Case Study - Dr Sharon van Brunschot

Case Study - Dr Sharon van Brunschot

What was the name of your PhD/project?

Identification and invasion biology of virus and viroid diseases in tomato.

When did you complete your PhD?

2008-2013.

Who were your PhD supervisors?

Dr André Drenth and Dr Andrew Geering.

What was your supervising institution?

The University of Queensland.

How did you hear about PhD opportunities with the CRC?

Prior to starting my PhD, I was working as a research assistant for The University of Queensland, based at the laboratories of the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. I first heard about PhD opportunities with the CRC from my colleagues at these research institutes.

Why did you commence a PhD with the CRC?

I chose to undertake my PhD with the CRC for a number of reasons, but mostly it was the project (the area of research, the supervisors, the location of the lab and the above-average stipend).

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

I enjoyed many aspects of undertaking PhD with the CRC. The CRC Science Exchanges were a great opportunity to interact with researchers from all over Australia and to become familiar with the many different areas of biosecurity research happening in Australia. These interactions were very useful for helping me to shape research ideas and build collaborations, for my PhD research and beyond.

A highlight of my PhD would have been the three months that I worked with the Biointeractions and Plant Health group at Wageningen University and Research Centre (The Netherlands), under the supervision of Dr René van der Vlugt and Dr Jan Bergervoet. It was an amazing and rewarding experience, which translated into some really exciting research and publications.

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

There were many benefits to undertaking a PhD with the CRC. I had many (fully-supported) opportunities to travel, both within Australia and internationally, in order to communicate my science at conferences, collect specimens and work in other laboratories. I was also given many opportunities to undertake specialised training programs and workshops.

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

I think the key achievement was completing my PhD! As many before me have said, it certainly is an exercise in perseverance and personal fortitude.

Key achievements during my PhD include publishing five peer-reviewed journal articles, and presenting my research at national and international conferences.

Since completing your PhD, where have you been working?

Since completing my PhD, I have been working as a postdoctoral research fellow with the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and The University of Queensland. This new research is centred on examining the interactions of plant viruses, vectors and endosymbionts for the control of whitefly-transmitted cotton viruses.

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

In conjunction with researchers at the University of Queensland (Associate Professor Gimme Walter and Dr James Hereward), I applied for my own postdoctoral research project and funding from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC). The CRDC have been immensely supportive of my transition from PhD student to postdoc.

What advice would you give anyone considering a PhD?

I would probably not give advice, but urge potential applicants to thoroughly examine the question
“Why do you want to do a PhD”?

I think that it is wise to choose to enter that phase of your career (and your life) knowing exactly what you want to achieve, so that you can define your own path and not get lost on the paths of others.

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

As is the case for many PhD candidates, the most difficult aspects of my PhD were not to do with the research itself, but were more to do with learning to balance various work and life challenges.