In this article, we interviewed Dr Kyle Hemming, who is currently Intersect’s eResearch Analyst based at the University of Canberra. Kyle has shared with us a bit about his journey in the research field and the challenges he has come across as he completed his PhD.
Kyle has 7+ years of experience using the programming language R and statistics. He has a range of teaching experiences, including student supervision, science communication, tutoring and guest lecturing. Kyle completed his undergraduate and honours at the University of Otago, New Zealand, and recently finished his PhD in invasive plant ecology at the University of Canberra.
What was the topic of your PhD?
My PhD focused on one of the top, but perhaps less well-known, impacts on the environment: introduced species. In 2021, Australia tipped the balance, now hosting more introduced native species. This is truly incredible and concerning, as many introduced species cause significant ecological and economic impacts.
My research sought to understand what drives the spread of introduced plant species, a group of some 25,000 species, to identify areas particularly vulnerable to their effects. With this knowledge, state-level governments and land managers can get ahead of the spread, to reduce the impacts of introduced plants.
What are some of the skills or interests that you have brought to the eRA role?
After five years in the research field, I am less sure I know how to navigate through it than when I started. What kept me going, if not my knowledge of the area? Passion about the topic, openness to learning new tools, and tenacity. Plenty of times I wanted to quit and tend to a grassy lawn somewhere quiet – but I am glad I stuck to it. Science and coding skills are valuable in a whole range of fields (not just ones of grass).
It turns out almost everyone finds statistics, programming, and science challenging. Now I get to educate people about the lessons I learned, and how to short-cut the meandering path I took. In this eRA role, I also love being able to share my insights and tips and tricks about general scientific principles with others and even write my own course or two. So all the time I felt was spent ‘lost in the weeds’ was really the right path all along.
What inspires you the most about Intersect?
Research is on the cutting edge of human knowledge, which includes the tools used for research. In my PhD, I felt that support in these tools was missing, or the avenue to get support wasn’t there. I felt that this contributed to my PhD taking longer than it could have. There are some pretty tough deadlines in research.
I deeply value the core mission of Intersect, supporting researchers to use the latest tools and technologies for their projects, to enable them to research faster.
What is a project that you have worked on as an eRA that you are proud of?
I am fortunate to be an eRA at the same university I did my PhD at. During my PhD, I spent a lot of time supporting a colleague of mine, Bea, with statistics and programming. When I started this role, I was concerned I would no longer be able to provide her with project-level support. But, researcher support is a core part of the eRA role, meaning I could keep assisting Bea with her PhD.
Sadly, Bea unexpectedly passed away shortly before she was able to finish her PhD. I value the time we were able to spend together working on her thesis. She was enthusiastic, insightful and hardworking. While she complained almost every step of the way, she did the work. She was very inspiring. Her supervisors are going to wrap up the finishing touches of her thesis, and I feel that I was able to contribute to that project which meant so much to her and her family.
What is something that you’ve taken away from your role as an eRA?
There are many barriers to research, and feeling scared of it is a big one. One must be brave to go into the unknown day after day. Helping to alleviate fear in researchers is very powerful – and useful. One the one hand, training, researcher support, and engagement help researchers jump technical barriers in their research. But on the other hand, the way Intersect provides this support allows researchers to feel better about their research, so they are more confident in the face of the unknown – be it statistics, programming, or AI methods. I find it deeply satisfying to be a part of this process.