Embrace change – the Deakin India Research Initiative journey

For my earliest memories as a child growing up in a small town in the northeast of India, I dreamt about becoming a scientist. And now that dream is a reality thanks to Deakin University and specifically the Deakin India Research Initiative (DIRI).

After completing my Bachelor of Science at Gauhati University, where I majored in zoology, and then a master’s in biotechnology at Bangalore University, I leapt into my PhD with great enthusiasm. My project on ‘surface functionalisation of magnesium alloys for use as bio-implants’ was in the field of biomaterials with a touch of engineering and metallurgy. I found it difficult at first as there were so many new definitions and concepts to understand, but I received immense support from my supervisors and mentors at Deakin.

Dolly (right) with her labmates at the Institute of Frontier Materials (IFM) after a lab meeting

Dolly (right) with her labmates at the Institute of Frontier Materials (IFM) after a lab meeting

Through DIRI, I started my PhD at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad for two years and then moved to Australia, where I was located at the Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) on Deakin’s beautiful Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus. Here I was able to carry out my research with world-leading researchers such as my supervisor/mentor Professor Peter Hodgson, using world-class facilities.

A highlight of my PhD years was the opportunity to attend the New Jersey Symposium on Biomaterials Science with the help of a DIRI travel fund that supports all students to attend international conferences. I felt I had really achieved something when I received the award for the best poster presentation at the Symposium. In 2013, I had another opportunity to present my work to the scientific community at the ISSIB IV international conference in Rome.

Dolly (right) won first place for her poster presentation in the 11th New Jersey Symposium on Biomaterials Science: "Bioactive scaffolds - from the nano to the macro scale" in October 2012

Dolly (right) won first place for her poster presentation in the 11th New Jersey Symposium on Biomaterials Science: “Bioactive scaffolds – from the nano to the macro scale” in October 2012

The days I spent in Geelong were extraordinary. Deakin opened up a whole new world for me ― a world of wisdom, knowledge and self-realisation. I felt secure in the natural paradise that is Geelong.

My accommodation was a spacious room in the beautiful Reformed Theological College (RTC), where I shared kitchen duties and formed friendships, which I’m sure will be lifelong, with students from many other countries. The meals were sumptuous and welcomed after our long days.

To keep myself occupied during my free time I started swimming lessons and overcame my fear of deep water to become a confident swimmer. With the availability of public transport and Indian shops in almost every corner of the city, life was very easy and I never had the opportunity to miss my own country. Eventually, I met my Australian family and from then on I spent time with them every weekend. I started travelling to and exploring nearby places and also have some wonderful memories of time spent in Sydney and on the Gold Coast.

Taking part in Deakin Diwali celebrations brought the dancer in me back to action. I even choreographed a duet performance which, to my surprise, led to invitations to perform at other Indian celebrations in Geelong.

It is impossible to describe my incredible journey with DIRI and Deakin in a few words. I left Deakin and Australia with a heavy heart but with fond memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It is a chapter that I will always look back on with a smile.

I feel proud when I tell people at home that I have researched bone regeneration and that in a small way, my work will help people suffering from orthopaedic disorders to lead better lives. And with four publications from my PhD research in some of the topmost orthopaedic journals, my work has already received international recognition.

Although I have not yet found a position that uses my skills and qualifications, I am confident that the training I have received during my PhD puts me in a good place to compete for many interesting jobs, whether it be research in academia, industry or in government.

For anyone who is thinking about taking a place with DIRI and studying in Australia, I would definitely recommend it. Embrace change and life will change for the better!

For further information about studying at Deakin and to view the many degrees on offer, visit our international student page. Or ask us a question by visiting our international student enquiry page – we’re happy to help you get to know Deakin better.

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