Crop-saving research team benefits from STEM PhD expertise

Fruit flies are a major agricultural pest, inflicting nearly $300 million a year in lost produce Australia-wide.
To investigate one of the most threatening species – the Queensland fruit fly – the Centre for AgriBioscience (Agriculture Victoria) called upon PhD expertise.

In partnership with APR.Intern, Agriculture Victoria placed University of Melbourne PhD student, Jessi Henneken, into a tailored internship within its research team.  Tasked with addressing pivotal questions in Queensland fly chemical biology and behaviour, Ms Henneken’s project led to significant outputs.

Agriculture Victoria Research Leader, Dr Paul Cunningham, said his team thoroughly enjoyed having Ms Henneken as a member of the group.

“She integrated well, assisted others with research, and conducted her own independent project with interesting results we hope to publish – all in all a great experience,” he said.

Powerful opportunity, real business challenge

For Ms Henneken the hands-on internship was a powerful opportunity to apply her PhD theory to a real business challenge.

“My time at Agriculture Victoria helped me understand commercial imperatives – deadlines, stakeholders and managing stakeholders’ expectations.

Queensland fruit flies on a piece of fruit

APR.Intern Jessi Heineken researched the Queensland fruit fly’s chemical biology and behaviour.

Benefits for industry and students

“I also learnt how multidisciplinary teams work and the relevance of my skills in industry,” she said.

Playing a pivotal role in the internship’s success was Academic Mentor, University of Melbourne Senior Lecturer, Dr Therésa Jones.

As well as mentoring Ms Henneken, Dr Jones also provided guidance towards the project’s research goals.

From intern to employment

In addition to benefits for industry and the student, Dr Jones cites university benefits for having an APR.Intern on board as improved student work-readiness and industry relationship building.

The internship’s success, led to Ms Henneken being employed as a postdoctoral researcher within the Agriculture Victoria team – a great result … but perhaps not so good for the Queensland fruit fly!

Find out more about available internships


APR.Intern – opening doors for female STEM PhDs

While STEM remains a male-dominated sector, there is now a growing increase in programs dedicated to opening doors for female talent to increase employability and fast track their career.

Delivered by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, APR.Intern is one of these key programs.

Placing emerging female PhDs at the frontline of industry innovation, APR.Intern is accelerating women in STEM and breaking gender stereotypes through short-term industry internships.

Supported by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, through the “Supporting more women in STEM careers: Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) – National Research Internship Program”, the APR.Intern program is open to all industry sectors and universities.

For more information

Thanks to APR.Intern for this article and PhD intern profile.