Rosie Georgelin

Life as an Industry PhD candidate: Rosie Georgelin

Publication date
Tuesday, 18 Jun 2024

PhD candidate Rosie Georgelin is working with industry partner Samsara Eco to push boundaries in infinite plastic recycling.

When athletic clothing retailer Lululemon recently unveiled its first jacket made from recycled polyester, The Australian National University (ANU) Industry PhD student Rosie Georgelin felt a sense of pride and excitement.

Along with a team of scientists from ANU-backed start-up Samsara Eco, her name was on the patent for the revolutionary fabric used in the clothes.

“It was a challenging process to get the patent, proving that what we were doing was completely novel, and I’m pleased to have been involved in that,” she says.

Undertaking an Industry PhD at the ANU Research School of Chemistry (RSC) in the College of Science, Rosie is supervised by Professor Colin Jackson, Research Founder at Samsara Eco.

“For us younger ones in the company, this is an opportunity to learn how start-ups function and to understand more about the business side of what it takes to commercialise research.”

Sustainable science

Rosie’s academic journey started in the arts, but she changed direction while on a gap year in the UK, where she coached rowing at a school near London. Back at the ANU, she transitioned her focus to chemistry, discovering a passion for synthetic chemistry and chemical biology.

While interested in further study, she hadn’t considered an Industry PhD, where the candidate is co-supervised by the University and an industry host.

The opportunity came about while she was studying her Honours at RSC, and Colin offered her a research assistant role at Samsara Eco.

“I had a good working relationship with Colin so when he offered me the job, he knew my work ethic and that it would be a good fit for us both,” she says.

“In the end, industry sort of came to me and it was too good an opportunity to pass up.”

Under Colin’s mentorship, Rosie was able to immerse herself in the latest research in plastic-eating enzymes and began her PhD in 2022, with a focus on transforming plastics into valuable chemicals.

Her research focuses on optimising enzymes to break down plastic into its monomeric forms to be recycled into new plastics. She also works on developing chemoenzymatic upcycling methods to transform plastics into other useful chemicals.

Passionate about problem-solving and innovation, part of Rosie’s work is looking at removing fossil fuels from the chemical supply chain more broadly.

“If we could replace fossil fuels with plastic as the feed stock, that would be ground-breaking,” she says.

At Samsara Eco, Rosie’s role is twofold, integrating her doctoral research with the company's mission to contribute to ground-breaking advancements in plastic recycling. She’s employed a day and a half a week at Samsara Eco and spends the rest of the time at RSC.

“I think the joy of doing your PhD is that it's your opportunity to learn and make mistakes,” she says.

“I had a lot of guidance and feedback for the first two years, and learned so much from observing the kind of judgment calls Colin would make.

“I’m at the stage now where I have the skills and capacity to be creative with my experiments and to choose the direction I want to go.”

For Rosie, her PhD journey, which will take four years in total, isn't just about scientific discovery; it's also about personal growth and collaboration.

“Samsara is a great place to work, and I love that the research it does is grounded in something so valuable and important as climate repair,” she says.

“I've been given an extra six months on my scholarship, which is excellent – I’m learning that a PhD never feels like it's long enough!”

The perspective gained from researching while embedded with an industry partner has been invaluable for Rosie.

“An Industry PhD means we’re exposed to the business, the strategy and project management; skills that you don’t really learn otherwise. It broadens my horizons,” she says.

“For us younger ones in the company, this is an opportunity to learn how start-ups function and to understand more about the business side of what it takes to commercialise research.”

Originally published on : ANU Research and Innovation News


Learn more about the ANU Industry PhD here.

Learn more about a PhD in Chemistry here.

Learn more about

Contact Rosie here:

Subscribe to receive our best science stories every month