Family footsteps to engineering excellence: Shermi Perera graduates with honours

Bachelor of Engineering graduate, Shermi Perera, is working at Beca in Dunedin, engaging in diverse engineering projects aimed at enhancing water resource management.

12 Apr 2024

Anthony (Shermi) Perera initially planned to follow in family footsteps.

Anthony (Shermi) Perera

But a pivotal conversation with his father during his final year at St John’s College "to do something that stands out from the crowd”, changed Shermi’s perspective. 

Shermi decided to chart his own course and enrolled in a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Civil Engineering at the University of Waikato, where he maintained top grades throughout his four-year degree. 

Having completed my engineering degree now allows me to open new doors to a future in patent law furthering the lengths to which my career can go.

Impressively Shermi secured three scholarships, including Te Paewai o Te Rangi Scholarship, the Sir William and Lady Judi Gallagher Scholarship, and the Gallagher Scholarship for Engineering Management. These scholarships were able to cover his course costs for the duration of his time at Waikato.

Shermi is now working at Beca in Dunedin, where he contributes to the Southern Water Resources team, engaging in diverse engineering projects aimed at enhancing water resource management.

As part of my degree, I had to complete two separate work placements in the engineering industry, which acquainted me with the various tasks I would be undertaking in my role as a graduate engineer.

“It’s because of this experience that I enjoy my job so much. The lecturers I had over the years ensured that I didn’t just learn but instead understood the fundamental principles of engineering and their applications in the real world.

“And now that I’m in the ‘real world’, I can see the concepts and theory of what I learnt throughout my degree come to life.”

At Waikato, Shermi was an engineering ambassador and attended events to showcase the School of Engineering to prospective students. He also tutored both second and third-year Water Engineering papers. 

As both the secretary and treasurer of the Young Engineers Society in 2023, Shermi spearheaded initiatives to enrich the engineering student experience.

I’ve always advocated for the University of Waikato because it offers the best education and opportunities. I was thinking long-term, and Waikato was the best choice for me. 

“I wanted to study close to home, somewhere I’m familiar with. It seemed like a no-brainer for me to study at Waikato.”

One of the highlights of Shermi’s academic journey was his capstone project on ‘Heritage Building Restoration and a Community Sense of Place, supervised by Senior Lecturer Megan Boston.

“I investigated the increasing seismic regulations for heritage buildings in New Zealand and the implications these regulations would have on communities across the country.”

As part of the final year project, Shermi interviewed district and city councils nationwide, as well as engineers, architects, and community figures. His findings showed that the new regulations could contribute to a significant loss of New Zealand’s built heritage due to building owners misunderstanding regulations and general misinformation.

“My solution to this was to develop an app that would help educate building owners about the various nuances of their position and options that could pursue, and the response from various councils was positive.”

Shermi’s work was also selected for a poster presentation at a New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering conference.

Outside of the University, Shermi was involved in the Sri Lankan Society of Waikato, where he was the master of ceremonies for close to 10 years. Additionally, he founded a leadership and public speaking club for Sri Lankan youth in the Waikato and provided weekly training for children.

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