The Waite Research Precinct offers many opportunities for students undertaking a PhD in agriculture, food or wine related research. A particularly unique program is the Joint Doctoral Training Partnership between the Universities of Adelaide (UoA) and Nottingham in the UK (UoN).

This innovative program provides fully funded 4-year PhD studentships with students co-supervised by staff at both universities and spending at least one year at each institution. PhD graduates obtain jointly awarded degrees from Adelaide and Nottingham Universities.

The Adelaide-Nottingham Doctoral Scholars are primarily based here at the Waite Campus in Adelaide, or on the Sutton Bonington campus in Nottingham.  Both campuses are renowned for their world-leading research in agricultural, food and beverage sciences, and their outstanding facilities for research and teaching.

Students currently based at Waite (L-R): Mia Lou, Olivia Cousins,
Chandnee Ramkissoon and Cindy Callens

Olivia Cousins, Sally Draycott and Cindy Callens pictured at the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus

Current student Sally Draycott has an undergraduate degree in Animal Science from the University of Nottingham and started her PhD 15 months ago. Her project involves studying the effects of a mother’s diet during pregnancy on their baby’s health, and she is looking forward to coming to Adelaide later this year. She said “the chance to study under four supervisors and in two different environments, forming close working relationships with research groups across the globe” was what attracted her to the program.

Cindy Callens, Olivia Cousins, Mia Lou and Chandnee Ramkissoon are current students in the program presently based in Adelaide. All are now 12-18 months into their PhDs and believe the program offers them valuable opportunities both academically and on a personal level.

Originally from Mauritius, Chandnee completed an Environmental Science degree at the University of Nottingham. A strong interest in soil science and crop biofortification attracted her to a project offered by the Joint Program. She is now 12 months into her PhD, investigating the formulation of fertilisers to increase selenium in wheat and the management of crop residues.

“I think this joint degree program provides the opportunity to take full advantage of the best of two worlds, both at an academic and a self-development level,” Chandnee said.

Olivia spent the first four months of her PhD in Nottingham before moving to Adelaide in January last year. She is researching the effect of drought and nitrogen stress on the growth of wheat. During her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia, Olivia spent a year studying at La Trobe University in Melbourne – an experience that made her want to come back to Australia.

Olivia was also enticed to apply for the program by the possibility of using cutting edge technology unique to each of the University campuses. “I really like the fact that I get to experience two different countries and two different ways of researching. Both universities have facilities that I can only access at their campuses, such as X-ray Computed Tomography at Sutton Bonington, and the Plant Accelerator® here at Waite”, she said.

  

Cindy & Olivia have used the research facilities at the Plant Accelerator, Waite.

The girls are making the most of their time in Australia including a visit to Uluru for Olivia (top), and Kangaroo Island (bottom).

Chinese student Mia recognised the benefits of studying at different universities through an exchange program that enabled her to spend time at both the Jiangxi Agricultural University in China and the University of Newcastle in Australia during her undergraduate degree. She then completed a Masters in plant biotechnology at the University of Adelaide before applying for an Adelaide/Nottingham PhD Scholarship.

The hardest aspect for the girls so far has been adjusting to moving between Adelaide and Nottingham, which can disrupt the momentum they’ve built up with their research. Navigating the different assessment and administration requirements of the two Universities can also be a challenge. Help and support from their supervisors, other research staff and the graduate centres at both universities has eased this transition and the 4-year degree time frame helps to overcome timing issues.

Mia and Chandnee are both yet to spend time at the University of Nottingham but both believe that good planning and regular communication with supervisors at both universities will help the transition go smoothly. “Things have to be well planned before heading to Nottingham. However, I think I am still on the right track. It is very important to keep discussing and communicating about the project with my supervisors”, Mia said.

Cindy completed her undergraduate study and a Masters in Biotechnology at Ghent University in her native Belgium, including a plant biotechnology research component at the University of Nottingham. During her time there she heard about the Joint Doctoral Training Partnership and “went for it”.

Cindy’s project is investigating the genetics and the effect of heat stress on flower development in barley. She relocated to Adelaide a few months ago after spending the first year of her PhD in Nottingham.

All five girls agree that the joint program has valuable benefits that a single University degree may not have provided. “Academically it’s an interesting opportunity to be able to work in two different countries, in two different labs. It also means you create a far broader network than you would when staying in one place and a jointly awarded degree is definitely a plus for finding future employment,” said Cindy.

“Living abroad is enriching in itself – you learn many valuable life skills when you have to start your life again in another country. I think I’ll never forget these four years. I’ve had some amazing experiences already, unforgettable ones and I’ve made a lot of new friends. You have to be able to step out of your comfort zone and that can be such an enriching experience.”

Applications are currently invited for four new projects under the Joint Doctoral Training Partnership, available to start in early 2017. The studentships are fully funded for four years and cover PhD tuition fees, plus a stipend corresponding to the standard research council rates of both countries.

For more information please visit https://www.thewaite.org/uoa-nottingham-joint-doctoral-training-partnership/

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