Success Story

Bridging PhD and Industry


Post-doctoral fellow Michael Callaghan and the Aquanty team.

Post-doctoral fellow and hydrologist Michael Callaghan left a lot of uncertainty about his future behind when he recently landed a spot with a globally cutting-edge company in his field and some strong future prospects.  

A fellow with OCE’s TalentEdge Fellowship Program, Michael has been working with Steven Berg, President and CEO of Aquanty since April 2015.

Open to Ontario-based PhD graduates and postdoctoral fellows across all disciplines and areas of specialization, TalentEdge gives applicants a chance to apply their expertise, leading-edge knowledge and tools to solving industry problems.

Callaghan found the ideal opportunity with Aquanty, a hydrological science and research spin-off company from the University of Waterloo. Founded in 2012, the company has developed computer modelling software called HydroGeoSphere that can be used to define water-related risks ranging from drought to flood at scales up to thousands of square kilometres.

“I’ve got a fairly varied background in both industry and academia, so I had been working prior to doing my PhD,’ recalls Callaghan. “But like a lot of graduates in the sciences, bridging that gap between the PhD research and getting back into industry is a challenge. Particularly in my field of environmental geoscience, there’s not a lot of opportunity for industry research.”

Berg says TalentEdge created a valuable opportunity for Aquanty.

“We put out our feelers and found Michael, who was based in Calgary at the time,” explains Berg. “OCE confirmed his skillset was eligible for the program and we designed a project based on our needs that also aligned with the criteria set out by OCE. Michael has a very broad skillset and background which fits very well with the people and type of research we do here so he brings a different perspective.”

Why go this route instead of hiring a full-time employee?

“As a small to medium-sized enterprise we are relatively conservative with our growth strategy so using a program like this from OCE that allows us to bring in a post-doctorate with the view to becoming a full-time employee is less of a financial burden,” says Berg.

“Michael is in the process of moving from Calgary to Waterloo so he’s going to be here for two years and ideally he’ll become a permanent full-time employee after that,” he adds.

Aquanty had regular meetings with program and business development staff at OCE to ensure its project aligned with the interests of the program and that the candidate was qualified. “This greatly increased our chance of success,” says Berg.

What was the main attraction for Callaghan in joining Aquanty via TalentEdge?

“As developers of the HydroGeoSphere modelling software, it is essentially the cutting edge technology worldwide,” he explains. “It’s that combination of high quality academic expertise blended with a real-world applications environment that’s so valuable. That’s quite rare.

“The benefit of programs such as TalentEdge is bridging that gap between academia and industry and nurturing and retaining that talent is very important.”