Growing up near Shepparton on a dairy farm, Stephen McHugh loved figuring out how machinery worked and building things.
In year 11, Stephen, developing an interest in chemistry, gained some work experience in a milk factory testing samples for quality. That experience was enough to set his sights on university. He enrolled in both science and engineering in 1991 “to see what was out there”.
In a career spanning over 30 years, Stephen spent a couple of years in the United Kingdom, working for part of the time as a process engineer for a company in Liverpool that manufactured cattle feed from waste products in the milk industry and subsequently returned from England to work as a chemical engineer at Tatura Milk Industries.
A keen home brewer, Stephen then went on to work at Bundaberg Distilling Company. His understanding of chemistry came to the fore – raw materials, yeast and process conditions all influence the creation of chemicals for the final flavour profile of all alcoholic beverages. Next came a role where he worked as Superintendent Scientific Services overseeing water quality in the steam boiler and turbine processes at Tarong Power Station.
While most of his career has been predominantly in the field of engineering, Stephen looked back gratefully on the decision to study science. “I’m a lot more employable and I’m able to understand the chemistry involved in the processes, which is what I enjoy a lot at work.”