Case Study - Dr Kylie Ireland

Case Study - Dr Kylie Ireland

Kylie IrelandWhat was the name of your PhD/project?

Phytophthora ramorum: susceptibility of Australian plants, potential geographic range and science into policy and management.

How long was your PhD?

Four-and-a-half years.

Who were your PhD supervisors?

Prof Giles Hardy, Dr Daniel Hüberli, Ian Smith and Dr Bernard Dell.

What was your supervising institution?

Murdoch University.

How did you hear about PhD opportunities with the CRC?

Through my honours supervisor who was previously associated with the CRC TPP.

Why did you commence a PhD with the CRC?

The project aligned with my research interests and I was keen to have a PhD scholarship with extra financial and professional development support and networking opportunities.

What did you enjoy most about undertaking your PhD through the CRC?

Professional development and networking opportunities.

What were the benefits of completing a PhD with the CRC?

I was already equipped with a network of colleagues in my field of research interest, to help with job prospects and having a platform where some of my research was communicated to a wider audience through CRC reports and website pages.

What were your key achievements while/since completing your PhD?

Three publications in peer-reviewed journals from my PhD work.

Since completing your PhD, where have you been working?

I had a contract position with DAFF Qld/CRC NPB for 15 months working on Myrtle Rust, two months casual work with DAFF Qld working on the Agricultural Land Audit and now I work as an Australian Volunteer for International Development as a Plant Pathology Diagnostics and Integrated Disease Management Advisor in Pakse, Lao PDR.

How easy was it for you to find work in your desired field once you completed your PhD?

NOT easy. I secured short term work only through my network of colleagues and only then because I was willing to move interstate. It is quite disheartening that at a time when we know there will be a shortage of skilled people in Plant Protection both state and federal governments are cutting positions and research is crazy cut-throat.

What advice would you give anyone considering a PhD?

Consider your options carefully, while the skills you learn are broadly applicable and highly developed, they may not help you land a job if you would like to extend beyond the academic sector. Align with industry partners if you can to assist with more options upon graduation, a good PhD supervisor will consider this.  

Research your PhD supervisor, talk to people in their lab, meet them for a candid discussion about the project beforehand – they could very well define your future outlook on research (and life), it’s a very important relationship that needs to work well. They will need to be available when you need them (ie. not be bogged down by too many other commitments). A team of supervisors can work well for this reason.

But above all, only do it if you love it – I’ve met many a PhD candidate who are unhappy after 18 months into the project and are miserable for the next 18 months to xxx?? Years – life, and research careers, are too short to bother with something you can’t be passionate about. Also, loving the work will make it that much easier to finish, and it’s about perseverance, not intelligence toward the end there.

What did you find the most challenging aspect of your PhD?

Continuing work through a repetitive strain injury, which severely restricted my ability to type – I had some good assistance from my school, but it’s a concern that PhD students are not afforded the same rights or insurance/work-cover coverage in terms of workplace health and safety as a staff member, although they often do the same or similar work.