A recent study by three South Australian universities shows that the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) is having a positive impact on PhD students; expanding their professional networks, increasing their employability and providing them with the skills and knowledge needed to engage and collaborate effectively with industry.

These findings support the outcomes of the IMNIS national survey of the 2017-2018 program participants, which also showed the expansion of mentee networks, enhanced employability and increased industry-relevant knowledge and skill development.

We asked three IMNIS mentee alumni, Manuel Herduin, Maggie Lieu and Sahan Kuruneru, to reflect on their experiences participating in the IMNIS programs.


Maggie Lieu (right) at the 2017 Program Launch in Victoria

IMNIS mentee alumni commented on how their IMNIS experiences highlighted the importance of developing broad professional networks and provided opportunities to develop networking skills.


“I have learnt through the IMNIS program that the establishment of a broad professional network, from various fields, is key to success. Universities teach you what to know but not who to know. In industry, it is about who you know.” – Manuel


“One of the most important things I learnt by participating in the program is the importance of networking. Networking during my PhD allowed me to connect with a wide variety of people, expand my network and allowed me to understand the types of industry roles available.” – Maggie


“The IMNIS program has given me a great opportunity to network with industry leaders across Australia and to learn about career opportunities in the industry.” – Sahan


IMNIS helps mentees to develop broad professional networks, increasing engagement and collaboration between industry and academia. After the completion of the 2017-2018 programs, 70% of mentees had met up to five contacts in their mentor’s network, while 30% had met six or more. Additionally, two thirds of mentors were engaged, or were planning to engage, in their mentee’s academic research, their research group and/or their organisation.

The South Australia IMNIS Impact Evaluation echoes these findings, showing a 37% increase throughout the year long program in the number of mentees with high or full skill competency in professional networking.


Sahan Kuruneru (left) networking at the 2017 Program Launch in Queensland.

By improving their ‘soft skills’ and increasing their understanding of opportunities beyond academia, IMNIS helps to prepare PhD students for industry collaboration and engagement. When surveyed, 93% of mentees agreed they have “a better understanding of industry, the skills needed to succeed [and] the careers available”. Mentors reinforced this with 95% agreeing their mentee had achieved the same.

IMNIS mentee alumni commented on how their mentoring partnerships helped them to prepare for a career in industry:


“The IMNIS program connected me with a mentor who helped and guided me through the development of key knowledge and skills to get my foot into the door of industry.” – Maggie


“I strongly believe that my mentor provided me with the right advice and mindset for an efficient and successful start in the professional environment. I owe my positive start in industry to my mentor. We both reviewed my ambitions, strengths and expectations, and we later discussed the different routes to implement this career plan.” – Manuel


“The IMNIS program has certainly given me a clearer idea of how I can l leverage my PhD knowledge and skillset to find a suitable job that aligns with my career goals and interests.” – Sahan


The South Australia IMNIS Impact Evaluation also shows an increase in skills competence and knowledge understanding. Throughout the one-year program, there was a 55% increase in the number of mentees with high or full skill competency in advanced communication, a 46% increase in mentees with a high or full understanding of careers outside academia and a 42% increase in in mentees with a high or full understanding of industry-academic collaborations.


Manuel Herduin (left) at the 2018 Meet the Entrepreneur event in Western Australia.

In addition to fostering industry engagement and collaboration, IMNIS helps to prepare PhD students to make the move beyond academia. 84% of mentees in the 2017-2018 program said they developed knowledge and skills needed to attain an internship or job in industry and almost one-third landed an industry-based job or internship during the one-year program.

Manuel, Sahan and Maggie reflect on the impact of the IMNIS program and their mentors in getting them to where they are in their industry careers today:


“The IMNIS program has given me a great opportunity to network with industry leaders across Australia and to learn about career opportunities in the industry. My mentor and I discussed what it takes to be successful in industry. My mentor highlighted the importance of transferable skills and we discussed how to write a CV tailored to each job you apply to as well as the most commonly asked interview questions. All that hard work paid off and I managed to secure a job in my field.” – Sahan


“Thanks to IMNIS, I invested a significant amount of my time in planning my future career, with the help of my mentor. One year before finishing my degree, I had come up with a career plan and listed multiple ways to reach the goals in my career plan. As a result of a very early planning of my career, I submitted my PhD on a Friday and started working as a permanent full-time engineer for a highly reputable company in my field the next Monday.” – Manuel


“I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work with my mentor for a short period of time in the field of clinical trials. The skills that I developed during this role enabled me to transition into a Life Science consultant role at Clarivate Analytics following completion of my PhD by leveraging both my scientific expertise from my research studies and ability to work with a range of clients.” – Maggie


Meet the IMNIS mentee alumni:

Maggie Lieu obtained her PhD from Monash University in the field of pharmacology, immunology and cardiovascular disease. Previously, she was a Research Valet Officer at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne where she helped researchers, contract research organisations and pharmaceutical companies fast track ethical approval involving drugs and medical devices for clinical trials across multiple therapeutic areas. Maggie is an active player in the biotech, medtech and pharma sector and passionate about the translation of research discoveries into life-saving medicines.

Following the completion of her PhD, Maggie made the move from academia into industry and is currently a Life Sciences Solutions Consultant at Clarivate Analytics. In her role Maggie helps identify and communicate solutions to accelerate innovation for pharmaceutical, biotech and academic/medical institutes and government agencies. Maggie was a mentee in the 2017 MedTech-Pharma program in Victoria.


Sahan Kuruneru received his Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) (Honours) at the University of New South Wales in 2010. He secured a graduate mechanical engineering role at Transpacific Industries, Australia’s leading waste management firm. Later, Sahan completed a Master of Research degree at the Queensland University of Technology. Afterwards, he decided to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at the Queensland University of Technology in 2015 supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) scholarship. His research was on developing advanced numerical models (computational fluid dynamics) to study multiphase solid-gas flows and particulate fouling in porous metal foam heat exchangers for the power-generation industries.

Following the completion of his PhD, Sahan made the move from academia to industry. Sahan is currently employed as an R&D engineer at the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial & Research Organization (CSIRO) in Newcastle, NSW. Sahan’s job focuses on developing advanced numerical models with the prime goal of enhancing the thermal efficiency of concentrated solar thermal plants. Sahan was a mentee in the 2017 Energy-Minerals Resources program in Queensland.


Manuel Herduin was a mentee in the 2017 IMNIS Energy-Minerals Resources program in Western Australia. Following the completion of his PhD, Manuel quickly gained an industry position in his field as a Project Engineer at Deep Sea Mooring.

Manuel completed his BSc. in Civil Engineering and his MSc. in Renewable Energy in France before making the move to Australia to undertake his PhD at the University of Western Australia. Manuel has a passion for the ocean and is motivated by digging into new experiences and challenges. His PhD in offshore geotechnical engineering looked at the possibility to connect one anchor to multiple floating facilities using a mainly experimental approach with a small part of numerical modelling.