Dr Anh Linh Hoang and Dr Aaron Hodges stand with their hands crossed each in a red and blue graduation gown and cap. Photo: Michael Gray

Aaron and Linh graduate and continue exploring hydrogen together

Aaron and Linh graduate and continue exploring hydrogen together

PhD graduates reflect on challenges and opportunities

Studying a PhD can often be a challenging and long journey. But it certainly helps to have someone in it with you. Dr Aaron Hodges and Dr Anh Linh Hoang could tell you just that, graduating this week together after completing aligned PhDs in Advanced Materials at the University of Wollongong (UOW) and Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) in the area of energy, with their projects closely linked throughout.

Not only were they connected during their post-graduate studies. They now find themselves sharing in their professional careers by joining Hysata, a company spun out from UOW research that the two were instrumental in progressing under the supervision of Professor Gerry Swiegers (Chief Technology Officer at Hysata and ARC Industry Laureate fellow), Dr Klaudia Wagner, Dr Chong-Yong Lee and Distinguished Professor Gordon Wallace.

“Hysata was created to develop and commercialise our discovery. Linh and I have been there from Hysata’s creation to working with a large group of exceptional colleagues today,” said Aaron. 

“It is quite something to see the discovery we made during the PhD become a commercial product.”

Hysata is a Wollongong-based hydrogen company that is developing new electrolyser technology to make cost-effective renewable green hydrogen a reality, with backing from IP Group and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), amongst others. 

Both Aaron and Linh continue to work closely together at the company in research and development, with each focussing on the same aspects that they did in their PhD work.

“Collaborating with Aaron has been an enriching experience. As we approach graduation together, it's a significant milestone that reflects not only our individual achievements but also our collective journey throughout the PhD program,” said Linh.

“We've supported each other through the ups and downs of the research process, exchanged valuable insights, and celebrated each other's successes along the way.”

Dr Anh Linh Hoang and Dr Aaron Hodges show off their black Hysata branded socks. Photo: Michael Gray

Their PhD research looked at producing hydrogen without wasting energy or producing CO2. The capillary-fed cell was developed with the intention of trying to achieve sustained, energy efficient operation. 

“I think I may have spent more time with Linh than just about any other person for the last four years,” said Aaron. 

“Our projects were very closely related, and our success depended on each other. We shared a lab together, bounced ideas off each other and helped each other. We shared failures and we celebrated success.”

The two also worked on a critical scientific paper published in Nature Communications in 2022 with now over 100 citations, entitled, ‘A high-performance capillary-fed electrolysis cell promises more cost-competitive renewable hydrogen’, alongside Professor Gordon Wallace and Professor Gerry Swiegers as well as fellow UOW researchers Dr George Tsekouras, Dr Klaudia Wagner, Dr Chong-Yong Lee.

“For us, a voltage trace on a screen provided feedback on how well, or how poorly, our experiments performed. Staring at a screen and realising we were watching a world record unfold is a particular experience that was definitely better shared with a mate. Graduating together is a perfect way to celebrate the journey so far,” said Aaron.

“Completing a PhD was challenging but experiences that challenge us are ultimately very rewarding.

 “We had to learn new skills, recall knowledge learned long ago, and create new ideas that could be tested and developed.” 

They will both celebrate their achievement together today at UOW’s graduation ceremony.

“Graduating allows a moment for us both to reflect on taking on a challenge and succeeding,” said Aaron. 

“Above all, I would say that we were supported by the people at UOW and especially at IPRI. We would not have made it to graduation day without the brilliant and compassionate minds that occupy the buildings at IPRI.”

“Doing our PhDs together was indeed a blend of challenges and opportunities. I'm confident that our connection established through our shared experiences will continue to be a source of inspiration and strength,” Linh added.