After graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering — majoring in computer systems — Melanie went straight into a graduate program with the Defence Materiel Organisation in Canberra.
“I had no idea what to expect,” Melanie says. “I ended up doing three six-month rotations in different areas of Australia’s Defence capabilities, such as over-the-horizon radar and electronic warfare. It was really broad and exciting.”
Melanie specialised in electronic warfare and earned a master’s degree in electronic warfare systems engineering as she continued to work for the DoD. “I was helping equip our future Navy with state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems.
"I worked with leading Australian and international researchers on the technology challenges associated with the field. I was leading multinational teams as the engineering lead, so I spent a lot of time in the United States of America (USA) in places like Boston, Atlanta and Washington D.C. It was all about helping Australia and the USA develop the best capability we could for our defence forces.”
After ten rewarding years, Melanie was ready to stay on Australian soil for a while. Upon seeing an advertisement for a position as the Team Leader in Technology Development Engineering at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Melanie was interested, but not sure how her specialised knowledge and experience in defence could apply. However, she found her abilities translated quite well.
“When I joined the AIMS team, I initially helped them integrate new technologies for protecting the Great Barrier Reef and further enabling the institute’s researchers,” Melanie says.
“I now lead ReefWorks, Australia’s tropical marine technology test range at AIMS. ReefWorks provides technology developers a safe place to test leading edge technologies such as marine autonomous systems. ReefWorks is a key enabler to establishing a maritime autonomous systems technology sector here in Townsville for generations to come.”
Despite her initial hesitation in transferring from defence to marine technology development, Melanie says the foundation she built in her studies at JCU helped her to excel in her role. “JCU really prepared me for being quite solutions-driven and adaptable. Because I had developed core problem-solving skills, I could adapt and apply them anywhere."
"Even though I had moved from the electronic warfare domain to protecting marine life and promoting oceanography, I could use the same base skill set and hit the ground running.”
JCU Engineering Alumni Melanie Olsen