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Voices of the Alliance - Dr Emily Pilkington

This year, we are celebrating 10-years of the Monash Warwick Alliance. As part of our Voices of the Alliance series, joint PhD graduate, Dr Emily Pilkington, shares her experience and highlights of the Alliance.

I'm a biologist by training turned nanomaterials scientist, currently investigating nanomaterials at the interface of immunology as a postdoctoral researcher at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne.

My first experience in working with nanoparticles (making virus-like particles and exploring their capacity as drug delivery vehicles) was when I joined the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences as a Research Assistant. I wasn’t intending to progress to a PhD, but the Monash Warwick Alliance PhD caught my attention. I liked the idea of travelling and doing research abroad, and of pushing my personal and professional development further than the average PhD programme would allow.

I completed a joint appointment PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences / Chemistry with a project investigating pathological amyloid aggregation and how it may be mitigated using nanomaterials. My supervisory team consisted of a physicist and two polymer chemists – a far cry from where I started in my undergrad! I designed my research to have a six month 'rotation' between Australia and the UK over two years, so I could take advantage of the resources and facilities between the labs and, more importantly, gain a guaranteed two years of summer.

My collaborative work through the Alliance resulted in a high impact paper, which made national news in Australia – and a number of other first author papers and co-authorships, overall netting over a dozen papers by the culmination of my PhD. I was also able to attend conferences across Europe and Australia, greatly enriching my professional network and generally resulting in seeing a lot of cool sights – the Arctic Circle was definitely a highlight.

The programme is not without its challenges though. I would advise students who are interested in applying to consider how well they might fare being so far from home (18 hours by plane!), and whether they're quick enough on their feet to push through the jetlag, adapt, effectively communicate and take advantage of a new working environment. A Monash Warwick PhD can be very productive, but only if you're up to the challenge!

As for the future, I'm continuing to build my career as a nanomaterials researcher, having previously applied for fellowships both in Australia and Europe (thanks to my Warwick connections), but am first looking forwards to finally being able to attend my graduation ceremony at Monash next year!

Did you do a joint degree between Warwick and Monash? If you would like to share you story, please email alumni at warwick dot ac dot uk

Emily with long hair over both shoulders wearing an orange top

Emily in a lab wearing protective goggles and a mask