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Dr Abdullah Kafi, or Kafi to his many friends at Deakin, makes no bones about it: coming to the University has helped him fast-track his research career in a way that could not have happened anywhere else.
“If I had gone to other universities in Victoria, I would be nowhere near as advanced in my research career as I am now,” he says through his trademark smile.
“Deakin has taught me how to think independently and to solve complex science and industry relevant problems.
“I have learned how to manage multiple projects and deliver them within the set deadlines.
“I am also now able to supervise students to help them to meet deadlines and achieve success.
“Another very important thing that coming to Deakin has allowed me to do is to establish and maintain collaborations around the world.
“I am a great believer in collaboration with fellow researchers and with industry.”
Kafi's involvement with industry began at an early age.
"I spent a significant period of my childhood within an industry environment as my father worked with the Bangladesh Jute Mills corporation for more than 30 years," he said.
"He was a General Manager who retired as the Project Head of a jute yarn and fabrics production plant with a capacity of 100 tons per month.
"My father had more than 10,000 people working for him and as a family we enjoyed the company car and bungalow for quite a long time."
Kafi graduated from Shah Jalal University of Science and Technology in Bangladesh in 2004 with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering and Polymer Science,
He worked on a fibreglass sizing project funded by a composite manufacturing company for two years before joining Deakin in 2006 to undertake his PhD which he obtained in 2010.
He then obtained a highly prestigious Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellowship, something that allowed him to continue working with Associate Professor Bronwyn Fox.
“Bronwyn was my PhD supervisor and I have worked as her Postdoc since 2010,” Kafi said.
“Undoubtedly her contribution to my career has been significant.”
Kafi’s PhD centred on tailoring the interfacial properties of low cost composites using the Quickstep (an Australian patented technology) and Semi-industrial scale Atmospheric Pressure Plasma treatment process.
As one of Deakin’s growing band of world class carbon fibre experts, he is now looking at developing surface finishes in collaboration with eminent researchers around the world.
He is also developing standard test methods and operation procedure for Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursors and carbon fibres to run advanced characterisation facilities like the Surface Energy Analyser and FAVIMAT+ automated fibre tester at Deakin.
Because there are no universal standards for the testing of carbon fibre, Kafi is helping the new Carbon Nexus research team to take the lead in a global push to establish own standard test methods. He is also a part of the Round Robin Test programme with a United States laboratory, a project initiated by Associate Professor Fox.
Having taken out Australian citizenship, and set up home with his wife and son in Highton, right next to the Waurn Ponds Campus, home of the Carbon Nexus facility, Kafi thinks of himself as a dinkum Deakin person these days.
“We are doing some pretty exciting things in carbon fibre at Deakin and I just feel privileged to be part of it,” he said.
“I have been able to have my research published in high quality journals expecting to submit few more papers on surface treatment and sizing by the end of this year.
“I always do my best to put the name of Deakin out there on the international stage in the best possible light.
“Happily I have been able to attract industry professionals to the University and also to source un-sized carbon fibres."
Given the whole carbon fibre industry is locked up by Intellectual Property issues this too is a considerable achievement for Kafi and his colleagues at Deakin.
Kafi’s enthusiasm for collaborations is infectious.
He works with fellow Deakin researchers, colleagues at CSIRO and Monash University in Victoria and internationally in Italy, the USA and the United Kingdom.
Last year he was invited to give talks for undergraduate students at the University of Sheffield and for Professor Jim Thomason’s research group at the University of Strathclyde.
“Where ever I go in the world, I am finding more and more people who are not only interested in what we are doing at Deakin in carbon fibre, but people who want to work with us,” Kafi says.
“I am always proud to tell them about our work, to do what I can to promote Deakin, because Deakin has done so much for my career.
“It’s been a great collaboration too, Deakin and me!”