Academic rewarded for driving grad researcher and industry collaboration


Headshot of Megan Lord

Professor Megan Lord is passionate about building closer co-operation between researchers and industry.

Louise Templeton
Louise Templeton,

Megan Lord has been recognised for developing the UNSW program that’s turning out higher degree research graduates who are job-ready.

UNSW Sydney Professor Megan Lord has won the Australian Council of Graduate Research (ACGR) 2024 Award for Excellence in Graduate Research Leadership.

The ACGR Awards announced tonight in Adelaide recognise outstanding higher degree research (HDR) supervision and leadership across Australia. First awarded in 2017, they promote quality in HDR supervision, leadership and industry engagement, and recipients each receive $3000.

Prof. Lord – an expert in biomaterials for drug delivery and tissue repair at the UNSW Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering – said it was a great honour to receive the award, which acknowledged her achievements in creating the University’s first industry PhD program.

“I’m delighted to accept this award acknowledging my leadership in establishing the Industry PhD program within UNSW Engineering, the first of its kind at UNSW. This program integrates research, industry experience, and industry-relevant professional development, equipping our PhD and Master of Industrial Research candidates for success in their future endeavours across industry and academia,” Prof. Lord said.

Professor Jonathan Morris, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research Training and Dean of Graduate Research said: “It’s wonderful to see Prof. Lord recognised at a national level for her superb leadership in the HDR arena.

“Academics are essential in training the research leaders and innovators of today and tomorrow, and Prof. Lord in particular has shown extraordinary leadership doing this throughout her career. She has been instrumental in shaping initiatives that provide UNSW’s HDR candidates with significant opportunities to develop their research skills and enhance their research training, ensuring they have the best possible experience during their studies.”

Higher degree research with relevant and practical outcomes

Many graduate students will undertake HDR for a chance to pursue a specialist area in their field, to push frontiers and potentially make life-changing discoveries. While industry engagement during research degrees can streamline the pathway from university research to practical application, industry involvement in HDR projects is not mainstream.

Prof. Lord said she established UNSW Enginering’s Industry PhD program because she wanted to create a cohort of researchers who were deeply engaged with industry.

“I knew that to enhance HDR training and improve the translation of university research into practical application in society, I needed to design a program that integrated personalised professional development for our students alongside involvement of our industry partners.

“The goal of UNSW Engineering’s Industry PhD is to close the gap between research and industry, and we encourage this as students collaborate with industry and build original ideas from scratch.”

Fourth-year PhD candidate Ada Lee said the program provides students like her with the relevant tools to emerge from their studies as employable and confident graduates.

“The program does what it advertises – it’s producing a generation of research graduates with strong, translatable skills that will set us up for success in the workforce. I’ve not only had to co-design my research with my industry partner CSL, but I’ve also been invited to speak at events, giving me an opportunity to grow and develop my communication skills and build professional networks,” Ms Lee said.

There are 40 HDR students in the Faculty of Engineering’s Industry PhD program and 36 industry partners, including Sanitarium, Ericsson, Boeing Defence Australia and Sydney Water.

Prof. Lord would like to grow the program by 10-15 per cent per year.

“In the long-term, I’d like to see half of Engineering’s HDR candidates – around 500 – in the industry program. Other faculties at UNSW are also interested in adopting our model, and I’d be thrilled to see it implemented across the University,” she said.

“The more we can encourage researchers and industry to collaborate throughout the end-to-end process of taking an idea from conception to the marketplace, the more we will ensure the delivery of product and services that will ensure society’s continued prosperity.”

Read more about the ACGR Awards.

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