The right balance

19 March 2014

Victoria India Scholarship winner Neha Rathi has chosen Deakin for her doctorate in adolescent nutrition.

A prestigious scholarship has brought Indian postgraduate Ms Neha Rathi to Deakin so that she can pursue her passion for improving the diet of Indian adolescents at doctoral level.

Ms Rathi has been awarded a prestigious $90,000 Victoria India Doctoral (VID) Scholarship (2014) to undertake the three-year Deakin doctorate.

The award was announced by Victoria’s Minister for Employment and Trade, Ms Louise Asher, at an alumni networking event in Mumbai, India. At the presentation, Ms Asher said that Victoria is “the leading Australian destination for Indian students, with around 45 per cent of all Indian students in Australia studying in the state.”

For her PhD Ms Rathi will focus on the nutritional habits of adolescents within India’s private school system.

Ms Rathi became concerned at the private school students’ dietary habits while she undertook three years of secondary teaching in India.

“I saw that the children were not getting adequate nutrients for their needs,” she said. “Adolescence is an important transition time, where young people need lots of nutrients. The students were bringing in food from outside, such as pizza and noodles, which are high in calories, but low in protein and micronutrients, like iron and zinc.”

Ms Rathi will travel to India in the second year of her scholarship to undertake research in six private schools in Kolkata, West Bengal. She hopes to implement an intervention program within the schools, in a bid to improve the students’ dietary habits, as part of the PhD.

Ms Rathi arrived at Deakin in February to study in the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, with supervision from Professor Tony Worsley, Chair in Behavioural Nutrition. She chose Deakin because it so closely matched her research interests. “Very few people across the world are doing the type of research that Dr Worsley is doing.” she said.

The scholarship provides a $90,000 stipend over the duration of the doctoral studies and a full fee waiver from Deakin, where Ms Rathi joins a large community of Indian students. Since becoming the first university in the world to set up an office in India, in 1996, Deakin’s involvement in India has skyrocketed. Today, Indian students make up 11 per cent of our international student population, including almost 150 PhD students.

Ms Rathi was one of three VID scholarship recipients this year, with a total of 23 being awarded since inception. The program was set up to increase Victoria’s knowledge capital and enhance relations between India and Victoria by attracting “excellent Indian students and creating ambassadors to Victoria’s education system.”

So far, Ms Rathi says she is enjoying Australia. One of the biggest differences she has noticed is the entrenched use of the Internet and less reliance on “pen and paper,” which is making her research life much easier.

VID scholarship winner Neha Rathi completed her Masters in infant nutrition. VID scholarship winner Neha Rathi completed her Masters in infant nutrition.

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