Postgraduate education

Career in Research enhanced by PhD studies

After working in R&D for several years in the steel manufacturing Industry, engineer Andy Phillips decided it was time to pursue his career goal of undertaking a PhD.  He says, “I decided to undertake a PhD to obtain new skills that would have been impossible to obtain in my previous role.  Australia had just made a considerable investment in the building of the new Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne.  I wanted to learn how to use this powerful machine and apply that knowledge to further understand and develop the materials of tomorrow.”

Enrolled at Monash University, under the supervision of Assoc. Prof Graham Edward, his topic of study is the complex thermo-mechanics of the manufacturing processes used to produce plastic products.  The aim of Andy’s PhD topic is to understand how additives affect plastic crystallisation under typical manufacturing conditions.  During processing, graduations in the microstructure form and it is these specific molecular architectures that greatly influence the important properties in the final product.  It is anticipated that this understanding of polymers at such a microscopic level will be applied to develop new additives with better characteristics than previously available.  The microstructural characterisation has been greatly aided by the availability of the Australian Synchrotron.  A synchrotron can be tought of as a type of “super-microscope” that provides a very bright light to probe a plastic’s molecular structure in great detail.  The advantage of using a synchrotron source over conventional techniques is that the plastic can be ’imaged’ at the molecular scale with high time resolution in environments that simulate industrial processing conditions.

In addition to furthering his career in research, Andy has found that there are many other benefits of doing a PhD with the CRC for Polymers.  He says “I’ve had numerous training opportunities such as the Polymer summer schools, the science leadership and project management course, oral presentation courses, IP protection courses, just to name a few!  Furthermore, I would no have been able to meet the large range of Australian polymer scientists and, in particular, the generation if the CRC had not consistently brought us all together.  The additional financial support of a stipend, plus conference travel assistance has been fantastic.  I have just been to the annual meeting of the Polymer Processing Society (PPS-26) in Banff Canada and Macro2010 in Glasgow.  At these conferences I was able to get timely feedback on my research which will undoubtedly fast track the analysis, interpretation and publication of this work.  Also I was able to see the bigger picture of the research being done around the world.” Currently in the process of writing up his thesis, Andy reflects “I think the most rewarding part of being in the CRC for Polymers is the feeling of community.  That there are extra people to call if the need arises and that you are a part of a bigger project, part of a team!”