Four PhD students secure jobs as part of Westpac STEM program

15 December 2016

Samira Badri, second from left, with Westpac mentors Dylan Ferrie, Sean Carmody and her secondary PhD supervisor Associate Professor Dr Daniel Tan.
Samira Badri, second from left, with Westpac mentors Dylan Ferrie, Sean Carmody and her secondary PhD supervisor Associate Professor Dr Daniel Tan.

The program aims to professionally develop researchers

The unique employment program is a partnership between the Westpac Group and the Group of Eight Universities.

PhD students from the University of Sydney have secured four out of eight employment positions with the Westpac Group as part of their new STEM PhD program.

The employment program is a partnership between the Westpac Group and the Group of Eight Universities. The collaboration is the first of its kind in Australia and aims to deliver greater research outcomes and professionally develop researchers who can make an enhanced contribution to the economy.

The University of Sydney's Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the Group of Eight Universities, Dr Michael Spence spoke at the inaugural launch of the program last night and praised the foresight of this initiative in engaging with the most promising PhD students with science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) skills.

The recipients - Samira Badri from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, Pierre Naeyaert from the School of Chemistry; Karina Mak from the School of Psychology; and Hesham Badr from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies- will work part-time with the Westpac Group while they finish their PhD.

Samira Badri is undertaking her thesis in the area of bioscience and technology, researching the effect of high temperature stress on the reproductive biology of faba bean, which is a highly important rotation crop to increase productivity and profitability of cereal crops and cotton. Samira's research will inform how food production can be managed in the wake of climate change.

Ms Badri has secured a four-year fixed term contract with Westpac and she will complete two, 24 month rotations in two different Westpac Group business units.

"I am so grateful for this opportunity and am ready to take up the challenge of making the transition from my research endeavours into the commercial sector. I'm looking forward to applying what I have learnt throughout my agricultural science research training to come up with innovative solutions to current and future challenges.

The timing of receiving this employment opportunity is absolutely perfect as I move into the final year of my PhD in 2017. It's a great motivating factor as I complete my thesis and gain embedded, practical experience in an exciting, influential, global organisation. I have job security and support, as I am even matched with a mentor at Westpac and I will participate in a professional development program tailored to my development requirements.

The training and support I have received from Agriculture and Environment at the University of Sydney has put me in good stead for this next venture. I feel very fortunate to be a part of the Agriculture team at the University. It has been a great place to learn and grow and I will take that knowledge and experience with me to work hard and employ my skills in this new role," said Agriculture and Environment PhD student and STEM PhD Program recipient, Samira Badri.

Dr Kedar Adhikari is Samira's primary PhD supervisor and is incredibly proud of her achievements.

"This position is testament to Samira's ability to look beyond the bounds of her research study and ensure that her skills are utilised and developed. I am proud that a global and diversified conglomerate like the Westpac Group has recognised the highly transferable skills that Samira has gained from Agriculture and Environment's PhD training, and offered this opportunity to her.

I hope that this novel initiative will pave the way for other commercial and industry bodies to engage with research students that are undertaking STEM projects. There is real value in applying the methodologies and approaches to problem-solving that can be achieved with skills in STEM to other disciplines. This accolade also places value on the research that is emerging in the STEM disciplines and how crucial this research is in driving innovation, change, sustainability and growth in Australia and around the world. I'm so pleased that through this appointment, the Westpac Group has acknowledged the input of agricultural science as a key factor in moving Australia's economy forward," said Dr Kedar Adhikari, who is a researcher with the University's Plant Breeding Institute at Narrabri.

Associate Professor Daniel Tan, Samira's secondary PhD supervisor attended the presentation ceremony last night.

"Each of these students will gain so much from this experience, and in return, the Westpac Group are getting our best and brightest, and the organisation will benefit greatly from their expertise, particularly their skills in STEM," said Associate Professor Daniel Tan.

Learn more about the 2017 Westpac and Go8 STEM PhD Program.