Seventeen PhD students have been selected for the ultimate opportunity to gain funding for their research – but they have only got 150 seconds to convince an audience they deserve the top prize.
On November 14th the students will stand under the blaring lights on a Sydney stage to sell years of research to an audience who will have no background in their specialist areas of knowledge.
In a time where research funding is scarce – and significant research can go undiscovered – AMP Amplify Ignite is designed to help bridge the communication gap between academia and business.
Applicants from over 18 universities applied to be part of this year’s competition – with the finalists gathering in Sydney for two days of intensive training and mentoring.
"From AMP we learned how to communicate with business people"
The training days also gave them their first chance to meet and get to know their external mentors: performance coach Jörn Sanda, acting coach Grant Thompson, and AMP’s Brenda Frith.
They will regroup next month in Sydney for the grand final – with a prize of $5,000 on offer for the competition’s winner.
Students also met 2017 Amplify Ignite winner Dr Noushin Nasiri, who passed on some wisdom and advice to the finalists.
“I’m really grateful that AMP asked me to come back here, because it had a significant impact on my career as a researcher” she said.
Since competing at AMP Amplify Ignite in 2017 Dr Nasiri has begun working as a lecturer in the School of Engineering at Sydney’s Macquarie University.
Last year she impressed the judges with her research pitch for an app that can detect certain cancers and diseases by testing human breath and saliva.
Dr Nasiri remarked that scientists can find it difficult to communicate their knowledge to a non-academic audience, but she credits AMP Amplify Ignite with developing skills she still utilises today.
”From AMP we learned how to communicate with business people and you realise how good the skills are and how beneficial they’ll be,” she said.
"She didn’t have to translate her scientific fact into English ... she just has to captivate the emotion.”
One of this year’s mentors – performance coach Jörn Sanda – agrees with Dr Nasiri.
Mr Sanda has coached leaders from some of the world’s most successful brands including Apple, Blackrock, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Pernod Ricard.
He was first involved in AMP Amplify Ignite in 2017 – saying the experience was the highlight of his working year, and perhaps even his professional life.
Mr Sanda hopes he can benefit the scientific community by helping PhD students easily communicate their research.
“My ideal outcome is that people continue thinking like this so that throughout their journey in science they attract more commercial interest because they’re presenting effectively,” he said.
He holds up Dr Nasiri as a classic example of what someone can achieve when they full invest in the process.
“Noushin is a natural storyteller,” Mr Sanda said.
“She came here saying I’m not going to win this because I can’t speak English properly,” he said.
”But when the penny dropped that she didn’t have to translate her scientific fact into English that she just has to captivate the emotion.”
Pictured are this year’s competitors: Arturo Cruz (Queensland University of Technology), Serena Davidson (Bond University), Jayson Guerrero, Zahra Rahimpour, Emma Watson (all from the University of Sydney), Pol Gurri, Peter Kyriakoulis, Hossein Tavassoli (all from Swinburne University of Technology), Sean Hardy (University of Newcastle), Naomi Koh Belic, Kate Samardzic, Megan Truong (all from the University of Technology Sydney), Megha Mano Manohar, Wenyue Zou (both from RMIT University), Samra Qaraghuli, Hannah Scott (both from Flinders University), and Amy ‘Kit’ Prendergast (Curtin University). Included in the group are their mentors Jörn Sanda and Grant Thompson, and AMP Amplify's Reuben Young.