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Edith Cowan University (ECU), industry partner InterGrain, and CSIRO share their advice on delivering a successful project.

Introducing the supervisory team

  • Michelle Colgrave, Professor of Food and Agricultural Proteomics at ECU
  • Jean-Philippe Ral, scientist and Team Leader, Cereal Quality Group at CSIRO Agriculture and Food
  • Angela Juhasz, senior lecturer from ECU
  • David Moody, senior barley breeder at InterGrain.

This expert team supervised iPhD student Clare O’Lone throughout her four-year candidature. The project was in the agricultural space, with a focus on barley breeding and proteomic exploration during the malting process. Explore further details about the project.

How was the iPhD project managed between the student and the supervisory team?

From commencement, there were clear project parameters, well-defined tasks, and each supervisor provided a different area of expertise.

Jean-Philippe commented, “As the work was predominantly proteomic analysis, Michelle and Angela had closer involvement with the PhD. It worked well as we were aware of each supervisor’s expertise area, level of commitment and the ranging demands of the project.”

Supervisor support and feedback was provided using online collaboration tools, in-person meetings and on-site technical assistance. Michelle Colgrave empowered Clare to take ownership in establishing the supervisory team and stakeholder meetings.

"A PhD isn't just about learning a specific technology, and then deploying it for a scientific question. It's about collaborating more broadly, forming networks, being able to manage time and stakeholders and becoming an independent researcher. My goal with all students is to empower them to set up the cadence of meetings and invite appropriate members of the supervisory team or research networks."

Angela Juhasz added, "In the initial phases of the PhD, there was more frequent supervisor check-ins, however as the PhD progressed, meetings were set appropriately on-demand."

Clare explained this approach provided her with a high level of autonomy, and she felt trusted to be able to make independent decisions.

"I think you've got to learn how to answer your own questions sometimes. And that's part of the learning and growing as a researcher.  At the same time, Michelle was always available and only an email or call away, and I also had the in-person support of Angela at ECU, which was fantastic."

What were the challenges encountered during the project? If so, how were they resolved?

Excluding the COVID pandemic and its implication on travel, there were no major scientific pivots or substantial design changes throughout the PhD. Clare used the COVID shutdown periods to her advantage, and time away from the laboratory was spent upskilling in bioinformatics, programming and other technical online training. She also co-authored a review article.

"I kept myself quite busy with an online course through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, and received further qualifications in the area of malting." 

Clare also attended a local breeding workshop and technical symposia, which proved to be more relevant to the research area in comparison to international conferences.

One of the main drawbacks of the COVID pandemic was Clare’s inability to travel to Canberra to work from the CSIRO Black Mountain site where Jean-Phillippe Ral is situated.

Jean-Phillippe Ral commented, "Initially it was planned that Clare would spend six months in Canberra to learn new techniques and working on building knowledge in grain composition and germination, however COVID prevented this work. However, she worked very well during these difficult times, and we were able to collaborate remotely."

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