New PhD scholarship provides critical links to industry

For PhD candidate Ka Wai Fan, the opportunity to undertake an industry placement with global technology company 3M in the Asia-Pacific region provides a rare window into the corporate world.

“It’s an opportunity to gain more insights on how research is done in a corporate environment and to find the missing link between industry and academia,” the 26-year-old says.

PhD candidate Ka Wai Fan.

Fan is one of three UNSW PhD candidates selected to undertake a placement at 3M research and development facilities as part of a new one-year $24,000 PhD Career Development Scholarship.

The scholarship is based on UNSW’s highly successful undergraduate Co-op Program model and has been developed in partnership with the Graduate Research School and 3M

Fan, from UNSW Engineering, will be joined by Paul Graham from the Faculty of Science and Minh Le, also from the Faculty of Engineering.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb has called for better industry and research collaboration to improve Australia’s standing in the global innovation stakes. 

Peter Gray, Technical Manager with 3M Australia, says the new scholarship will improve collaboration by exposing students to R&D projects in a commercial environment, helping them gain an understanding of how it differs from academia. 

“The 3M internship program is designed to provide students with a learning experience that enhances their graduate attributes and transferable skills, and increases employability,” Gray says.

“For staff, the interaction may lead to collaborative research opportunities and for 3M there is the potential to uncover great talent for future employment opportunities as well as making connections with one of the world's top technology universities,” he says.

Peter Gray, Technical Manager with 3M Australia.

In addition to giving the recipients a global industry perspective, the scholarship program also incorporates professional and cultural mentoring components and ‘soft-skill’ development including networking opportunities.

“I see the scholarship as a chance to gain exposure to the role of industry in shaping and realising the fruits of research, specifically in the pursuit of real-world solutions,” Graham says.

“I’m very excited to explore for myself how the research and development process fosters and transforms new knowledge into tangible solutions, and how these inventions and innovations are delivered to the world.”

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