NICTA, Australia’s information and communications technology (ICT) research centre of excellence, works with university partners to provide an environment that enhances and supports the quality of Australian computer science and electrical engineering PhD education.
This partnership has recently celebrated an important milestone, the graduation of the 100th PhD student to carry out their research at NICTA – just three years since the program started.
“The majority of our NICTA-supported PhD graduates remain in Australia, where they make a vital contribution to the nation’s ICT skills base and help build and strengthen the digital economy,” NICTA’s Australian Technology Park (ATP) Laboratory Director and former Director of Education, Professor Aruna Seneviratne said.
“We are attracting extremely talented students and many of our now 107 graduates are already playing active roles in Australia’s ICT industry and research communities,” he added.
A PhD undertaken at one of NICTA’s five laboratories in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, aims to give students deep technical expertise along with strong commercial and entrepreneurial skills.
This combination of skills is important for building a research culture that will drive the transfer of research into commercial products.
NICTA provides a challenging, creative and supportive environment for PhD research and, through its member and partner universities, offers PhD students access to scholarship opportunities, advanced research and professional coursework and world-class supervision.
More than 270 students are currently pursuing their PhD studies in NICTA laboratories, the largest concentration of ICT PhD students in Australia.
“Of the graduated PhD students who reported their first destination to us, 74 percent are working in Australia,” Professor Seneviratne said.
“NICTA plays an important role fostering our national ICT skills capacity and providing a launch-pad for the commercialisation of ground-breaking research,” the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator the Hon. Stephen Conroy said.
“NICTA, the PhD graduates it has supported and current students should be congratulated for their part in the development of Australia’s digital economy,” Senator Conroy said.
Dr Byron Wicks successfully completed his PhD through the NICTA enhanced program.
He was a key member of the NICTA team that in 2008 developed world-first wireless technology operating in the 60GHz spectrum.
“Doing my PhD at a NICTA laboratory gave me the unique opportunity to work with a world-class team of ICT researchers who were engaged in a project with great commercial potential,” Dr Wicks said.
Dr Wicks was recently awarded a prestigious Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholarship which he will use to take up ICT research in electronic engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr Wicks is an alumnus of the University of Melbourne and his NICTA-sponsored PhD was in Engineering in the field of high-speed wireless communications.
After completing a Science degree with First Class Honours at Sydney University and undertaking a successful professional career spanning 12 years, Dr Anne Cregan commenced a PhD with the University of New South Wales at NICTA’s Neville Roach Laboratory in 2003.
She graduated this year, after finishing her PhD part-time while also working for NICTA.
“My studies were in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and focused on ontologies and semantic technologies,” Dr Cregan said.
“I was looking at how to publish and link data on the Web, whilst also processing and reasoning with it.”
Dr Cregan now consults to NICTA on strategies and next generation technologies to support Australia's future digital economy. She also works as a consultant in this field with several major ICT companies.
NICTA-sponsored PhD students and graduates play strategic roles in NICTA spin-out companies.
Ka-Shu Wong completed his PhD thesis in March and now works with internationally successful NICTA spin-out Open Kernel Labs (OKL).
"I develop new features for the OKL4 microkernel and also adapt other operating systems to work with OKL4," he said.
NICTA recently appointed the former Head of the University of New South Wales’ School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, Dr Tim Hesketh, to the position of Education Director.
Prior to Dr Hesketh’s appointment, Professor Seneviratne held responsibility for NICTA’s education program.
“Our early education targets have been met and exceeded,” Professor Seneviratne said. “It is now essential to have a dedicated Education Director on board to drive our program to the next level.”
Dr Hesketh has enjoyed a distinguished academic career and brings over 30 years’ experience to this new role.
“I have been impressed with the program NICTA has developed to equip ICT PhD students with the practical and academic skills to develop and commercialise ground-breaking information technologies,” Dr Hesketh said.
“I have enjoyed a long association with NICTA through its close ties with the University of New South Wales and am really excited by the opportunity to take on this role.
“I have a strong belief in NICTA’s goals and in the importance of NICTA for ICT nationally.”