EDGE Spotlight

The EDGE Spotlight profiles PhD candidates and recent graduates, to find out how they’ve engaged in research and transferrable skills development during their PhD. We’ve aligned these experiences to the four domains of EDGE to help you think about the types of activities you might build into your personalised EDGE development plan.

EDGE supports you to develop your career throughout candidature, building skills knowledge, and experiences across the four domains of the EDGE Framework:

EDGE Spotlight on Kay Khine Myo Min

PhD Title: 'Investigating novel targets in pancreatic cancer'


Kay Myo Min

Kay Khine Myo Min commenced her PhD in the Centre for Cancer Biology in UniSA Clinical & Health Sciences, in 2018 under the supervision of Professor Claudine Bonder. Kay’s project focuses on the vascular biology of pancreatic tumours and investigating new targets in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

We talked to Kay about the development experiences she has undertaken during her PhD, how these have enhanced her candidature and presented opportunities to shape her PhD and as well as the next stage of her career.

imagecgr78.png  Research Expertise:  addressing the needs of your research project

Kay focused on training to develop the core research skills she needed for research success in the early stages of her PhD, including laboratory and facility inductions and training in the equipment used for her experimental work. Kay also undertook broader research-related training where she learned about creation of data management plans and how to identify and structure milestones within candidature (from both an academic and experimental perspective).

“In addition to workshops, I was able to arrange an interstate visit to other laboratories to gain technical skills for my research. I reached out to someone in Sydney after an e-introduction from one of my supervisors, which helped me set it up…I also had the opportunity to attend a national PhD training conference for research students in molecular biology which was amazing”.

Throughout her candidature, Kay has regularly attended local research seminars to develop and deepen her disciplinary knowledge. Look for Academic Unit workshops in EDGE to help develop your discipline-specific knowledge and extend your cross-disciplinary understanding.

 “We have activities within the CCB (Centre for Cancer Biology) such as our seminar series where presentations are given by postdocs/students as well as visiting researchers – this is a great chance to practice critical presentation skills and to hear about latest research in the field. There are also other regular seminars offered through the Academic Unit that you can attend (and maybe eve present at, depending on your Academic Unit)– most weeks there are more seminars than I can get to!”

image3xshp.png  Enterprising Futures: responding to industry needs for specific attributes and competencies

As her project progressed, Kay looked for development opportunities which would broaden her understanding of research as an industry. This included training in financial and legal concepts for researchers, public policy, leadership and entrepreneurship. Understanding the broader context of research has helped Kay to think differently about what kind of career her PhD might lead to:

 “I was always interested in research and science because of the broad range of opportunities you can get by going into research…I’m interested now in supporting and improving the systems for research translation, whether it’s in terms of policy or governance.

Kay has also been able to apply her training in project management and leadership to a key role as co-convenor of a national conference run through the Australian branch of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL Australia) in her field which brought together more than 150 PhD, Masters and Honours students across Australia.

“Managing that project in terms of the finances, logistics and leading a team of 20 people, was a really good experience. Being involved in those organisational networks is a really good way to gain skills in working as part of a team, and that’s something I really recommend (to other candidates) if the opportunity comes along.”

image8m8mj.png  Skills in Practice: recognising the value of experiential and work-integrated learning

Throughout her PhD, Kay has looked for opportunities to have hands-on experiences to build on her training. In addition to the EMBL conference co-convenor role, Kay has served as a student representative on school and university research  committees, participated in a national STEM mentoring scheme where she was paired with an industry-based mentor for 12 months. Kay also worked with a group of industry-based PhD graduates to develop a discussion panel on research roles in industry – unfortunately this event was postponed due to COVID but Kay has continued to engage with the panellists and may reactivate this event later in 2021.

“I looked for opportunities to take it from training to execution. I did courses on project management, leadership, communication then took up opportunities to apply those skills in a practical situation. Doing training courses is good but you need an avenue to test your skills, that kind of completes the training.”

Kay also wanted to have a broad range of experiences that would ensure her skills would give her lots of options for her post-PhD career.

“I never like to close any doors and I see EDGE as a way to try lots of things. So I worked with a mentor (through the former Division of Health Sciences mentoring program) and we identified that at that time I wanted to focus on academia and to look for ways to develop my skills in that area. So I was able to arrange some tutoring and demonstrating work to help with that. I then looked for opportunities to build my industry awareness, which resulted in being matched with a STEM mentor through the IMNIS (Industry Mentoring Network In STEM) program.”

image58fo.png  Careers in Focus:  helping you to reflect, plan and manage your skills needs in alignment with your career ambitions

Kay started her PhD with a plan to work in in university-based research. While she didn’t have a set role in mind, she was interested in research because of the range of opportunities it presents. However over time Kay’s career goals have changed, reflecting the range of industry-linked experiences she has had during candidature:

“Throughout my PhD, trying different activities like IMNIS (which is engaging with industry), the EMBL experience, engaging with my peers, talking to mentors, networking, and serving as a student representative on the university’s research committees, I’ve grown a bit of interest for pursuing a career in STEM beyond academia… having gained that exposure to the support structures around research made me interested in careers around industry, commercialisation or policy to further medical research.”

Kay used the EDGE Framework to identify not only her interests but the gaps in her existing skillset. She then used this knowledge to focus on the capabilities she wanted to build and looked for activities both within and external to UniSA to address her needs. When reflecting on her EDGE experience, she recommends:

“Start your plan early, familiarise yourself with the capabilities then you can use the EDGE dashboard to keep track of how you’re going with the activities for the capabilities at each stage. Your review of progress gives you a bi-annual point where it’s good to reflect on your plan a couple of times a year and see “have I done enough”. You can use your career ideas to create a big picture idea of what you want to achieve and plan your activities accordingly – you get out what you put into it.”