Message from our Centre Deputy Director
19 Sep, 2023
One of the striking things about meta-optics is how quickly it is transitioning from the laboratory into real-world applications. This represents a precious opportunity for Australia. As it is a new area, we can compete on a more level playing field. We have the chance to become an important player with new homegrown companies. How can the Centre contribute? Some people may think it’s by making scientific breakthroughs, but in our view, it is even more important for us to nurture the next generation of scientists and engineers, to develop not only their research skills but also their leadership skills.
Let me say a few words about how we are supporting Centre students and Early Career Researchers (ECRs) to develop leadership skills and the results that we are seeing. TMOS students and ECRs find many opportunities to develop their leadership skills. The Centre’s main decision-making body, the Centre Executive Committee (CEC), includes a PhD student representative and an ECR representative. Their input is essential to the Centre’s decision making because it provides an important perspective that complements that of the Chief Investigators.
All Centre PhD students receive supervision from their primary supervisor and also an external supervisor from a different node. These individuals often provide helpful guidance on leadership development that adds to advice from their primary supervisors. The Centre’s ECR Committee drives initiatives to support ECRs, including the organisation of workshops, professional development opportunities, and the Centre’s mentoring program. The Committee also provides leadership opportunities to those ECRs serving on it. The Centre’s mentoring program has a strong emphasis on leadership and provides each TMOS ECR with the opportunity to join with a mentor, who is usually a Chief Investigator from another node.
Lastly, the Research Program Manager (RPM) scheme provides the opportunity for Centre ECRs to lead, coordinate, and implement project management of the research programs within each of the Centre’s three scientific themes. They do so under the guidance and mentorship of the Theme Leaders. They have a number of duties and expectations, ranging from organising and planning workshops, to tracking scientific progress and reporting. Indeed, we had several in-person Chief Investigator planning days during 2022, led by the RPMs. Each event had important outcomes, both tangible, such as actions items to follow up on, and intangible, such as Chief Investigators’ improved understanding of the Centre’s work. It is pretty clear that the success of these meetings was largely a result of the efforts of the Research Program Managers.
It is encouraging to see the emergence of the fruits of these efforts to foster leadership. Many readers will have attended the Centre’s annual conference. Those same individuals may not realise that highly successful TMOS ECR and student conferences have also been held in those years. These have been wholly organised and attended by ECRs and students. Indeed, TMOS Chief Investigators are largely “banned” from these meetings, with a few notable exceptions. These meetings are clearly “by ECRs and students for ECRs and students”! By all accounts, these have been highly successful events, with presentations of a high standard and extensive discussions.
Furthermore, Centre ECRs and students are taking the lead in organising outreach events through our Outreach Committee. Rather than being just participants, they are taking the initiative. They are contacting libraries and schools in their local communities and booking engagements. Some of these events have attracted more than a hundred participants. The Centre achieved a lot in 2022, but none of it was as gratifying as the steps our Centre members took towards becoming tomorrow’s
leaders. For that, I congratulate them, and I look forward to seeing what they accomplish in 2023.
Professor Kenneth Crozier
Centre Deputy Director