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Jack MacCauley

An internship is an excellent way for young people to get industry experience and start building a professional network. But few interns expect to do really challenging work.

Jack MacCauley, a third-year chemistry student, was given a real challenge to solve when he interned at Viva Energy Australia as part of the CareerTrackers Indigenous Internship Program in the summer of 2017.

On his first day at the lab at the Geelong Refinery, the Monash University student was offered an opportunity to contribute to an existing project looking at developing a new test method for assessing ageing characteristics of bitumen.

The existing test required bitumen to be sent interstate for testing, which could take several weeks to obtain results. The Geelong Refinery was already in the process of developing the in-house solution and experimenting with near infra-red technology.

Under the watchful eye of Viva Energy staff, Jack was provided the opportunity to find a solvent that would dissolve the bitumen without interfering with the infra-red signal.

So he hit the textbooks.

When the solvents arrived, the real work began for the young chemist.

“I needed to get a lot of data from a lot of different samples in order to get a big spectrum of results,” he explains.

Extensive modelling, experimenting and testing followed to ensure the selection of the solvent was technically viable.

The result? Thanks to this project, the Geelong Refinery, Australia’s last bitumen manufacturer, now has a quick in-house method to test aspects of bitumen ageing.

Jack’s project earned him accolades at the annual CareerTrackers Awards, held in Sydney in February 2017, where he was awarded the Project Excellence Award.

For young students considering an internship at Viva Energy, Jack urges them to apply. “The long-term benefit of making these connections, learning so much – it’s a huge benefit.”

Jack’s internship at Viva Energy has opened doors, given him valuable industry experience and, most of all, confirmed his future lies in chemistry.

“This is what I want to do and this is the pathway I want to take.”