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Robert Perrons, BEng '95

Mechanical Engineering | Offering global guidance

If there’s an expert the world needs nowadays, it’s one who can envision and articulate how technology might transform the energy and resource industry.

This might explain why the world has made its way to Robert Perrons’ doorstep.

In his day job, Perrons is an associate professor at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, where he teaches graduate students and researches innovation in the energy and resources sector. But he is also a member of several expert panels, where he shares his insights with people interested in emerging trends and promising new technologies in the industry.

Since 2015 he has served as a member of the Australian government’s Expert Network for energy technologies and, in the spring of 2019, he was added as a member of the United Nations Expert Group on Resources and Energy based in Geneva, Switzerland.

He describes the UN role as “an unpaid, ad hoc position in which I am working with policymakers, industry practitioners, and academics towards a future in which the global community can secure the resources and energy that it needs to live in a sustainable way.”

In a keynote address he delivered to the UN group this year, Perrons examined how digital technologies will impact – and ultimately transform – the competitive landscape of the energy sector.

His ability to offer high-level insight into one of the world’s most pressing challenges has been in development since 1995, when Perrons completed his mechanical engineering degree at McMaster, graduating as class valedictorian.

Since then he has earned graduate degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Cambridge, where he was selected as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, and spent more than a decade working for Shell International.

His advice to today’s students is to take chances.

“Engineers are frequently hardwired to remove risk wherever they can, and that’s usually the right thing to do in technical systems—but it’s far less true in the rest of the universe,” he says. “Do things in both the professional and personal parts of your life that scare the heck out of you. You’ll be amazed by what you can do.”