International Student Awards - Jessica Bohorquez

Jessica Bohorquez 1

Jessica Bohorquez was Highly Commended in the Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Research) category of StudyAdelaide's International Student Awards.

From Bogota, Colombia, Jessica is currently a PhD candidate in the School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering. She has recently submitted her thesis, which focuses on the use of Artificial Neural Networks and fluid transients for the active and passive inspection of water pipelines.

Jessica has excelled in her research, and has published three journal papers, including one in the top 10 most-read articles of the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. Her research has also led to the university applying for multiple patents based on her methodologies. One of Jessica’s proudest achievements was her participation in the 2019 Three Minute Thesis competition. After participating at her university, Jessica went on to compete and win against researchers from more than 50 universities across the Asia-Pacific region.


Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I am a civil engineer, and I did a Masters in Engineering in Colombia before coming here. While I was doing my masters I did a bit of teaching assistance and really liked it. I realised that was a path that I wanted to follow, and basically once I lectured for a few years in Colombia, the next step was to do a PhD. I looked around at different universities, and in the topic that I wanted to work on, my supervisors at Adelaide were in the top three in the world for that particular area. I was lucky that I was able to meet them at a conference, and we clicked. What they wanted in a student and what I wanted in a supervisor was a match.

I was a lecturer for two years in Colombia, this helped me realise teaching is exactly what I want to do. I also started doing some tutoring and teaching support here in Australia which has reaffirmed my determination to follow this career. I think teaching is a long-term goal. It’s a very challenging career and not very easy to get into, especially in these times of uncertainty, but it’s also important to get experience in research and industry before settling into research and teaching.


What’s the difference in civil engineering between Colombia and Australia?

There are similarities and differences. In terms of gender diversity, women are still a minority here and they’re still a minority in Colombia. When I started studying compared to now, now I’m seeing more female students, which is very interesting. Sometimes what they need is to just see that it’s possible, and have a role model of another woman in STEM. 

In Colombia, you only study with Colombian students, maybe a person from Ecuador, which is the country right next to us. But here the first thing I noticed was ‘wow, there’s people from all over the world here.' It's very valuable to experience the diversity here in Adelaide.


Tell us about your International Student Award.

I was given a High Commendation in the category Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Research)

When I first read the requirements for the Awards, they were talking about doing things outside of the classroom, which for research students means doing things outside of research. Fortunately, I have been part of several committees, such as postgraduate societies, representing postgraduates in my school, trying to enhance the sense of community.

You see a lot of PhD students who don’t have a network of people, because they’re so focused on their studies. I have been working with other members of the committee to create that sense of community, organising events such as morning teas to get people out of their offices, and we recently expanded those to the rest of the HDR students and the Faculty too. It was just a matter of organising time and a room for people to come and talk. 

Last year I also joined the Three Minute Thesis competition. This was an amazing opportunity to enhance my public speaking skills and explore a different perspective of research. After joining at a Faculty level, I won the university competition and also the Asia-Pacific competition in Queensland. It was amazing!

At the awards ceremony, I enjoyed listening to the stories of all the other award recipients. The diversity of international students here is amazing. People from all over the world, with perfect GPA’s, while at the same time doing things outside of school or university. It was very inspiring to see these people, even high school students, stepping out and doing amazing things.


What do you miss about your home country?

My family and my closest friends. Quality of life and the university is very good here, but the people from home - you just can’t replace them.

There are quite a few Colombian people and activities in Adelaide, outside of university. The food though, you don’t have access to that much Colombian food. There are maybe two or three options, which is better than nothing, but I also miss the food a lot.


Jessica Bohorquez banner


Quickfire questions!

Zoom or in-person?

In person. For me as a teacher, interaction and seeing the student’s faces and that they’re getting what I’m saying is really important. For meetings it’s good to have the option, but nothing can ever replace being face-to-face.


What's your go-to study music?

It depends on what I’m doing. If I’m writing I need some instrumental music, but if I’m programming I need more club music. If I’m doing nothing special it can jump around a bit. I need either music that gives me energy or keeps me focused.


Adelaide Hills or Adelaide's beaches?

The Hills. I never grew up close to the beach - I enjoy it, but I can live without it. I love the mountains and hills.


Home delivery or home-cooked?

Depending on the day but mostly home cooked. For a Friday night, probably takeaway!


Reading books or streaming TV/movies?

Reading, I really enjoy it. I like novels, but at the moment I’m reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. It’s really interesting.


3 things you won't miss about COVID-19 restrictions?
  • The travel ban
  • Restrictions on dancing
  • Not having the chance to go to restaurants


3 things you won't forget about COVID-19?
  • Birthday Zoom parties
  • Going for walks
  • Getting into indoor plants
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