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 recieved 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: