Writer: Beth Ann Luedeker

Educators know that hands-on experience is a critical part of learning, and Texas A&M University offers many opportunities for students to study abroad, conduct research and participate in internships.

This past summer two doctoral students under the supervision of Dr. Cristine Morgan had the opportunity to do all that in Australia.

two people in park with Sydney, Australia, skyline in background
Dianna and Cody Bagnall in Sydney, Australia

Dianna Bagnall, a soil science major, and Cody Bagnall, a biological and agricultural engineering student, participated in the “Australia-Americas Ph.D. Internship”, a program run through the Australian Academy of Science.

During the program, about 40 Ph.D. students from the sciences and engineering spend nine weeks conducting research with a mentor from the Academy.

“We were fortunate that Dr. Morgan already had collaborations with Dr. Alex McBratney at the University of Sydney,” Dianna said. “He was the one who made us aware of the program and invited us to participate.”

Diana bagnall in soil pit
Dianna Bagnall looks at the soil in Australia.

Dianna worked with McBratney during the program, continuing some research she had already begun dealing with 3-D scanning of soil structure.

“I had a collected soil scanning data here in the U.S. in the spring and we did the data analysis there, to better understand the data we had collected,” she said.

Dianna and McBratney also took soil scans in Australia for comparison. The soil scanner was then donated to the University of Sydney.

She is working on a preliminary paper she hopes to publish soon.

Cody was working with Dr. Ian Young, an environmental biophysicist, looking at root-soil interaction.

He was there to learn the techniques those scientists are using for root imaging and image processing.

“My research for my Ph.D. is focused on root imaging using low-field MRI. Once you get the images, how you process them and how you analyze them is fairly similar, so this summer was very useful for me,” Cody said.

The Bagnalls also had some time to explore the area near Sydney and to talk to local farmers.

group of students
Doctoral students who participated in the Australia-Americas Ph.D. Internship came from throughout the Americas.