The dedication and hard work of a Port Macquarie Charles Sturt University computing graduate has earned him a University Medal and a new career in space research.
Peter Smith graduated in the Charles Sturt School of Computing, Mathematics and Engineering with a Bachelor of Computer Science (with specialisation).
The University Medal is the highest honour that a student can receive. They have to achieve High Distinctions (HDs) in nearly all their subjects to be awarded one.
Originally from Port Macquarie and currently living in East Kempsey, Mr Smith is a former Queensland Police Officer who aspired to a career in computer science since he was a boy.
Before leaving his job to study full-time, he worked in sales and management at Harvey Norman Computers. Now married and with a two-year-old son, he hopes one day to work as a researcher for NASA or SpaceX.
Mr Smith said he enrolled in a Bachelor of Computer Science because, since a young age, he has been fascinated by computers and artificial intelligence (AI), and their power to change humanity when used properly.
"I have known it my whole life, however, I had not been in a position to pursue study for this career path," he said.
"I have built and coded robots and other autonomous electronics for as long as I can remember, dreaming of the day I could work for an organisation like NASA or SpaceX.
"At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when everyone had to stay home, I knew it was my time. I actually completed my degree in two and a half years, doing three units over a summer session and a five-unit semester that almost broke me."
Mr Smith said the Bachelor of Computer Science was the entry point for him into this career, providing a pathway to Honours study, and finally a PhD where he hopes to research new and unexplored technologies and their applications in the future.
He is now a Graduate Software Engineer at Fleet Space Technologies, Australia's leading space company.
"[It's] the exact position and industry I have always dreamed of and worked so hard to achieve," he said.
Mr Smith is moving to Adelaide soon to take up the role.
He has also been accepted into a Bachelor of Applied Research (honours) at Charles Sturt next year, working with Senior Lecturer in Computer Science Dr Ashad Kabir on AI and Machine Learning.
During his studies when things became challenging, Mr Smith said his wife and son kept him motivated.
"Becoming a new father changed something in me," he said.
"I wanted to give my studies my very best, so I could provide the future that I had dreamed of for my son, William.
"My wife Alisha is my biggest supporter, always encouraging me to do well and reassuring me that I have the ability to do so. In the two-and-a-half years that I was studying, she went over and above to ensure I had the environment and the time to commit to achieving the results that I did."
Mr Smith said he wants to show people that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible and he strives to use his skills as a software engineer to be a positive role model for others in his community.
"I aim to inspire others to pursue a career in STEM fields and use their talents to make a positive impact in the world, and I hope to use my work to make a difference in the lives of others and to help create a brighter future," he said.
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