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The University of Queensland (UQ)

  • 29% international / 71% domestic

Tamara Sopek

The best aspect of my study is that I was able to work with world-class researchers and scientists.

What did you study at undergraduate level and when did you graduate? What are you studying now? Are you studying and working at the same time?

I completed a Master of Aeronautical Engineering, and also an MSc in Aerospace engineering in Europe before coming to Australia to do my PhD. I completed a PhD in Aerospace Engineering at the The University of Queensland in 2018. I am currently looking for a post-doc opportunities.

What have been the most important stages of your life?

I have started with university studies in my home country and graduated with a Master in Aeronautical Engineering, which is similar to an integrated Master here in Australia. I got an opportunity to do a research oriented MSc at a prestigious institute in another country, where I was able to venture more into experimental side of things, something that has always been my aspiration. After completing my MSc I was eager to continue with experimental research in aerospace engineering, and was able to get a position at the world-renown Centre for Hypersonics at the University of Queensland. During my PhD studies I also spent several months as a visiting scientist at Stanford University in the USA.

How did you get to your current (or most recent) job position and how long have you been working there?

I am currently looking for job opportunities, preferably a post-doc position at a university or a research organisation, such as CSIRO.

What made you decide to progress with further study?

I have always been interested in looking further into a subject and investigate it from every angle possible. Research has always been appealing as an area in which there are always new and interesting things to learn, problems to solve and things to tinker with. Doing a PhD seemed like a natural progression after an MSc and a step in the right direction to become a research scientist.

How did you choose your particular further study course (compared to others)? / Were you weighing up any alternative degrees or career pathways before choosing this qualification?

My interest was to do obtain a degree in a more hard science related field. My preferences were engineering and medicine, and in the end I chose to study aeronautical engineering due to my interest in aerospace. I have always been happy with my choice, but I have been looking into applying my skills to medical field as well, and combine those two interests.

What was the process to get accepted into your course? What were the prerequisites?

I find the process to get accepted into the course more complex for international students than for domestic ones, as there are more requirements, such as English language test, visa requirements, etc. However, some prerequisites are the same for all applicants, and these include either good grades during your undergraduate degree, or a completed Master degree, if you are applying for a PhD. Another important thing is to speak to people before applying. It always helps if you know the academic you want to do your degree with, or at least can be recommended to them by a mutual acquaintance.

What does your study involve? Can you describe a typical day? (if it’s difficult to describe a typical day, tell us about the last thing you worked on?)

A PhD program in Australia mostly does not entail course work, unlike the USA, for example. Thus, you have more time to focus on your research project. My research was based on experiments, so a typical day at the beginning of my study was different than at the half-mark or at the end. It varied from working in the experimental facility to prepare for the experimental campaign, to performing the experiments, to processing and analysis of the results. Of course, there were always reports and papers to write and by the end my days consisted only of writing up my dissertation.

Will this course be beneficial in your career? Where could you or others in your position go from here? Please explain your answer.

I believe that this course will be very beneficial in my career as I was able to gain invaluable knowledge and expertise in the field. The Centre and facility where I was working are one of the few places in the world where one can do that particular kind of experimental research, so I consider myself very lucky I was able to be a part of it.

What do you love the most about your course? 

The best aspect of my study is that I was able to work with world-class researchers and scientists, as well as to work in unique facilities. It helped me learn a lot, and get an experience in an exciting field of my interest. Another amazing quality of doing my degree in that particular group is that both academics and research students are from all over the world, which brings about a more social quality, and helps in widening one's views and understanding.

What are the limitations of your course?

I would list the time limit for international students as the probably the biggest limitation. While domestic students don't have to worry about things such as visa expiry, and can even do a part-time option during a course of their degree, things a bit more stressful if you are an international student.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current undergraduate student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your studies, or even to one’s professional life.

My words of advice to current students would be:

  1. It is important that you focus on what you want to achieve, and try to block all distractions until the semester/year is over.
  2. Most of tutors and academics will be happy to help you with things you don't understand. However, please have a real think about the problem before you go asking about it. Nobody likes students that don't try to solve the issue by themselves, but go straight to ask for a solution.
  3. Attend your lectures and tutorials, pay attention and be active. Trust me, it does pay off.