MENTEE – Natalie Debenham

Natalie Debenham, PhD student and IMNIS Mentee in the 2017 Energy Resources program – The University of Adelaide (SA) [Image: Christopher Kemp]

“The skills that I am developing during this program will be highly transferable to my future career.  As a result, I believe that I will be better prepared to compete for a range of professional opportunities following my PhD.”

I am currently undertaking a PhD in structural geology and petroleum geoscience at the Australian School of Petroleum at the University of Adelaide.   I have recently commenced the IMNIS Energy program in South Australia.

I have completed an Honours degree in geology at the University of Adelaide and a Master of Research at Macquarie University.  My Honours and Master of Research projects were focused on understanding the depositional controls of organic-rich reservoir rocks.  My current research is focused on using natural fracture networks to predict subsurface fluid flow in Australia’s petroleum producing basins.  Understanding how subsurface fluids flow, interact, and modify their surroundings is one of the grand research challenges in the geosciences, and has profound implications for petroleum exploration and development.  This research also has significant implications for understanding fluid migration in water aquifers, geothermal plays, and areas of mineralisation.

I have worked hard to ensure that my personal and professional skills are industry facing.  During my PhD, I have been awarded prestigious scholarships for academic excellence from both Australia’s peak petroleum industry body (Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association) and professional society (Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia).  I know that the IMNIS Energy program will further facilitate the development of my industry-based personal and professional skills and this is something that has really drawn me to the program.

Why are you participating in the IMNIS program?

I have mentored in the past and it has been very rewarding experience for both myself and the mentee.  Mentoring offers unique and highly valuable opportunities for personal and professional development.  I am always actively seeking opportunities, and the IMNIS program is a great opportunity to enhance my personal and professional skills.  So far, my experience with this program has been greatly beneficial.  The IMNIS program has allowed me to engage with an industry leader and increase my understanding of the business aspects of the industry while drawing on their experiences.

What is the most important aspect of this professional relationship for you?

My mentor is a role model to me; he has reached a point in his career which I hope to achieve one day.  His valuable wealth of knowledge and insights into the industry has helped me transition from academia to the industry sector and set realistic career expectations.  Mentoring and being mentored is a very positive experience, and I have full appreciation of the time, support, and advice mentors give.  Building contacts is crucial for success in any career, and my mentor has helped me further develop my networking skills to improve my employability. 

What do you hope your mentor can help you achieve and what is the best piece of advice you have received so far?

As this program progresses, I hope to have a better understanding of the business aspects of the industry while drawing on the experiences of my mentor.  My mentor has advised me to be open to the different opportunities and experiences presented to me during my career.  We communicate frequently and he is always available to give me advice, for which I greatly appreciate.

What are the top 3 key things you hope to learn through the IMNIS program?

  • Develop my leadership and communication skills: Learn how to network and communicate more effectively.
  • Learn new perspectives: Gain valuable business-world insights and advice from an experienced professional.
  • Advance my career: Be better prepared to compete for a range of professional opportunities once I have completed my PhD.  Develop skills that will make myself more employable in the future.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of the IMNIS program for you so far?

The most rewarding aspect of this program is being able to easily communicate with a leader in the industry and have their continual support as I develop my personal and professional skills.  The skills that I am developing during this program will be highly transferable to my future career.  As a result, I believe that I will be better prepared to compete for a range of professional opportunities following my PhD. 

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