Outreach Scientist, Addgene
"I'm sometimes told that I have the coolest job no-one's ever heard of."
UQ PhD graduate Jessica Welch is an Outreach Scientist at Addgene, a nonprofit repository for sharing plasmids between research labs. Her team is responsible for much of Addgene's contact with the research community.
"I manage relationships with our overseas distributors in Korea, China and Japan, and work on letting scientists in the Asia-Pacific region know that Addgene's resources are available to them.
"One of the biggest, and most fun parts of the job is traveling to universities or institutes and meeting with scientists whose work we'd like to include in the collection."
After graduating from UQ, Jessica did a three year postdoc at CSIRO in Melbourne and then moved to Boston to work for a small biotech firm for four years before moving to Addgene.
"I accompanied a friend to a networking night and one of the speakers was the executive director of Addgene.
"Her speech was really impressive, so afterwards I went to chat with her and learned more about the company.
"I looked them up that night and noticed they had a job going for a Senior Scientist!
"I did my first phone interview at 1am Australian time as I was home for Christmas at the time, then when I got back to Boston, braved the US winter in my giant sleeping bag coat for the next one.
"Even though I was interviewing for a Scientist position, they decided I would be perfect for the not-yet-advertised Outreach position they had available.
"I enthusiastically agreed. Being paid to travel and talk to scientists? Yes please!
"It just goes to show that being in the right place and the right time, and being open to new opportunities, can lead you in unexpectedly great directions."
Jessica says that her research degree at UQ prepared her for life beyond academia.
"As someone who didn't go into academia, I benefitted from the report-driven culture of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) I belonged to.
"Although at the time I thought it was a giant pain, having to regularly break my research down into digestible pieces for laypeople really helped me take stock of what I was doing, and made me a better technical writer and public speaker.
"My association with the CRC and the Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC) also showed me there are lots of non-academic opportunities for scientists.
"And being at the St Lucia campus for 8 years was wonderful. It's still the most beautiful uni campus I've seen, and I've been to a lot now!"
In addition to training her to conduct quality research, doing a research degree equipped Jessica with transferrable skills that have come in handy.
"Having a PhD gives you a great range of skills that can apply to any number of jobs.
"It's surprising how much project management I learned while putting together my thesis, and applying the scientific method to high-throughput production testing or website data analysis just makes sense.
"My career has been pretty varied, which is exactly what some people will tell you not to do!
"Admittedly if you want to be a successful academic it might be a good idea to stick with one field.
"However, the numbers game means that many PhDs won't pursue a career in academia.
"I've tried on a bunch of different hats (academia, government, industry, non-profit) and the experience has given me a really good idea about the kind of jobs I enjoy and am good at.
"If I'd stayed with bench research I don't know that I would have ever found out that I actually really like working on international awareness strategies, and probably wouldn't have been paid to do the science writing I love.
"It might be hard during your PhD to think about whether academia is for you, but it's a good idea.
"Everyone is different. My partner is a dyed-in-the-wool academic who is now on the road to becoming a professor, but I sensed pretty early on that that life was not for me.
"If you have what I call 'science-adjacent' interests, like science writing and communication, it's worth looking into what kind of jobs PhDs get when they're not getting lectureships.
"Often the hardest thing about this is finding out that these careers exist!
"I'm sometimes told that I have the coolest job no-one's ever heard of.
"Although networking events can be intimidating, they are invaluable for getting to know who and what's out there in the world beyond campus (eventually most of us have to leave).
"I would recommend giving a few regular events a try and finding out which one seems to be attracting the kind of people you are interested in talking to and hearing from.
"Conferences come with built-in networking opportunities, so don't hide in your hotel room or stick with your lab mates.
"Get out there and meet people!
"Even if you do want to go into academia, the competitive nature of early-career research positions is such that name recognition is pretty important.
"If the person reviewing your application remembers a brief but interesting and passionate conversation at a conference five years ago, that might be something that helps you to stand out from the other 156 applications on their desk.
"Senior scientists are also often asked to recommend people for positions, and you want to be that recommendee!
"Lastly, don't forget that there is plenty of space between non-research jobs and professorships.
"If you love being in the lab, research scientist or technical positions can offer an opportunity to carry out research without the hassle of writing grants or teaching students.
"Conversely, teaching-only positions can allow PhDs to impart their love of science and keep up with the latest developments in their field without carrying out research themselves.
"There are lots of ways to be involved with the science community!”
Wildlife Ecologist and Research Scientist, State Government
“The knowledge gained during my candidature makes me a more critical thinker, which is essential for the advancement of science.”
PhD graduate Ben Allen is a wildlife ecologist and research scientist currently working for the state government.
In his current role, Ben develops and implements research projects on the ecology of dingoes and other wild dogs.
"I spend a lot of time in the field catching and handling wildlife, studying their behaviour, movements, diet, breeding patterns and other aspects of their lives.
"I then take this data back to the lab where I crunch the numbers and write scientific journal articles on what I’ve found.
"I also give lectures and speak at public workshops and conferences about my research.
"Doing a research degree at UQ allowed me the flexibility to capitalise on the opportunities I was presented, without restricting me to a rigid or prescriptive format for learning.
"This approach benefited me, my employers and the University, and ultimately led to the production of a higher-impact thesis than would have been otherwise possible.
"Having a PhD indicates to others that I have the skills and abilities to conduct wildlife research to a high standard.
"The knowledge gained during my candidature makes me a more critical thinker, which is essential for the advancement of science.
"The collaborations I developed during my candidature also presented opportunities for an exciting and diverse career.
"One of the best experiences I had during my PhD was to learn about the role and value of academic publishing.
"The best advice I could give research students would be to develop their skills in critical thinking, learn how to identify publishable 'stories' from their research, and not to limit themselves to a narrow subject.
"Don't be perturbed by detractors or critics either - you can become the expert in your field."
Vice-President of Strategic Customer Engagement, SAP
“I engaged with industry while studying – working as an intern or on industry-sponsored research projects – and it helped me greatly in finding a job, even before I had finished my degree.”
Building professional relationships while at university is an important foundation in starting a successful career.
UQ PhD graduate Dr Wasim Sadiq is Vice-President of Strategic Customer Engagement at SAP (one of the largest software companies in the world), where he leads a global team of transformation architects who solve complex business problems for customers.
“One of the reasons I chose UQ for my PhD was because of its very high global ranking in the area of my PhD research,” he says.
As a UQ student, Dr Sadiq says he was able to take advantage of various industry engagement and career development opportunities that ultimately led to a job offer, including work as a researcher at the Cooperative Research Centre for Distributed Systems (DSTC).
He says that for him, industry jobs came about because of the networks and professional relationships he built while still a student.
“I engaged with industry while studying – working as an intern or on industry-sponsored research projects – and it helped me greatly in finding a job, even before I had finished my degree.
“During the last year of my PhD, I worked with my supervisor on a collaborative research project sponsored by SAP and had the opportunity to present the workflow technology I developed to SAP product teams in Germany.
“Completing my PhD dissertation at UQ while working as a full-time research scientist at the DSTC has been the highlight of my career.
“I learned how to manage complex and sometimes conflicting goals of PhD research and job commitments.
“Right after completing my PhD at UQ I was offered a job to work as a research scientist at SAP Research in Australia.”
Dr Sadiq says the rigorous research training and problem-solving skills that he learned at UQ have been a great advantage in his various leadership roles at SAP, and cautions research students not to focus on the end goal so much that they forget to appreciate the experiences along the way.
“Doing a PhD is one opportunity in your life where you get to work on a complex problem for a few years on your own with some advice from your supervisor and peers.
“Sometimes, submitting the final PhD dissertation to get the degree becomes the key objective.
“My advice is not to make this the only goal. That will happen in any case if you do the right things.
“The experiences and lessons you will learn during your PhD are going to be the key asset in your professional life afterwards.
“Completing a PhD helps you gain valuable problemsolving skills by looking at problems in a multi-faceted way.
“It also helps you learn how to handle constructive criticism and most importantly, to not give up.”
NRC Postdoctoral Fellow, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Forensic Unit, Seattle
“My PhD at UQ gave me access to an excellent range of research experiences and academic expertise.”
Dr Jenny Giles has met thousands of sharks.
Jenny recently graduated from UQ with a PhD which investigated shark genetic population structure in the tropical Indo-Pacific and the DNA identification of shark fins in international trade.
Having received both a Fulbright scholarship and DAAD scholarship during her degree, Jenny visited specialist laboratories researching the shark fin and caviar trades in the US and Germany, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service National Forensics Laboratory. During her PhD, she also received a three year appointment as a forensic specialist in the US Scientific Working Group for Wildlife Forensic Sciences (SWGWILD).
“My PhD at UQ gave me access to an excellent range of research experiences and academic expertise,” Jenny said.
Since completing her thesis, Jenny has been awarded a Sir Keith Murdoch Postdoctoral Fellowship by the American Australian Association and an Australian Government Endeavour Research Fellowship to continue her research in the USA. Jenny is currently a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service’s forensic lab, where she works as a forensic specialist on shark fin cases and researching the international shark fin trade.
She was recently invited to represent wildlife forensic sciences on a new federal forensic science advisory structure in the United States, the Organisation of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC).
“The OSAC is an initiative to consolidate and develop best practices across the forensic sciences.” she said.
“It’s a valuable and very interesting collaboration. When I started a PhD in shark biology and population genetics at UQ, I can’t say that I anticipated sitting down afterwards with bloodstain pattern analysts and human DNA evidence interpretation experts in the US. ”
“The US is the world leader in wildlife forensics, and these efforts are helping to develop the discipline both in the US and Australia.”
Senior Scientist, ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil Science (IISS)
"It has been the most wonderful gift in my career to receive a degree from such an internationally recognised University."
"It has been the most wonderful gift in my career to receive a degree from such an internationally recognised University and I have already started working in the area that my PhD work focused on. Now I am recognised as a crop modeler in my country. This is the outcome of my research work at UQ for which I am proud of.
"Australia is a wonderful country with wonderful, helping and friendly people living in it. If I get a hundred chances to visit again I will not miss any of them.
"Some of the best things about doing a research degree at UQ are:
- The research facilities
- Library/documentation centres
- Good supervisors who are the most learned persons in their fields.
- Over all a very good environment for research
- Other recreation facilities/cafeteria/canteens etc
"My advice to research students is to be sincere in your approach to your research, be honest and work with integrity. Also your supervisor is your god, so develop a good relationship with them. All the best!"
Interview with a PhD graduate
"If I am able to influence the development of effective laws for the people of Samoa and the Pacific region, then I am a happy PhD graduate."
Dr Lalotoa Mulitalo graduated in 2014 with a Law PhD from UQ. She was the third Samoan to be awarded a Law PhD, the second to achieve this at an Australian University and received a Dean’s Award for Research Higher Degree Excellence. Dr Mulitalo's PhD research focused on finding approaches to law-making that would be beneficial to Samoa and the South Pacific Islands. She explored law reform processes which could produce effective laws for populations with strong traditional chiefly systems which have undertaken to uphold individual rights and the Westminster legal system under their constitutions.
What does it mean to you to be the third Samoan (on scholarship from Samoa) to be awarded a Law PhD, and the second to achieve this at an Australian University?
It means I have a lot of be grateful for. I am thankful to the Australian Government for the study award; the staff of the TC Beirne School of Law, UQ for offering a competitive study environment with excellent research facilities; my heartfelt gratitude to my families, friends, my church leaders and church members for the spiritual, financial, and moral support during my time away from home for studies. As a Samoan research student from Samoa, I was very fortunate to have received all this support. I was also very privileged to have been guided by some of the best Australian law professors in my areas of research, in an internationally renowned university of Australia. The experience has certainly added value to my understanding of some of the major issues our Pacific Islands struggle with in the modern world. It also means it is now up to me to put my thesis research into some use. I have some ideas of how this may be achieved and I am excited of the many possibilities and opportunities.
What are your future career plans?
To put my recommendations into action wherever I can, in offices and in organisations best placed to realise this dream. For example the law reform commissions, the Legislative Assemblies of Samoa and other Pacific Islands, the executive governments, the judiciary, the research institutions of the Pacific Islands as well as the Pacific Islands Non-Government Organisations. If I am able to influence the development of effective laws for the people of Samoa and the Pacific region, then I am a happy PhD graduate. I am also hopeful that my thesis contributes meaningful literature to the Pacific Islands and other developing societies with similar colonial and historical backgrounds.
|Dr Mulitalo graduated with a Law PhD in 2014.|
Your PhD research focused on finding approaches to law-making that will be beneficial to Samoa and the South Pacific Islands. What issues will you focus on?
Perhaps the main issue is how the western approaches to law making may take account of customary principles in those processes. In Samoa as in most (if not all) Pacific Islands, those involved in law reform are largely western trained. This means the western principles are applied in the laws governing customary populations who prefer their traditional practices, principles and values. The majority of the Samoan population are still governed by unwritten village rules under the village fono governance. They depend on this system for survival. Law reform is therefore a foreign concept to them, there is a lack of appreciation and interest in parliamentary laws. Traditional communities do not see formal laws as something useful or relevant to them; on the contrary, village rules and penalties are more feared and respected. The gap between the Parliamentary made laws and the people those laws are to govern continue to widen.
How will your research help to solve these particular issues?
My research makes recommendations on a number of ways through which customary principles and values may be recognised in law making. There are suggested approaches to law making in the procedures of the executive, Parliament and the judiciary, and recommended processes that encourage community and village involvement in the review and reform of the laws of Samoa. The thesis strongly encourages partnerships between the traditional and state institutions to develop law reform processes that are conducive to the local realities.
Will you continue to work with UQ on research for the region, if so, who with and why?
Yes I hope to continue working with Professor Jennifer Corrin of UQ because the Pacific region is an area that is largely under researched, in particular from a Pacific Islander’s perspective. Undertaking and promoting research from a local viewpoint is possible through working with Professor Corrin and the TC Beirne Law School staff of the University of Queensland.
How would you describe your experience at UQ?
Being a student of higher research studies in UQ has been a priceless experience for me. The professional and support staff of the TC Beirne Law School have contributed significantly to the completion of my research studies. There is collegiality amongst supervisors and research students as well as those providing the support services. The research resources available to me were vital in creating an environment that was conducive to research and thesis writing. If a researcher takes advantage of all that is available in the UQ Law School, that researcher completes research with a sense of satisfaction and added value to knowledge, and is encouraged further into researching areas that have not been investigated before. I for one now have more appreciation and understanding of the core challenges that have been and are currently experienced by the customary societies of the Pacific region regulated by modern laws and legal systems. My research experience has encouraged me to be more creative and bold in promoting possible responses to those challenges, given the chance in the Pacific Islands.
Researcher, Project Manta
"With the International Travel Award Grant I was able to visit Mozambique and South Africa and work with renowned scientists in Durban, Cape Town and Reunion Island."
Recent PhD graduate Dr Lydie Couturier's research has contributed to the improvement of the conservation and protection of manta rays and their habitats around the world.
Lydie's PhD project focused on reef manta rays in eastern Australia under Project Manta, a multidisciplinary study of manta rays based at UQ.
"Our research with Project Manta has helped to secure the manta rays' listing on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II in March 2013.
"I am very proud to have been part of this big achievement."
CITES is an international agreement between governments whose aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Appendix II lists species that may become threatened with extinction unless trade is closely controlled.
Manta rays are now an officially protected fish species in Indonesia and Australia.
|Lydie diving with the manta rays as part of her research. Photo taken by Chris Garraway.|
With the help of a UQ Graduate School International Travel Award Grant, Lydie had the opportunity to network and develop relationships with international researchers.
"While at UQ, I learnt how to communicate with different groups of people including scientists and non-specialist audiences.
"With the International Travel Award Grant I was able to visit Mozambique and South Africa and work with renowned scientists in Durban, Cape Town and Reunion Island.
"A trip highlight was working with Dr Andrea Marshall, director of the Marine Megafauna Foundation and lead expert in manta ray research.
"Collaboration between manta ray researchers is crucial to help improve the conservation and protection of manta rays and their habitats around the world.
|Photo of a turtle taken by Lydie during a research trip.|
"I have also successfully established a volunteer-support network along the east coast of Australia by engaging with recreational divers and diving industries, offering them the opportunity to be involved with Project Manta.
"It is extremely rewarding to see how the community has also contributed to the success of my research by providing important data, expertise and support along the journey."
Currently Lydie is continuing her work with Project Manta and hopes to expand her research as well as become a supervisor herself.
For further information about Project Manta please visit:
Post-Doctoral Researcher, Eriksholm Research Centre, Denmark
"My experience as an RHD student has been about so much more than just doing a PhD."
"My experience as an RHD student has been about so much more than just doing a PhD. Throughout my PhD, I worked at UQ as a lecturer, clinical educator, tutor, marker, research supervisor, and research assistant. I travelled extensively, for example I presented my research at four different international conferences overseas during my candidature. I also spent six weeks in Europe on a UQ Graduate School Travel Grant. I wrote a book chapter and designed a continuing education module for audiologists. I supervised the work of research assistants and acted as peer reviewer for four different scientific journals. I was involved in the sporting community at UQ and also did some committee work. It was very varied and rewarding to be involved in so many different things. I loved interacting with people from around the world and from different walks of life, both whilst at UQ and whilst travelling. I participated in many sessions offered during Graduate Week. I have found most of them helpful, especially at the start of my candidature when there was so much for me to learn."
Ariane is now a post-doctoral researcher at the Eriksholm Research Centre in Denmark working on topics such as the individual aspects of hearing, the environment, and the lifestyle, personality and listening preferences of people with hearing loss. She is also a post-doctoral researcher at Linköping University in Sweden.
Research Scientist, Centre for Kidney Disease Research
"My RHD experience has been invaluable for my current research work at the P.A. hospital."
"My RHD experience has been invaluable for my current research work at the P.A. hospital. The skills I have gained are both broad and specific. I’ve learned specific research techniques that I can use for my research. I’ve also gained confidence and skills in giving presentations, multi-tasking, undertaking literature reviews, analysing research results. These skills will be invaluable for my future career."
Honorary Fellow, School of ITEE, The University of Queensland
"Hosting academic visitors in your lab and going on academic tours is a great way to find future collaborations and job opportunities."
"My research at UQ was in 'Patient monitoring in anesthesia with head-mounted displays' and turned out to be fascinating, challenging and amazingly rewarding.
"When I first started however, I had thought that the process would be relatively unexciting - enrol, work on your own for a few years, submit and graduate - but soon discovered that Australian programs are actually remarkably flexible. In fact advisors and the University are always willing to help you enrich your education.
"Enrichment involves participating in activities that, while not strictly necessary for completing your PhD, provide complementary educational experiences that help you become a better scientist.
"Collaborations are the foundation of academic research; take a look at any journal article and you'll probably find several co-authors. You can work with your fellow students on side projects (in addition to your PhD), and even expand your professional networks through collaborations. Hosting academic visitors in your lab and going on academic tours is a great way to find future collaborations and job opportunities. The global academic family that develops throughout your career is one of the greatest perks of academia.
"Other opportunities for travel include internships and fellowships. Internships give you the opportunity to apply the research skills that you learn during the PhD to practical problems in industry. Research fellowships, on the other hand, let you collaborate with internationally renowned researchers and may be part of prestigious scholarship programs such as the Rhodes and Fulbright.
"The gap between the academic and corporate worlds can be dramatic at times, but research commercialisation bridges that gap for the benefit of both. Your hard work and expertise helps the wider community, while industry provides funding and support to enhance or continue your research. It also happens to be a great way to supplement your scholarship and travel funds."
Senior Process Engineer & Program Manager (PD/CLG), DSM Biologics
"As panellist on the Student Panel session, I witnessed first-hand the importance of programs such as Graduate Student Week."
"As panelist on the Student Panel session, I witnessed first-hand the importance of programs such as Graduate Student Week. This vital series of workshops and seminars give potential and early-stage postgraduate students the opportunity to fully appreciate what is required and expected of a post-graduate research student. Such programs also relay to students that there are ample avenues to seek support and advice during what can be an exciting yet trying time in their careers."
Post-Doctoral Researcher, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska
"There are many staff who are world renowned in their fields who offer excellent opportunities for you to learn the skills you need to do research at an international level."
"UQ is an excellent university for research higher degrees. There are many staff who are world renowned in their fields who offer excellent opportunities for you to learn the skills you need to do research at an international level. Brisbane is also a great city to be a student-- there is gorgeous weather, and there are always plenty of activities happening in a great community.
The Thesis Hub was a quiet environment that was ideal for writing up. A new location at the end of my thesis was a nice change that gave me the last little push of motivation I needed to get finished. It's also a great way to meet some of the graduate school staff, which is handy when you need to submit."
Sam now has a post-doctoral research position in the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska.
Lecturer, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland
"After considering all my options I chose to travel 16,000kms (from Canada) to study at UQ."
"I had been in clinical practice for 9 years when I decided to return to university and begin a PhD. After considering all my options I chose to travel 16,000kms (from Canada) to study at UQ. What first attracted me to UQ was its excellent reputation internationally for research in Physiotherapy. Once I arrived in Brisbane I could not have been happier with my decision. The facilities and research supervision have been nothing but world class! Not to mention Brisbane is an amazing place to live.... great weather, great people, incredible lifestyle. I cannot understand why anyone would want to study anywhere else!"
What will your UQ story be?
UQ's resources provides you with opportunities and choice to help you achieve your research potential and professional goals.
What will your UQ story be?
UQ's resources provides you with opportunities and choice to help you achieve your research potential and professional goals: