Alison Gill

Highly Commended

Categroy: Agriculture

 

I am a highly driven, diligent student currently undertaking my PhD in Plant Science at the University of Adelaide. My long-term career goals are to work in and lead a high-quality research institute in South Australia. I am passionate about sustainable agriculture, climate change and agricultural research, and want South Australia to lead the way. I aspire to be the research group leader of a sustainable agriculture group, focused on climate change mitigation in agriculture.

My medium-term career goals are to complete my PhD and work as a postdoctoral researcher. I would particularly like to use the knowledge and skills I’ve gained in my PhD to work overseas, such as in Europe and Canada. I would use an opportunity to work overseas to collate knowledge and gain vital skills that I can bring back to the Australian agricultural industry. I have worked towards this goal by travelling extensively around Europe alone, on multiple trips between one and five months. I have a passion for travel and love to immerse myself in new cultures. This will put me in good stead for working overseas in the future.

I have already taken steps to achieve my future career goals. I completed my Honours degree (First Class) in Plant Science at the University of Adelaide following the completion of my Bachelor of Science (Advanced) with a GPA of 6.9.

Throughout my undergraduate studies, I was an AgriFutures Horizon Agricultural Scholar. During this program I created a strong personal and professional network of industry leaders throughout the country. The skills obtained throughout this scholarship will allow me to be a pioneer in my field. The scholarship also allow me to complete industry placements throughout my degree at various locations in Australia including the CSIRO Cotton Division in Canberra, Advanta Seeds in Toowoomba, SARDI and the Australian Bioactive Compounds Centre in South Australia. I completed a semester-long internship at the ARC CoE in Plant Cell Walls at the University of Adelaide prior to my honours year where I designed and completed a self-directed research project. All of these opportunities allowed me to gain valuable experience as an early-career researcher.

My passion for agriculture has meant that I take every opportunity to learn and develop my skills. I received the AW Howard Scholarship for pastoral research and the Aileen and Bert Kollosche Scholarship for native flora for my honours research.

I began my PhD at the start of 2020, looking at industrial hemp as a sustainable crop. My research will focus on water use efficiency and drought tolerance in industrial hemp. Every day I am learning and honing skills that will ensure I successfully complete my PhD, become a postdoctoral researcher and eventually lead my own research group.

During my PhD, I am hoping to complete an overseas internship. I would love to learn from industrial hemp industry leaders in Canada and also visit hemp research locations in Europe. I am passionate about disseminating research, and therefore hope to attend prestigious international conferences focused on hemp agronomy and sustainable agriculture. As a highly motivated and ambitious student, I want to learn as much as possible during my PhD.

The BBM Global Industry Scholarship would allow me to complete an internship in the industrial hemp industry in Canada. This would be an exceptional opportunity to gain international hemp industry experience at the highest level and would form a valuable part of my PhD. Having the opportunity to work in the Canadian hemp industry would allow me to bring international best practice knowledge back to Australia and the BBM Global Industry Scholarship would provide a great opportunity for me as a future leader.

Canada is the world’s centre of excellence for hemp cultivation and research. Not only would I learn from the best researchers in hemp agronomy and plant physiology, but I would also create a global network that I can draw on throughout my career. This would benefit both my personal career and my contribution to industry. I want to be a trailblazer in Australian agriculture, and the BBM Global Industry Scholarship would be a substantial step.

The scholarship will allow me to contribute to innovation and sustainability in the fledgling Australian hemp industry. Hemp has a huge range of end-product uses including clothing, paper, building materials, biofuels, nutritional products, compost, biodegradable plastic and animal bedding. With valuable knowledge gained from Canadian industry leaders, we could create new, innovative and relevant products for Australia. Hemp is a highly sustainable crop. My research is focused on maximising this potential, particularly in regards to water use efficiency and drought tolerance. One particular area of interest is the possibility of closing the carbon loop by feeding biomass back into the system. This will increase the sustainability of hemp and cement it as a key crop for Australia into the future.

If I had the opportunity to travel to Canada with the BBM Global Industry Scholarship, I would seek an internship at the University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan. I would also visit industry leaders in Calgary, Alberta and meet with key stakeholders in the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance. This will expose me to all parts of the hemp industry, from agronomy to marketing.

By learning from the best in Canada, I can bring valuable knowledge about the production of hemp back to Australia. Not only would this increase the significance of my PhD project and aid in my own personal development, but it would help Australia establish its hemp production credentials globally. I would gain technical skills in working with hemp as well as networking, leadership and communication skills to ensure knowledge is used and distributed wisely. Industrial hemp has been termed a ‘miracle crop’. If given this opportunity, I would seek to inspire transformative progress in the Australian industrial hemp industry.

If awarded a prestigious BBM Global Industry Scholarship, I would travel to Canada as it is the global leader in industrial hemp research and production. It would be an ideal place to learn about industrial hemp applications and agronomy. Australia is growing in its knowledge on hemp and hemp research but Canada has been a world leader for two decades. The Australian hemp industry could therefore benefit greatly from the Canadian industry.

In particular, I would like to visit the University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan. Their research priorities in industrial hemp and their focus on agriculture is well known. This would give me important research experience, allowing me to learn from the most-significant researchers in my field. It would also influence my personal development by encouraging independence, networking and technical skills. I would hope to complete an internship in a lab at one of these universities, rather than just visit briefly, to delve deeper into knowledge and skill development. Laboratories in both of these universities would have access to equipment and resources not available here in Australia, allowing me to improve the quality of my own PhD research.

I would also like to visit the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA) in Calgary, Alberta. The CHTA is a national organisation promoting Canadian hemp and hemp products. It encompasses farmers, processors, manufacturers, researchers, entrepreneurs and marketers. It is therefore the perfect place for me to learn from people involved in all areas of the hemp industry. Again, we do not have anything like this in Australia and we could learn greatly from how the industry has blossomed in Canada. If possible, I would arrange my visit to coincide with a hemp conference or meeting. The ability to network with hemp industry leaders in one place would be invaluable.

Currently, there is nowhere in Australia that could provide me with the industrial hemp industry experience available in Canada. An overseas internship experience would foster self-directed learning and communication skills. It would be an important step in fostering the Australian hemp industry. This opportunity would inspire my passion for the field and help me to complete a high-quality PhD.

I have always been an active leader in my community. I currently support undergraduate University of Adelaide students as a demonstrator for a second-year soil and water course. This means I teach and inspire students, allowing me to give back to the university community and pass on my knowledge to younger students. This opportunity has also allowed me to develop teaching and academic skills which will be useful in the future. At the moment I am supporting fellow Higher Degree by Research students on my campus by helping to make and distribute care packages and food boxes for those particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. In this way, I have helped our postgraduate club with support, fund collecting and care distribution. I believe that during the COVID-19 crisis it is more important than ever to support those around me and give as much as I can. I am fortunate to be able to help other students and boost their morale through small acts such as care packages.

In the past, I have volunteered as a mentor for other undergraduate subjects at the University of Adelaide. In 2019, I was a mentor for students undertaking Foundations in Plant Science at the University of Adelaide. I assisted a group of five second year students to design, complete and communicate their own research project. Mentoring allowed me to convey my research knowledge and build on my leadership skills, as well as give back to the local research community. In 2019 I was also a volunteer demonstrator in a second year applied biology course. I have previously volunteered with WhyWaite, a high school outreach program, at the Waite agricultural campus where I study.

In addition to my contribution to the academic community, I have been a committee member for the Westminster Old Scholars Soccer Club. This role required me to be a point of call for all women soccer players and saw me volunteering my time to assist in club business. From 2014-2016 I volunteered with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition where I spoke to community members about key environmental issues. I was the School Captain at St John’s Grammar School in 2014 which is where I found my passion for leadership.

I hope to empower and inspire those around me, so that the next generations reach their potential as leaders in the Australian agricultural industry.

“Interesting, innovative and forward thinking field of study, exceptionally displayed leadership qualities – a transformational opportunity for applicant and industry alike.” – BBM Industry Panel

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