Home > Leadership > Early Career Researcher Opportunities > Water degrees for Member employees

Water degrees for Member employees

Water Research Australia’s (WaterRA) Research Leadership Program invests in future water industry research capacity by supporting water research degrees for employees at WaterRA member organisations.
This relatively new initiative encourages member organisations to support employees to undertake part time study in an
undergraduate or postgraduate (Masters) program which addresses an industry need.
This is an introduction to research for experienced industry personnel who are looking for professional development outside the usual options and have an interest in research. The model will be tailored to suit individual employer and employee needs. WaterRA can assist in sourcing a suitable university degree. For this arrangement to be successful the employee must have full support of the employer and the research project must be part of the day to day work for the employee. The employee is also expected to commit a portion of their own time towards studying. WaterRA supports this initiative by facilitating the process (ie: sourcing suitable university). WaterRA also provides a 'Networking Package' for the candidate to attend WaterRA meetings and an OzWater conference, allowing the opportunity to collaborate, network and engage with fellow researchers.
The benefit to the employer is the professional development and upskilling of their staff member as well as staff retention whilst the employee gains the benefit of a professional qualification.

The employee will also hone their project management skills by working through how to manage a project, problem solve/troubleshoot issues, plan tasks through to completion, networking opportunities, tackle issues in a logical way, learn how to make decisions, how to right the wrong decisions as well as how to report and to communicate the outcomes.  The above life skills can be applied to your every day job as well as your every day life.


Tara Callingham, the first candidate in this initiative, completed a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering with honours from UNSW
in 2005. Her final year project involved the dispersion of nanotubes in biological modules with a view to constructing smart fibres – and even though this was completely unrelated to water, it did plant the seed that research was something to return to.

Tara's career initially began in the UK with Severn Trent Water based in the Midlands of England as a process technician, assisting in optimisation and troubleshooting at a number of water treatment plants. Followed by a position working as the Senior Production Technician at Strensham WTP, supplying water to Coventry and Worcester. The job included day to day management of the site and operators, chemical and energy optimisation, process troubleshooting and improvements, capital works management and also firmly cemented Tara’s long term interest in the water industry. After 4 years in the UK, Australia called her home.

Tara started working as a Treatment Strategist at Goulburn Valley Water, based in Shepparton in northern Victoria and was promoted to Senior Treatment Strategist 12 months later. This role involves many long term strategic projects and also opened the door to allow Tara to return to research.

In 2012, a project arose, originating from a need to improve taste and odour in GVW drinking water supplies. This was seen as an ideal project for further study, and the opportunity presented itself to be involved with the WaterRA initiative.
WaterRA undertook the ‘leg work’ and found a university interested in this project, with RMIT taking on the challenge!
The project ‘Taste and Odour – Pilot Reticulation Trials’ will run part-time over 3 years with the aim of Tara gaining a Masters of Engineering upon completion.
The principal objective of this project is to evaluate benefits and costs associated with organics removal, disinfection control and mains cleaning frequency in a pilot study. The results of the pilot study will be used to develop revised operational methodologies in all systems and, with an improved understanding of the resource and cost implications, inform the development of future water plans. Measures of success will be based on physical/chemical results and community perceptions.
Aesthetics are very important and it is hoped that the industry will benefit from this project by demonstrating the cost benefit
associated with optimised processes capable of providing an improved product to customers.


For further information on Tara's project, visit the project page here

Links to Documents

  • Education Program Showcase Brochure
  • Water degrees for Member employee brochure

WaterRA Contact for
Education Initiatives

Carolyn Bellamy
Program Manager - Education
08 7424 2443