Benita Tse, PhD student and IMNIS Mentee in the 2017 MedTech-Pharma program – The University of Sydney (NSW)

“…a PhD isn’t a one-way road to academia, rather PhD students have a wide range of skills that equip us for various industry career paths. “

I studied a Bachelor of Science (Honours) and followed it with a PhD at the University of Sydney. My PhD is conducted under the Discipline of Infectious Diseases and Immunology and focuses on how ultraviolet irradiation can suppress the immune system in the context of skin cancer development and protection against multiple sclerosis. In particular, I am interested in how UV can manipulate lipids. I am currently tutoring and demonstrating lab classes for the university and working casually for a research group in Westmead. I participated in the NSW IMNIS-MedTech Pharma program in 2017, mentored by Geoff Symonds.

Why did you participate in the IMNIS program?

I participated in the IMNIS program to learn more about careers in industry. I wanted to know my options outside of academia so I can make informed decisions about my future. To do this, I wanted to have a mentor outside of academia with no direct relations to my PhD to gain different perspectives on academia, industry and career paths. It also interested me whether industry and academia could work together on translational research.

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?

I met with my mentor on average once a month. To ensure I got the most out of each session, I prepared in advance by determining what topics I wanted to discuss. This typically included any difficulties I’ve been facing in my PhD and the industry positions I wanted to learn more about. The best advice that I received from Geoff was to aim high and to look beyond the academic “bubble”. He taught me that a PhD isn’t a one-way road to academia, rather PhD students have a wide range of skills that equip us for various industry career paths. 

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

I would definitely recommend participating in the IMNIS program and have already been encouraging my peers to do so! This mentoring program exceeded all my expectations and was truly rewarding.

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

The IMNIS program has given me a fantastic mentor who gives wonderful advice about how to manage my PhD and beyond. Both my mentor and the IMNIS program has allowed me to network with industry leaders across Australia, an opportunity that I would not otherwise have had. The ability to extend my industry network whilst still being a student has definitely broadened my perspectives.

Did IMNIS help you get to where you are now?

While I am still finishing my PhD, the IMNIS mentoring program has helped define my career path. I have been able to narrow down the positions within academia and industry that interests me. I’m sure the network I’ve been able to establish through this program will be beneficial as I transition into the workforce.