Laura gets a hands on approach to science in Mackay

North Rockhampton Students Laura Gilbar, left and Nadene Housman measure the glucose concentration in pre-treated begasse. Photo Peter Holt / Daily Mercury
North Rockhampton Students Laura Gilbar, left and Nadene Housman measure the glucose concentration in pre-treated begasse. Photo Peter Holt / Daily Mercury Peter Holt

WHEN Laura Gilbar isn't wearing a lab coat or studying science subjects, you'll find her in her cheerleading outfit.

The Year 11 North Rockhampton State High School student was selected along with a group of students across the state to be part of the first QUT/QMEA Chemical Process Engineering Challenge.

The Year 11 and 12 students from Mackay, Rockhampton, Townsville, Moura and Ipswich will work alongside engineers, research scientists and university mentors at the QUT Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant.

Laura, 16, said she'd always had a knack for maths and science, but wasn't sure what path to take after school.

"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and this has been great to get that hands on experience in this industry," she said yesterday.

"It's not like we've had to stand around watching them do it, we've had the opportunity to do everything ourselves as well. One of the things we've been working on is taking the bi-product of sugar can which is bagasse and putting it through multiple processes to make ethanol which was really interesting."

The teen, who also does cheerleading and dancing amongst her studies, said the opportunity had given her a great insight into what it would be like to work in that industry.

"They're two pretty different interests," she laughed.

"But I love to be active as well."

Students will present their research and experimental results to senior management, QUT experts and industry representatives at the end of the week.


The QUT Pilot Plant converts cellulosic biomass into renewable transport fuels (bioethanol) and high value biocommodities in an integrated biorefinery.

Topics:  cheerleading, engineering, sugar cane

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