Pictured above: (L-R) Mani Mua, Casey Fung, Caitlin Dudley, Prabhakaran Vanaraja Ambeth and Olalekan Amoo. Not pictured Giuliana Fiore.
The University of Queensland’s Global Change Scholars Program offers an avenue for PhD students to develop their expertise in transdisciplinary research with an industry partner. In 2022-2023, Associate PhD students Ola Amoo and Caitlin Dudley participated in a project where they worked with the Queensland Trust For Nature (QTFN).
The primary objective of the project was to address the challenge of regenerating and revegetating functional rainforest ecosystems on a large scale. Ola and Caitlin worked with QTFN and fellow PhD students Mani Mua, Casey Fung, Prabhakaran Vanaraja Ambeth and Giuliana Fiore, to provide a comprehensive analysis and evaluate the best-practice strategies for achieving economically viable regeneration goals for QTFN and its partners.
Why did you decide to participate in the Global Change Scholars Program?
Caitlin: I had heard about the Global Change Scholars Program early in my PhD and decided to apply as it sounded like a unique experience where I could enhance my knowledge and skills for tackling complex global issues. The program sounded exciting as it was presented as a community of scholars and experts dedicated to addressing the pressing challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and socio-economic transformations.
The transdisciplinary aspect of the program was also intriguing, as I have been within the science field for my entire academic career, I wanted a challenge which would broaden the ways in which I think, work and research.
Ola: I participated in the Global Change Scholars Program because the program fosters a transdisciplinary approach, which exposes participants to diverse fields and perspectives that helps to cultivate a holistic understanding of complex global challenges and equips participants with versatile problem-solving skills.
What was the best part of the program?
Caitlin: The program has many excellent opportunities for young researchers and academics. The program encourages interdisciplinary collaboration and numerous networking opportunities with researchers, professionals, and industry partners provided a great platform to connect with peers, establish collaborations, and build relationships with experts in their respective fields.
But, for me, one of the most enjoyable components was how it fosters a strong sense of community among PhD students in the program. PhD students become part of a supportive and collaborative network, where they can engage in knowledge sharing, exchange ideas, and research methodologies. It is fascinating to learn about what other students are working on around the campus and the connections and intricacies of the real-world problems of their projects.
Ola: The best part of the program is the industry placement. This placement allows participants to solve real-world problems at the global level. The industry placement also allows participants to apply their research to practical issues, making a tangible impact on society and the environment.
How do you think your participation has influenced your future job prospects?
Caitlin: The program provides an invaluable opportunity to gain a deep understanding of how research can contribute to addressing global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and social transformations. By participating in our industry challenge, I felt I had to develop a broader perspective on the real-world implications of their research and learn how to align collaborative work with the needs and priorities of industry partners and the wider community.
Ola: Participation in the Global Change Scholars Program has significantly enhanced my future job prospects by equipping me with diverse skill sets such as a transdisciplinary problem-solving approach, practical experience, a strong professional network, enhanced communication and leadership abilities, and innovation skills, all of which will make me a highly attractive candidate across a range of industries, ranging from research, academia to industry.