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Nathan Danckert
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Where will your science degree take you?

28 January 2020
Reflections from PhD candidate Nathan Danckert
Nathan Danckert is an Agriculture PhD candidate who recently completed an internship with biotechnology company conducting research on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). His transition from agriculture into STI research was an unexpected but refreshing experience.
PhD candidate Nathan Danckert

PhD candidate Nathan Danckert

Nathan’s PhD research investigated the intestinal microbiome of aquacultured abalone. Funded by the Australian Abalone Growers Association and the South Australian Research and Development Institute, his research involved exposing the microbiome of abalone to different diets and temperatures. Allowing Nathan to identify key players in the abalone gut microbiome, as well as identify prebiotics and probiotics that could improve the gut ecosystem in abalone, and may help the aquaculture industry improve the health and production of abalone.

“Commercial abalone are fed artificial feeds because their natural diet (macroalgae) is illegal to harvest from the wild in Australia and it’s currently not commercially viable to purchase algae. Furthermore, throughout summer heat stress and bacterial infections are believed to cause mass mortality of aquacultured abalone,” states Nathan.

After 4.5 years studying abalone gut microbiomes, Nathan was in the final months of writing up his thesis. He was now at a point of considering his career ambitions to explore industry work over academia. Nathan explains, “One afternoon, I had a conversation with a fellow PhD student and friend, and she recommended that I look into the paid industry internships that the university offered. After a few weeks of researching and following up the idea with an application, I was invited to attend an interview at Cicada innovations, a hub for deep tech in Sydney.”

“The interview was with senior SpeeDx employees Nicole and Madeline. They informed me of the potential projects that were available at SpeeDx and how I would fit into the molecular diagnostics company.”

Nathan had no experience in human research or STIs, but had some molecular biology skills that he had learned throughout his PhD. The nature of the STI diagnostics was a new experience for Nathan and it involved a steep learning curve.

“I had no idea how my skillset would fit, but I thought I would give it a go. The most notable feeling, when I was close to finishing my PhD, was the uncomfortable reality of not knowing where my skillset applied and what was next (in regards to work),” said Nathan.

“SpeeDx was a great place to find my feet. I was surprised to be selected by SpeeDx; however, after getting through the initial "I’m not good enough to be here, why am I here?" period, I settled into the work. The people, culture, and working environment was amazing and I really enjoyed the project researching STIs. I could not speak anything but praises for SpeeDx, for giving me the opportunity to try something new and find my feet. I'd like to say thanks to Cicada, SpeeDx, and the University of Sydney for the opportunity.”

Nathan’s top reflection tips:  

1) my skills were broader than I had anticipated

2) I love to learn and given the opportunity, I can learn anything

3) to back my abilities and to try new things.

Since finishing his PhD research and internship at SpeeDx in December, Nathan has set off on a new adventure and relocated to the UK. He is currently enjoying a short holiday around England and Europe, before finding work and enjoy the UK lifestyle. SpeeDx has put Nathan in touch with business partners in the UK, and he plans to continue working in science research.

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