An Indian diabetes disease-biology expert who works closely with Deakin has won a prestigious Australian Government Award.
Dr Muthuswamy Balasubramanyam, Dean of Research Studies and Senior Scientist with India’s Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF), Chennai is one of eighteen Australia Awards Endeavour Ambassadors recently appointed to champion Australian Government Scholarships across the South Asia region.
Deakin University and MDRF established a partnership in 2013 with the aim of promoting diabetes research and education in the Asia Pacific region.
The Australia Awards-Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships are an annual competitive Australian Government awards program for high-achieving students, researchers and professionals from around the world to study in Australia or participate in professional development.
The Australia Awards-Endeavour Ambassadors Initiative recognises the valuable contribution of these alumni in raising the profile of Australia as a high quality study destination.
Dr Balasubramanyam was the recipient of an Endeavour Executive Fellowship in 2015 and spent a month at Deakin as part of the award.
“For scientists, visiting other countries and sharing our work provides unique opportunities and advantages, and boosts our confidence and international competency,” he said.
“We learn more about our research areas and gain new skills, expand our global network of contacts in our areas of specialisation and this paves the way for ideal collaborative research avenues to mutually benefit our institutions and countries”.
“Such networking and cooperation are extremely valuable, not only for sharing information on new approaches and resources but also for acquiring specialised and new expertise”.
“My visit to Deakin through the Endeavour Executive Fellowship paved the way for my research interactions with Dr Yann Gibert from the School of Medicine and continues to produce ‘legacy nature’ research collaborations.”
One of those collaborations with Dr Gibert, who is known for his work into possible links between the compound Bisphenol A (BPA) and metabolic disorders, is joint supervision of students under Deakin’s unique in-country PhD program.
Under the program, Indian students enrolled as Deakin PhD candidates are based at MDRF with day-to-day supervision provided by MDRF researchers.
Deakin academics serve as principal supervisors for the students’ research and the students also complete part of their PhD working at Deakin in Australia.
Dr Balasubramanyam’s and Dr Gibert’s student, Mr Avinash Soundara Rajan, is investigating the impact of BPA on the human endocrine system and the role it may play in insulin secretion and the development of diabetes.
Mr Rajan will arrive at Deakin in March and will be working on a zebrafish animal model in order to gain new biology insights for his PhD.
Dr Balasubramanyam said the in-country PhD program had benefits for students and the supervisors in both countries, with supervisors also learning from each other and sharing ideas about their own research projects.
“Science has increasingly become a collaborative endeavour due to its growing complexity and the increasing specialisation of scientists,” he said.
“Sharing specialised reagents, techniques, equipment and expertise among international scientists is needed not only to improve the quality and enhance the progress of the work.
“It is often also a necessity because of the extremely high costs linked to present day scientific research which is driven by ever-increasing technological and instrumental advances.
“Scientometric analysis on international research collaboration, with special reference to India, emphasises a high degree of correlation between collaboration and research productivity in terms of high-impact publications, optimal utilisation of financial implications, and effective infrastructure and human resources sharing.
“It is also clear from several studies that a substantial percentage of successful publication in high impact journals depended on international collaboration and best possible involvement of the complementary dynamics of international collaborative research.”
Dr Balasubramanyam said he planned to use his role as an Australia Awards Endeavour Ambassador to raise awareness in India of the higher education opportunities available in Australia and the value of international collaboration.
“I am sure this vital information is least known amidst students, researchers and professionals from India,” Dr Balasubramanyam said.
“It is also true that for such a big and diversified country like India, there are only limited scholarship and fellowship opportunities globally at the higher education level.
“My role as an Australia Awards Ambassador is to visit leading research and higher education institutions to present and discuss the scholarships and fellowships offered by the Australian Government to Indian students, faculty and administrators.”
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Dr Muthuswamy Balasubramanyam with Ms Harinder Sidhu, Australia's High Commissioner to India.