Now that the proposal documentation has been submitted, Jenna has moved on to work on her Honours project methodology. “When I saw the option for a sugarcane-related topic, I knew I had to choose that one. Around my hometown, there is sugarcane everywhere, and my Nunno (grandfather) is a cane farmer,” Jenna explains.
“My thesis is on bagasse, which is a fibrous waste by-product from sugar production. Bagasse is usually burnt in the boilers of the sugar mill for energy production,” Jenna says. “I am researching if we can use bagasse to create biochar, which is a type of activated carbon, as an absorbent to remove the colour during raw sugar production.”
This means that raw sugar could be decolourised into white sugar in the same plant where the sugar cane is crushed. Jenna says the method she is developing may be more energy efficient than the method currently in use to refine white sugar, and it would also not need any fossil fuels.
“If my method is viable, it could contribute to a more sustainable industry and create more local jobs in Queensland’s cane growing regions,” Jenna says.
Job-ready for 2024
Jenna will submit her Honours thesis before the end of this year, and she also has taken some initial steps to secure her dream job. After working at a copper smelter in Mount Isa in 2022, Jenna realised that there is a future for her in mining.
Jenna also received a Hall Contracting Science and Engineering scholarship, where she learned more about the day-to-day life of an engineer. "Among other things, I had to calculate how much concrete they needed for a job and liaise with their suppliers, making sure everything was within specifications," she says.
“At the start of this year, in our first lesson, our course coordinator told us we would have to start applying for graduate positions if we wanted to start a graduate job in early 2024,” Jenna says, adding that she was happy that her course coordinator had made sure that everyone was aware of this.
“I've just had a couple of interviews with mining companies and should be hearing back from them very soon. I'm in the middle of the recruitment process, basically,” Jenna says. “Now is the time when everyone's trying to snatch up the best graduates for next year.”