Deakin researcher Nisa Salim knocked back prestigious scholarship offers in Dublin and Germany when she chose to come to Deakin in 2008.
Both personally and professionally, it is a move she has never regretted.
Her work to discover smarter ways to deliver therapeutic drugs to affected parts of the body has won her the Early Career Researcher award at the Smart Geelong Network Researcher of the Year awards.
And after coming to Deakin she started working with the man who would become her husband, Dr Nishar Hameed, the winner of the same award last year.
"When I finished my Masters, I had the offers from Dublin and from the Max Planck Institute in Germany," Nisa explained.
"My background was in chemistry but my supervisors in India, Professor Sabu Thomas and Dr Ratheesh R, they wanted me to work in polymers, and Professor Thomas knew of Nishar Hameed, who had just come to Deakin.
"He suggested I contact him, which I did. In turn Nishar suggested I contact his supervisor, Professor Qipeng Guo.
"I got a very encouraging reply - and so quickly - from Qipeng I thought this is the person I want to supervise me so I applied for an international scholarship to Deakin.
"When I got it I just forgot about the other Universities."
Soon Nisa and Nishar were working alongside each other in the same laboratory.
"He was very good about showing me how to use some of the very complex machines we have at Deakin, and well, the rest is history," Nisa said with a smile.
They went home to India for the wedding and everyone at Deakin’s Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (ITRI) turned out for a huge party to wish them all the best.
"This is really the great thing about my coming to Deakin," she said.
"We do have the good research, but it is the people that make it special.
"They were very welcoming from the time I first arrived."
Now happily based in Highton, Nisa is originally from Southern India, Kochi in Kerala. Initially her parents didn’t want to study outside India.
"But we had neighbours who had experience of Australia," Nisa said.
"They told my parents that it wasn’t just about the education in Australia, that it was a peaceful place and that there so many other wonderful experiences to be had here.
"So they agreed to me coming."
Nisa's supervisor, Professor Guo, is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and one of Deakin’s most respected researchers. He holds Nisa in the highest regard, having predicted 12 months ago she would win this Early Career Researcher in 2011 when his former PhD student Nishar Hameed received the same award last year.
"Nisa is very hard working, very enthusiastic," he said.
"I congratulate her on this award and I think there will be many more to come. Her research is in a very important area for people all over the world."
Nisa's research looks at the use of biodegradable copolymers into which medicinal drugs can be placed.
"Because these containers are bio-degradable, they break down in the body and then the drugs are released," Nisa said.
"What we are looking at now are ways to make the carriers more stable and highly targeted for delivery."
Soon, more than Professor Guo and Dr Hameed may have good reason to be grateful that Nisa Salim chose Deakin.
Other Smart Geelong Researcher of the Year Award results include:
- Researcher of the Year – Professor Wei Duan, Deakin University
- Highly Commended – Dr Tania de Koning-Ward, Deakin University
- Smart Technology – Professor Wei Duan Biotechnology – Dr Tania de Koning-Ward, Deakin University
- Health and Lifestyle – Dr Sarah Louise Shigdar, Deakin University
- Teaching and Learning – Dr Shanti Wong, Geelong Regional LLEN
- Animal Health – Dr Michelle Baker, AAHL
- Living with a disability – Eileen Moore, Barwon Health