Prestigious awards to further Deakin’s research links with India

19 October 2012

Four Geelong-based Deakin University researchers have been awarded prestigious fellowships from the Australian Academy of Science.

Dr Nishar Hameed and Dr Rangam Rajkhowa (Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials) and Dr Santosh Jatrana (Alfred Deakin Research Institute), are among 16 young researchers to receive Australia-India Early Career Fellowships that will allow them to spend 3—12 months working at Indian research institutes. Their respective research projects will explore new, natural plastics to replace those made from petroleum; develop ways of using silk to repair perforated ear drums and bone defects; and enhance our understanding of the impact of health workforce imbalance in India.

Associate Professor CP Lim, from Deakin’s Centre for Intelligent Systems Research, was awarded a Senior Visiting Fellowship that will see him spend time at the Gandhigram Rural Institute in India to establish a research partnership in the area of computational intelligence, whereby computer systems are designed to mimic human intelligence for use in medical prognosis and diagnosis and in manufacturing fault detection.

“I heartily congratulate all four Deakin researchers who have been successful in these highly sought after awards,” said Deakin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Lee Astheimer.

“I am particularly pleased to see the Institute for Frontier Materials and the Alfred Deakin Research Institute featuring so prominently in the early career fellows. Both these institute have been at the forefront in building strong bonds with India in their separate research areas,” she said.

“These awards will enable our researchers to further develop projects they already have begun with collaborators in India.

“One of the criteria is that the research is of relevance to both countries and has potential to further our strong international ties with India.

“We should also keep in mind the contributions of the Indian researchers with whom our award winners will be working. Their ideas and interactions have also played a huge part in the process.”

Dr Hameed will work with researchers at the Indian Institute of Science and Indian Institute of Technology Madras to develop a way to toughen and plasticise cellulose (from materials such as wood pulp] for use in manufacturing a range of products from photonic devices such as scanners, printers and optical fibres, remote controls; to LEDs used in lighting; and super capacitors used to store energy for future power supply.

“Cellulose is a perfect candidate for replacing the synthetic/petroleum-based and non-biodegradable polymers (the particles that make up materials such as plastics) that are currently being used to make a wide range of products such as in packaging and coatings. We just need to improve its toughness,” Dr Hameed said.

“The Indian organisations I will be working with have the unique expertise and equipment to successfully carry out this project.”

Using India as a case study Dr Jatrana’s project will look at the health impacts on the Indian population of the emigration of health professionals from India. It will also look at the regulatory and policy approaches with which migration of health professionals can be managed.

Dr Jatrana will work with her Indian research partners Professor Binod Khadaria from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Professor Zodpey from the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

“In the age of globalisation, health professionals have a clear human right to emigrate in search of a better life, however, this has an impact on their home country’s ability to meet its own health needs,” she said.

“Despite producing the largest number of health professionals, India has only 190 health workers per 100,000 persons which is well below the threshold recommended by the World Health Organisation. Yet India is also the top country of origin of migrant doctors in OECD countries with over 56,000 Indian doctors practising in just four OECD countries- US, UK, Canada and Australia.”

Furthering our understanding of how silk cocoons can be used to create protective materials and how protein from silk can be used in repairing perforated ear drums and bone defects will be the focus Dr Rajkhowa’s project.

“I will be working with Associate Professor Uptal Bora who heads the biotechnology and tissue engineering group at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) and has special skills in extracting protein from Indian wild silks which is important for our research,” Dr Rajkhowa said.

“The fellowship will provide us with access to a silkworm rearing and protein laboratory and combine the material and biotechnology skills of the Deakin and IIT Guwahati research teams to strengthen and expand silk biomaterial research for human health and developing green high performance materials such as stab resistant or extreme cool climate fabrics.”

Associate Professor CP Lim will use his fellowship to establish a research partnership with the Gandhigram Rural Institute-Deemed University, India.

“We will be working on an emerging field of artificial intelligence known as computational intelligence that could lead to innovative computerised decision support tools that are able to solve real-world problems in the medical and industrial areas,” Associate Professor Lim said.

Computational intelligence systems are designed to mimic human intelligence and are inspired by characteristics of the brain’s nervous system and how the human mind captures and processes imprecise and uncertain information contacted in our natural language.

“We will adapt these models of human thinking to design computerised tools that mimic human behaviours and capabilities in solving complex tasks such as learning, adapting and reasoning. These tools will be useful for decision support in complex problems, for example, helping doctors to make accurate and timely decisions in disease diagnosis based on patients’ symptoms and conditions. Other potential applications include fault detection of industrial machines and optimisation of manufacturing processes,” Associate Professor Lim said.

The Australia-India fellowships are supported by a $1million grant from the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education through the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund. The Fund is jointly managed and funded by the governments of Australia and India.

News facts
  • Four researchers awarded Australia-India Fellowships
  • Fellowships will see researchers spending time in India collaborating on projects that will explore natural plastics to replace those made from petroleum; develop ways of using silk to repair perforated ear drums and bone defects; enhance our nderstanding of the impact of health workforce imbalance in India; and design computer systems to mimic human intelligence for use in medical prognosis and diagnosis and in manufacturing fault detection.
  • The research projects are relevant to both countries and will further Deakin's strong international ties with India

Media contact

Mandi O'Garretty
Deakin Media Relations
03 5227 2776; 0418 361 890

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22nd October 2012