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Engineering at its best

Alumni News

An innocent question from Theerasak (Beer) Opatsuwan’s three-year-old son reminded the award-winning Curtin graduate why he became an engineer in the first place and what motivates him today.

Beer Opatsuwan
Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Hongwei Wu presenting Beer Opatsuwan with the Professional Achievement Award, Science and Engineering.

“My son Nicholas asked me last year, ‘Why do you go to work?’” says Beer. “Of course, he doesn’t understand how there could be anything more important than spending time with him!”

Without much thought, Beer gave Nicholas an honest response. He worked to put food on the table. A few months later, however, Nicholas asked the same question. This time, Beer had to dig deep for an answer.

“I knew there was something deeper that was driving me,” he says. “I told my son that Daddy goes to work to help people fix things and build things. This is what I do as an engineer. This is what engineers do.”

Since graduating in 2006, Beer has spent his career doing exactly this – helping people. In his role as an electrical engineer at Energex, Beer was heavily involved in the implementation of technical standards and policies to ensure power networks operate safely and reliably. Beer is also an active member of Energex’s standby emergency response team, which assists communities in south-east Queensland during extreme weather.

He has made significant contributions to the standardisation of engineering practices, represented Australia at numerous international engineering conferences, and shares his passion for engineering mentoring young professionals and fellow graduates.

Beer reflects on his ambitions after leaving Thailand in 1998 to attend high school and university in Perth.

“Looking back, it really feels like a dream. I had a hope that one day, my day would come – when I could say I’ve made a positive and significant impact on the country that has given me so much.”

Less than ten short years into his career, it seems that day has arrived. In the last 12 months he won the Queensland Young Professional Engineer of the Year award and was a finalist for the national award. He also accepted the prestigious E.S. Cornwall Memorial Scholarship offered by the University of Queensland. The scholarship will send Beer to Europe next year to gain new skills and knowledge in the electricity industry.

In November the Curtin graduate was awarded the University’s Alumni Professional Achievement Award (Science and Engineering) for his success in the field.

Beer says he is humbled by the whirlwind of recognition he’s received and thanks his mentors, university peers and family for their unwavering support.

He still thinks of his son’s question today, saying it reminds him of why he challenges himself professionally and inspires others to study engineering.

“It gives me a deep sense of purpose to carry on, to become a better engineer and a better person. I truly believe engineers have a positive influence on society and the world.”