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PhD Students Fast-Track Mental Health Technology

Oqea is a leading medtech company that is passionate about mental health and wellbeing technology. Their digital platform and app empower thousands to connect to health providers, family, and friends, to help manage their mental health, safely and securely. Oqea is currently servicing the veteran, chronic care, and youth markets, worth a combined estimated total of $220 billion per year.

When the Oqea team identified a need to validate key assumptions of their digital platform, they leveraged the research expertise of two PhD students, Shahid Hussain, from Edith Cowan University and Kevin Wernli, from Curtin University, facilitated through the iPREP Biodesign program.

Kevin shares his experience of the industry placement, alongside his superstar teammate, Shahid.

What attracted you to the iPREP Biodesign program?

“I was really keen to learn more about the digital health space and apply the research skills I’d picked up through my PhD in a real-world, industry-focused environment." 

What have you learnt from the industry experience? 

“Heaps! I’ve learnt a lot about ‘how things work’ in an industry environment. Gaining exposure to the processes and programs was valuable. I also learnt how valuable my skills as a researcher are."

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(L-R): Shahid Hussain (PhD Student), Carolyn Ngan (Industry Mentor) & Kevin Wernli (PhD Student) 

What has been your favourite thing about the experience? 

“The people I’ve met. The industry exposure was without a doubt valuable, but the exposure to a group of forward thinking, kind, and genuine people was my highlight!"   

What would be your advice to a PhD student considering the iPREP Biodesign program in 2022? 

“To get paid to immerse yourself in a new environment, in a risk-free way, applying your expertise (yes, you can consider yourself an expert in the skills and knowledge you acquire from doing your PhD), and learn/challenge yourself in a whole new environment can only be a positive thing. I probably tried to juggle too many things during my placement (I negotiated a part-time placement), but my recommendation would be to take off the entire 7-weeks and commit fully if you can." 

Guided by his industry mentors, Carolyn Ngan, Project Consultant, and Martyn Weir, Chief Executive Officer at Oqea, Kevin contributed to a team effort that provided evidence to support key assumptions, a larger-scale research proposal, a validated questionnaire for future use, recommendations on co-design and a model for understanding user satisfaction.


Following the industry placement, Kevin was offered employment at Oqea to further the company’s important work in this space.

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Student applications are open for 2022 industry placements, which extend to both late-stage and early-stage PhD candidates. The iPREP Biodesign program now offers both seven week and three month paid industry placements, with flexible participation modes. Visit or contact the program manager for more details and to apply!

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