Australian Centre for Water
and Environmental Biotechnology

Graduating Student Spotlight 2020

Friday, 04 December 2020

AWMC has had a hugely successful 2020 for HDR studies with 14 students submitting their thesis this year.  

The submitting students are:  

Angelica GuerreroJiaying Li, Jiuling LiJuliette Monetti, Katie Macintosh, Mariella ChislettMario Jr RebosuraMengxiong Wu, Miao YuMike Meng, Nur Nabilah Mohammad, Paula Andrea HernandezTao Liu, Xueqin Zhang, Yue WangZhiyao WangZhun Kai Lim 

We caught up with a few of the cohort for a quick chat about their HDR experiences at AWMC. 

 

Alice Strazzabosco 

Thesis title: Integrating renewable energy technologies in the water industry: Opportunities and barriers 

What are your plans for the future? 

I am working as a post-doctoral research fellow at QUT investigating how to decarbonise the mining industry through the adoption of renewable energy technologies adopting a technological and sectorial innovation systems perspective 

What skills did you develop, and what did you get out of completing your degree? 

I mostly learnt how to conduct complex system analysis, how to manage a project on time and budget, how to manage multiple projects at once on time and budget, how to communicate with a variety of stakeholders, including academics and industry partners, and how important it is to take breaks and take care of your mental health. Completing my degree was an intense journey but a very gratifying challenge! 

What would you say to anyone thinking of HDR studies at AWMC? 

To me doing a PhD is like going on a diet…it is very hard at the beginning, it is so tempting to quit because at times it is incredibly difficult and frustrating (I mean, using the analogy of the diet, who really prefers celery to chocolate???), but the sense of accomplishment that you get when you see the end result is priceless… 

 

Mengxiong Wu 

Thesis title: Understanding and Application of Nitrate-dependent Propane and Butane Oxidation Processes. 

What are your plans for the future? 

Currently will stay in AWMC for one-year post-doc to conduct some leading-edge experiments for the ARC Laureate project and also to continue my previous PhD work. 

What skills did you develop, and what did you get out of completing your degree? 

Tons of skills I have developed during my PhD, including but not limited to: how to efficiently manage time, how to coordinate multiple tasks, develop good abilities of scientific thinking and writing, learn numerous knowledge not only in my field but also many other water management aspects. 

What would you say to anyone thinking of HDR studies at AWMC? 

AWMC is not only an excellent centre for developing professional skills in water management, but also a warm family to make everyone feel happy and welcome. The supervisor and admin team here is always nice to work with and very knowledgeable to help with difficulties we may have. 

 

Yue Wang 

Thesis title:   Unravelling roles of non-antibiotic pharmaceuticals on dissemination of antibiotic resistance  

What are your plans for the future?   

Stay in the academic world and make a small contribution to controlling antibiotic resistance. 

What skills did you develop, and what did you get out of completing your degree?   

Microbiological experimental techniques, and data analysis skills. Also, several transferrable skills have also been developed, such as academic writing, team working and presenting skills.  

What would you say to anyone thinking of HDR studies at AWMC?  

AWMC is a great place to conduct HDR studies. You can always learn new things from a group of lovely people. 

 

Andrea Hernandez 

Thesis title:   Conversion of waste carbon dioxide into value-added chemicals by Microbial Electrosynthesis 

What are your plans for the future?   

I plan to continue gaining knowledge and experience within the water and environmental industry while at the same time, I maintain strong relationships with my water engineer peers, using our passion for water quality and water security as leverage to positively influence a sustainable water management culture among all our circles: social, academic, workplace, etc. 

I can say with certainty, that in the future I will keep on being involved in science communication with students or community. This was an activity that I enjoyed the most during the PhD and it brought me a lot of personal satisfaction. 

Last but not least, I visualize myself as part of an organization that not only favors circular economy in all its projects but also takes safety, equity, and diversity as pillars of its strategic development. 

What skills did you develop, and what did you get out of completing your degree?   

I developed a taste for science communication during my PhD. I became confident talking about science with the either academic or non-academic audience. Certainly, communication skills were one of the biggest legacies of the PhD.  

I also acquired the skill of “arguing” and defending my point, which makes me strengthen my critical thinking skill.   

What would you say to anyone thinking of HDR studies at AWMC?  

Allow me to start by saying that doing a PhD is not an easy task, no wonder why only 1.1% of the world population holds a PhD degree. Having said this you can still have so much fun during the process, and gain friends for life. Also, add new technical and soft skills to your personal toolbox, flourish qualities within you like resilience, antagonist, or fighter that so far you have only used in your wildest dreams.    

The directives at AWMC are committed to diversity and inclusion, which indicates a big sense of social responsibility and creates a more human workplace.  

Moreover, AWMC has strong relationships with industry and water leaders in Australia, it also has an active repertoire of international collaborations with other university research groups. And not to mention that it is one of the most recognized water research centres in the world. All of these will immensely help to backup your degree and be taken seriously in the field.   

 

Katie Macintosh 

Thesis title: Anaerobic Co-digestion: Micro to full-scale ( Enhancing biogas production for agricultural and wastewater treatment plant applications) 

What are your plans for the future? 

I am extremely passionate about systems thinking, sustainable water management and reframing the narrative around waste. In my role working at the City of Gold Coast as a process engineer, I am excited to be part of an interdisciplinary team integrating water, waste and energy on projects for current and future community assets and also working at Reframe Waste on household-level waste projects. 

What skills did you develop, and what did you get out of completing your degree? 

The PhD taught me many skills beyond scientific knowledge of anaerobic microorganisms. Through designing and conducting laboratory research, I gained skills in project management, scheduling, equipment procurement and data analysis that have all been transferable and useful in my current role. Introspectively I learned a lot about myself during the PhD, how to self-motivate and personally manage my time, knowledge of my personal limitations and knowing when to work autonomously and when to collaborate with others to achieve the best outcome. From weekly AWMC seminars, national and international conferences as well as other events (3MT), I had the opportunity to practice and develop effective communication skills including how to customise my message and communication style for different audiences. However the most important aspect I gained from completing my PhD and what I am most grateful for is the amazing network of people I had the privilege of meeting and working with during my PhD at AWMC, UQ and internationally. 

What would you say to anyone thinking of HDR studies at AWMC? 

I would encourage anyone who is seriously passionate about research to consider a PhD. Whether you hope to work in industry or in academia,  AWMC is well positioned with partnership with both local industry and international research organisations.  Furthermore AWMC offers a community during a degree that can be sometimes physically and intellectually isolating. 

Prior to embarking on HDR studies, I would however consider the following : 

1.     Ensure you are super passionate about your research topic 

2.     Meet with your prospective supervisor 

3.     Meet with a current student of your prospective supervisor 

4.     Identify mentors for not only the technical aspects of your PhD but also career development and emotional support 

5.     Research available scholarships and apply for everything you are eligible for 

6.     Identify the key skills you wish to develop during your PhD and ensure they are prioritised in your project plan 

 

Xueqin Zhang 

Thesis title:   Understanding extracellular respiration of anaerobic methanotrophic archaea and application for bioelectrochemical oxidation of methane  

What are your plans for the future?   

Continue doing research at AWMC 

What skills did you develop, and what did you get out of completing your degree?   

Independent and critical thinking towards research, time management, and scientific writing.   

What would you say to anyone thinking of HDR studies at AWMC?  

AWMC is a prestigious centre where we can take opportunities to do leading-edge research in related water management. Free but religious research environments make it a good place to shape each HDR student’s research identity. AWMC is just like a family with high cultural diversity, and you can learn a lot from different people’s experience.