A desire to “offer great solutions to my existing clients and expand my client base” led Tim Byrne to commit to the task of completing an Otago PhD while working full time.
Tim is a Shareholder Consultant for AbacusBio, a Dunedin-based international leader in agricultural business consulting, which is dedicated to applying proven scientific, financial and strategic expertise to improve food system productivity.
Tim's PhD thesis, Development and Comparison of Breeding Objectives for the Genetic Improvement of Sheep, was carried out as part of contracted work involving both the Irish and New Zealand sheep industries. His PhD supervisors were Otago Economics Associate Professor Paul Hansen and Zoology's Professor Hamish Spencer, with external advisory input from AbacusBio's Drs Peter Amer and Peter Fennessy.
Work and study complemented each other
“The work and study certainly complemented each other,” Tim says. “In all cases, I was providing a solution for the clients (Sheep Improvement Limited, Beef + Lamb NZ, Sheep Ireland and Sheep Database Ltd) to implement in their respective genetic improvement programmes, as well as producing a published paper.
”It was a challenge to complete the final writing stages of the PhD, with a significant workload at AbacusBio.”
Tim's primary research included economic analysis of farm production systems and the development of novel methods to ensure that in animal breeding systems the most profitable animals, genetically, are selected to be the parents of the next generation.
“In addition to economic analysis, I developed novel approaches for using 1000Minds survey software - invented at the University of Otago - to convert what were essentially opinions into economic terms so that the information can be used in animal breeding programmes. The tools generated from this study have been implemented in the Irish and New Zealand industries.”
Gaining directly referrable skills
As a result of the PhD, Tim says he developed the skills to research and critically analyse relevant scientific literature.
“These skills are directly transferrable to my career in providing advice backed by scientific knowledge and understanding to my clients.
“I also developed a deeper understanding of what it takes to combine research into commercial applications or business solutions; very suited to the strengths of AbacusBio. I still use components or newer versions of the methodologies I developed in my thesis to service my clients around the world.”
Tim's advice is to take the opportunity, if it arises, to study while you work.
“If you have the luxury of being able to link research with real world application that has some impact (and get paid), it will put you in a great position in your career. Studying while you work takes very good time management and commitment, but it is worth it.”
“Everyone involved in my research was a winner: the University of Otago and New Zealand taxpayers, AbacusBio and our clients, 1000Minds, and me personally. It shows what's possible when people and organisations work together. Perfect!”