Navpreet Kaur Walia, IMNIS mentee in the MedTechPharma-Program 2017 – University of Technology Sydney (NSW)

“Personally, I am an introvert. IMNIS made me a confident person and I feel more assertive when talking to people.”

My name is Navpreet Kaur Walia. I have a strong passion and fascination for science and innovation. I feel the field of biotechnology offers the best possibility of meeting the demands of a growing population and this influenced my decision to undertake both a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Biotechnology. I passed both the degrees with first class. During my Masters, I worked on “Production of bioethanol as a fuel alternative from corn”. The outcome of the project got published in an international scientific journal. After my Masters I got selected in one of the prestigious research institutes in India, CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology as a project fellow.  I wish to further my knowledge in biotechnology and have a desire to conduct exciting and innovative research in pursuit of the undiscovered. Therefore, I saw pursuing a PhD as the next natural step towards my career goal since it has the perfect blend of independent research, theoretical study and practical experience. At, present I am in my final year of PhD in climate change cluster at University of Technology, Sydney. I am passionate about my research topic, highly motivated, determined, and intellectually curious and enjoy problem solving.  My PhD project is to optimize the microalgae culture conditions to increase the yield of recombinant protein from microalgae. This project is very beneficial to make microalgae as a viable platform for recombinant protein production. I was a mentee in 2017 NSW IMNIS program. I joined IMNIS because I wanted to explore the opportunities beyond academia after PhD because I want to join industry after completing my PhD.

Why did you participate in the IMNIS program?

I participated in the IMNIS program because I was muddling whether to continue in academia or switch to industry after completing my PhD. Therefore, I anticipated that IMNIS would provide me a direction. In addition, I wanted to explore the opportunities available in industry after PhD. Further, I wanted to develop skills which are important in industry. Also, being a researcher I spent most of the time in lab so I wanted to meet new people and interact with them.

How often did you meet with your mentor and did you prepare for these meetings? What was the best piece of advice you received? What was the most important aspect of this professional relationship for you?

My mentor was Professor David Irving, director of research and development at Red Cross, Australia. I am very fortunate to have David as my mentor because he is very much dedicated and helped me to develop skills which are important in industry. We met every month and David helped me to understand professionalism/culture in industry. I was very nervous for our first meeting but David made me feel comfortable. We usually talked about my research and future goals. We discussed opportunities in industry. David also helped me to refine my presentation skills. The best advice he gave me is to not hesitate in talking about your skills and potential as you always have to tell people what qualities you have so that they should consider you for the job more than anybody else.

“IMNIS helped me to build my professional network in STEM. I got to know about the job opportunities available beyond academia.”

Would you recommend participating in the IMNIS program to your peers?

I would definitely encourage other researchers to participate in IMNIS for many reasons. IMNIS helped me to build my professional network in STEM. I got to know about the job opportunities available beyond academia. IMNIS networking events helped me to become more confident while talking to people. I learnt a lot of important things during IMNIS events like- the importance of good pitch while networking.

What was the most rewarding aspect of the IMNIS program for you?

Participating in IMNIS proved to be very rewarding for many reasons. Most importantly, I got a chance to meet my mentor Prof. David Irving. When my mentor got to know that I am interested in science communication he introduced me to his colleague Science Communicator at Red Cross- Dr. Alison Gould and I am very thankful to her as well for her time and advice. Also, IMNIS Executive Director- Dr. Marguerite Evans-Galea for being so lovely and encouraging. Also, I got a chance to meet many peers and CEOs of companies which helped me to broaden my horizons. IMNIS helped me to refine my professional skills. My mentor and I will be continuing our meetings after the completion of the program also and it is rewarding for me.

Did IMNIS help you get to where you are now?

Personally, I am an introvert. IMNIS made me a confident person and I feel more assertive when talking to people. I always felt encouraged and inspired listening to great stories of peers at IMNIS events. So, IMNIS helped me to build a networking skill which is very important in a professional environment. IMNIS has helped me to communicate more efficiently with industry leaders. Overall, IMNIS has opened more opportunities for me if I want to join industry in the future. So, I would strongly recommend to fellow researchers to participate in IMNIS.