was able to collaborate with researchers at leading institutions, e.g. Caltech (USA), and develop novel ideas that helped shape my thesis work. I also had the amazing opportunity to run large computer models, simulating deep Earth processes, on the largest supercomputer of the southern hemisphere, Raijin.

What advice would you give to students embarking on your course of study?
Recent advances in high performance computing, machine learning and ‘Big-data’ science have opened up new frontiers in geoscientific research. I would highly recommend students to develop skillsets in these areas, which will place them in good stead, both in academia and industry.

What are your aspirations – career and life in general? Where do you expect to go from here?
I have always aspired to do my best and never shied away from taking unpopular positions. My approach to life and work is best summarised in what the renowned Persian poet, Rumi, said:

‘Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.’

‘What you seek is seeking you.’

If you are currently employed please state job title, employer and main responsibilities
I am currently employed at Geoscience Australia as a Scientific Computing Specialist, where I develop computationally intensive workflows for processing various geophysical datasets on a national scale.

If employed, what do you like about working in this area? What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Although we cannot directly measure physical quantities and observe processes deep within the Earth, geophysicists are continually developing newer and innovative methods of inferring deep Earth structure and processes that drive large scale motion such as plate tectonics. It is immensely rewarding to be a part of this journey in which the secrets of the deep Earth are incrementally revealed.