Female STEM PhDs intern program elevates industry projects Aus-wide

With women only making up 16 per cent of the STEM workforce, workplace training of Australia’s highly skilled female STEM graduates is now more important than ever.

the Australian Postgraduate Research Intern program

Above, University of Technology Sydney PhD student, Nazanin Borhan.

Aiming to reverse the female STEM industry deficit, APR.Intern – the Australian Postgraduate Research Intern program – is a national not-for-profit program focused on placing female STEM PhD students, from all Australian universities, into industry research projects.

Driving innovation and accelerating female PhDs in industry, the program is open to women and men with an emphasis on gender equity, domestic, regional, Indigenous and disadvantaged PhD students.

Real-world industry challenge

APR.Intern gives PhDs the opportunity to apply their theory to a real-world industry challenge. Academic mentors support PhDs throughout the project and benefit through industry research collaborations.

Supported by the Australian Government through a 50 per cent industry rebate, APR.Intern places PhDs into industry research projects across large corporates, SMEs and government agencies. Industry partners include Telstra, ANZ, Atlassian, Westpac, Defence Science and Technology, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre and Geoscience Australia, to name a few.


UTS female PhD accelerates STEM career via Atlassian project 

When Information Technology leader, Atlassian, needed a smart innovation solution to optimise their lead product, Confluence, they turned to APR.Intern.

Senior Data Scientist at Atlassian, Derek Ho, said: “We wanted to access the expertise to develop a content recommendation engine to provide Confluence customers faster access to relevant content, so they could get back to what they do best.”

Australia’s national postgraduate internship program, matched Atlassian to the University of Technology Sydney PhD student, Nazanin Borhan.

What we needed

“Nazanin’s research expertise and her full-time dedication were the qualities we needed most.

“Her great work led to the successful implementation of the content recommendation proof of concept,” Mr Ho said.

For Ms Borhan, it was a chance to apply her background in data mining and machine learning to a real-world industry challenge and work with a sector leader. It was also a great way to get a foot in the industry door and fast track her career.

Ms Borhan said: “APR.Intern is one of the best ways to start fresh in the market and develop the skills and networks needed to pursue an industry career.

Machine research and essential soft skills

“I learned how machine research is used in industry and new techniques, as well as developing essential soft skills.”

One of the keys to success for her was the support of academic mentor Associate Professor, Paul Kennedy. He helped both Ms Borhan and the Atlassian team bridge the research-industry divide, bringing unique insights to advance the project.

Associate Professor Kennedy said: “I really enjoy collaborative and multi-disciplinary research. Taking on the role of mentor with APR.Intern broadens your horizons beyond academic research and helps foster industry relationships.”

A fruitful process

Thanks to the project, Atlassian is keen to pursue further research collaboration and take on future APR.Intern placements.

Derek Ho sums up: “This project has shown us that research collaboration with academia can be a fruitful process. We definitely have plans for further engagement with the program.”


Atlassian champions PhD Women: Atlassian PhD Intern Nazanin Borhan

Nazanin Borhan talks about the benefits of her industry project with in this video

View available APR.Intern projects


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