Jed Austin, PhD candidate at the University of Sydney Business School, is also a Student Ambassador for the University of Sydney Nano Institute. In this interview, Jed explains how this secondary scholarship has enabled him to build connections with students and staff across the University, to be trained in a range of career critical skills, and to take on exciting opportunities to create impact beyond our academic institution.
What is a Sydney Nano Student Ambassador and how does it work?
As a Sydney Nano Student Ambassador, you receive a secondary scholarship to join a role that extends beyond the research and writing of your academic studies. You will be part of a close-knit team of ambitious student leaders who come from all reaches of the multidisciplinary membership base of Sydney Nano. Not only does this provide valuable new connections across campus but also a good group of friends to go through doctoral life with. Throughout your time as a Sydney Nano Student Ambassador, you will lead a range of in-reach and out-reach programs, where you will engage with students and staff across the University as well as take on opportunities to represent Sydney Nano and the University on a larger stage, out in the community.
Although my research is not your traditional nanotechnology laboratory research, Sydney Nano has been an incredibly welcoming and supportive community. Many meetings I was involved in included people from the social sciences working directly alongside people from quantum, biology, materials, medicine, and more.
How does your PhD research relate to nanoscience and technology?
My PhD is focussed on the commercialisation of nanotechnology. I come from the Business School and I do social science, using qualitative methodology to study people and processes. I spent most of my PhD doing a laboratory ethnography where I studied how members of Sydney Nano commercialised their inventions from ‘benchtop to bedside’. Although my research is not your traditional nanotechnology laboratory research, Sydney Nano has been an incredibly welcoming and supportive community. Many meetings I was involved in included people from the social sciences working directly alongside people from quantum, biology, materials, medicine, and more. I would strongly encourage those from non-STEM backgrounds who study phenomena related to nanoscience and nanotechnology to apply for the Sydney Nano Student Ambassador scholarship. This is a great opportunity to foster the multidisciplinary relationships that we need in order to create the impact that we seek to address the grand challenges that we want to solve.
What are the benefits of being a Sydney Nano Student Ambassador? How will this help you in the next stage of your career?
There are so many benefits of being a Sydney Nano Student Ambassador, so I will keep it to my top three. First, you develop a fantastic network within the university. Not only do you get to build meaningful relationships with the student ambassador team, but you also get to meet so many other students from the institute and learn about the diverse and cutting edge research being carried out. In addition to connecting with students, this is a great opportunity to get to know the leadership team and the amazing Administrative Support Unit (ASU) that run Sydney Nano. In particular I valued the support, mentoring, and training I received to become an effective and impactful ambassador. The profile of Sydney Nano Student Ambassador also gives you the opportunity to connect with staff, including globally renowned researchers, faculty leaders, and university executives. Second, you develop an impressive range of new skills. From training to on-the-ground experience, you learn skills including science communication, project management, and leadership. Not only are they useful skills for your resume and academic (or non-academic) career, but they can be implemented day-to-day in every Zoom meeting and conversation that you have. Third, is the opportunity to join exciting selective programs. As a Sydney Nano Student Ambassador, I had the opportunity to join training such as the Future Leaders Program, and go behind the scenes at events such as Lines of Best Fit.
It is a great chance to get out of the lab and engage with the community around you. These are the things that might get you employed, but are certainly the things that you will remember from your PhD experience.
What has been your favourite experience as a Nano Ambassador?
My favourite experience as a Sydney Nano Student Ambassador was flying up to Splendour in the Grass with a few other Ambassadors to volunteer at the Science Tent. Splendour in the Grass sees approximately 50,000 festivalgoers who, between headline sets, drop into the science tent to learn about climate, dinosaurs, mushrooms, and more. We ran experiments and demonstrations, and we were graced by popular scientists like Dr Karl, comedians like Dan Ilic, and – everybody’s favourite – Costa from Gardening Australia. As an opportunity to represent Sydney Nano, and share science with an enormous crowd, this was a fantastic representation of the ambassadorial experience. It was getting out and about, getting your hands dirty (literally, at a very muddy festival ground), working with your ambassador friends, and learning from experts. It was a unique experience that I would not have had without being a Sydney Nano Student Ambassador.
Any tips for submitting an application?
First of all, I strongly recommend that anyone who is considering submitting an application to go ahead and do so. If you are on the fence, take the leap and do it! This is a great opportunity to expand your doctoral experience beyond the research and writing that you will do. Importantly, this recommendation extends to anyone that is from a non-STEM background. Although the terms and conditions of the scholarship require that your work be related to nanoscience and nanotechnology, this can be from any disciplinary perspective. There are no real shortcuts with the application process, and it is competitive, but innovation is rich at the interface of disciplines so I encourage all to apply and to consider what you can bring to the next generation of the Sydney Nano Student Ambassador team. Good luck!
Read more information about applying for the Sydney Nano Student Ambassador Secondary Scholarship here. Applications close 8 May 2023.