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Tony Ling

PhD student, Curtin University

Tony LingWhy did you choose to study the IDTC program?

Having had a brief foray into industry before starting my PhD, I realised that expectations in an industry can often be different to those in academia. This program provides a much-needed platform for interaction with industry, in order to manage and collaborate towards those expectations.

What new skills or experiences have you learned along the way?

The training courses provided or recommended by the IDTC program have been designed towards those relevant to both research and industry. The most useful course to me so far was an introduction to the widely used statistical programming language R, which is utilised by companies such as ANZ, Facebook and Google.

The IDTC program also offers networking events such as the Mathematics in Industry Study Group (MISG) where students get to apply their maths and stats knowledge on practical industry problems.

Would you recommend this program to other PhD students? 

I would absolutely recommend the IDTC program to any PhD students who seek something greater than a mathematics and statistics based research project. I have been able to build my skill set and enjoyed the integrated cohort experience with other research students from across the country. My advice to future students is to find a relevant research you are passionate about and be ready to commit to the multifaceted aspects of this program.

Who is your industry partner, what has your relationship been like, and what have you learned from them?

My industry partner Cray Inc. is a global leader in supercomputing with a vision to deliver innovative and advanced computing technologies for complex science, engineering and analytics challenges. We have a great releationship and I have relied on their support to help me troubleshoot and maintain the Cray XC30 series Magnus supercomputer that runs my simulations.

My experience has taught me what it's like to work for a large organisation and has given me the skills to work autonomously.

How would you describe your research?

My research contributes makes it easier to computationally solve large quantum mechanical problems and consequently fast-track state-of-the-art technologies.

Through quantum mechanics, we can answer how reality actually works enabling us to push the boundaries of many technologies, such as faster solid-state electronics, better pharmaceutical drugs or more efficient solar cells. 

What problem does your research solve?

Aqueous solutions are ubiquitous in various scientific fields and in high impact industries, such as pharmaceutics, mining, oil and gas. Quantum mechanical simulations in the condensed phase are typically required to model reactive aqueous chemistry but suffer from severe limitations in terms of size and timescale.

The primary objective of my research is to develop new or improve existing methodologies to address these limitations without making excessive trade-offs in chemical accuracy and transferability to similar chemical systems. Therefore, otherwise intractable simulations become more accessible with the current computing technologies.

What impact does your research have on people’s lives?

My research has the ability to predict the health effects of new pharmaceutical drugs that haven’t even been manufactured yet. It will also have an impact in the mining sector by making industrial processes more efficient by reduting processing costs and improving product yield and enabling product recovery.

What career goals do you have after completing the IDTC program?

As a future graduate of the IDTC program, I could pursue many career options, not restricted exclusively within academia. I could expand my current research to alleviate the demanding computational cost of quantum mechanical simulations in order to promote its widespread usage, particularly in relevant industries. Alternatively, I could be part of a research and development department with real world applications, such as in the energy industry. 

How has the IDTC program prepared you to enter the workforce?

The IDTC program has lifted me out of my comfort zone in front of a computer inside the lab, and provided me with skills transferable to both the workforce and higher positions in academia. Through media training, I practised methods of presenting my research to a non-technical audience. I was given the tools to manage the different personalities encountered when working in an interdisciplinary team. In discussion forums about leadership and project management, I have exchanged views with a network of talents, including professionals, from across the board.