Matthew Shortell

Posted October 16 2018

Faculty: Science and Engineering Faculty
Year graduated: 2014
Thesis: Zinc oxide quantum dot nanostructures
Career category: industry

You were awarded your PhD in 2014. What employment opportunities did you look for after this?

I looked for both postdoctoral and industry positions after my PhD. Straight after my PhD I worked for a start up company developing a laser welding system for use in extreme environments and developing new laser 3D printing systems. I still kept my university connections though and after 2 years I returned to QUT and worked as a postdoctoral researcher in both ultrasound physics and optical nanomaterials. Early last year I decided it was time to move abroad to pursue a career in industrial scale research and development so I took a one way flight to the UK on a Youth Mobility Visa.

What position are you currently in?

I now work as a Senior Physicist in the Research and Development department of De La Rue. Established over 200 years ago, De La Rue work with governments, central banks and commercial organisations around the globe in three core areas: Cash Supply Chain, producing banknotes; Citizen Identity including passports and identity management; and Product Authentication protecting brands and fighting counterfeiting.

What skills did you need to demonstrate or learn to articulate to be employed in this role?

Being able to articulate the science behind technologies in a simple and concise yet accurate way is an important skill to have as I work with people from all different professions, from the highly technical scientists and engineers, designers in creative industries and sales and marketing as well.

How has doing a PhD at QUT informed your current practice or position?

I did my undergraduate studies in physics but my PhD was in the field of nanotechnology which requires teams of scientists from many disciplines of science. I was in the School of Chemistry, Physics and Mechanical Engineering which allowed me to develop strong research skills in these other disciplines. This multidisciplinary approach to science at QUT has made me much better at adapting to new technologies, a necessary and highly desired skill in the security print industry.

What is your current career goal?

I’m finding my work in the security documents industry extremely rewarding and challenging. I get the best of both worlds: I get to investigate cutting edge new technologies and I get to see them put through the industrialisation cycle and become products used all over the world. I want to continue working in this field as it is also developing my capabilities in project management and communication – indispensable skills in both industry and academia.

What is the most valuable piece of advice would you give to someone who is close to completing or has just completed their PhD at QUT?

If you pursue a career outside academia be very open to opportunities away from your PhD field. Industry is crying out for PhD graduates that are able to think laterally and see the bigger picture beyond the highly specialised field you completed your thesis on. The greatest gift that your PhD gives you is not the collection of research output; it is the research and problem solving skills you had to develop to make the research happen which are highly transferable skills.