Mastering commercial law ...
Deakin research student Vivek Chandra describes himself as ‘a lifetime academic, energy professional, entrepreneur and traveller’ - and with good reason.
With university qualifications completed in several countries and a work history that reads like a travel log, Vivek has built up an extraordinary amount of knowledge and experience in the oil and gas field.
In addition to his PhD research at Deakin, he runs his own natural gas consultant company, Kerogen Consultants, teaches executive courses on natural gas LNG all over the world, is the author of ‘Fundamentals of Natural Gas’ and creator of two key apps that provide conversions and project data related to natural gas and LNG.
Vivek lived in the US for 20 years before his specialist skills took him to positions in Indonesia, Alaska, the Middle East and South East Asia. Relocating to Melbourne led him to Deakin.
"I found out about the Master of Commercial Law when I was living in Dubai," he explains. "A friend introduced me to it because I have always been interested in the law but I didn’t want to be a lawyer.
"The natural gas business is very contractual, involving many aspects of commercial and international law, so Deakin’s Master of Commercial Law was perfect – and I did not have to take classes such as criminal and family law with little relevance to the natural gas and energy industries.
Studying the masters off campus meant Vivek could get what he wanted when he wanted it while being employed as a senior executive in a mid-sized energy company in Melbourne.
"Deakin allowed me to do it in my own time frame and while on my frequent business trips overseas," he says.
"It gave me a focus on commercial law. If you are in the business environment, it is all-important to have that knowledge as contractual agreements are the rules of business."
Once his masters was completed in 2012, Vivek says he missed study so the idea of doing a PhD was born.
"I really enjoyed my International Law class and I got to know my lecturer really well," he says. "I also really enjoyed part-time study and was disappointed to see it end, so I started toying with a few ideas from the Chinese Law and International Law classes."
When Deakin offered him the opportunity to take on a part-time PhD, Vivek was keen to accept.
Six months on, he is heavily involved in determining his exact topic – though it will likely involve oil and gas activities in disputed maritime boundary regions and methodologies used to solve such disputes.
"I really enjoy the legal aspects of the energy business and the way everything is now pushing the frontiers," he said.
"As we have gone deeper into the offshore environment, there are problems that were unseen 20 years ago.
"Companies are trying to decide whether to invest and it becomes complicated when there are disputed waters."
Vivek enjoys his relationship with his advisor because it is more on a peer basis and they respect each other as professionals.
"I am coming at it from a different angle to a lot of other researchers because of my industry background, and we have really long, intense discussions," he said.
Vivek took part in the Three-Minute Thesis competition in which Deakin PhD students present to an audience to be judged.
He was one of the winners of the Business and Law competition, then competed against research candidates from all disciplines in the final in Geelong.
"I talked about the South China Sea and the limitations of the United Nations law relating to the guidelines and boundaries of the oceans," he said.
This topic has now taken a slightly different slant.
"I have looked at all the places in the world where there are boundary disputes and where oil and gas exist because I want to look at what determines how things are solved," he said.
"The next world war will be in the South China Sea and I want to prevent it."
Two years ago, when invited back to his university in Colorado to deliver a keynote address to the undergraduate students, Vivek says his best advice was to value the connections made at university.
"So much of life and a business career is about the people," he said.
"So many times in my career I have done business with people I met in my academic career.
"The power of relationships is very important."