The first two PhD candidates from RMIT's joint research centre with the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have officially graduated.
Dr Manu Agarwal and Dr Praneeth Koppineni are the first to graduate from the PhD program offered by the RMIT-IICT Joint Research Centre in Hyderabad.
They attended the Melbourne Graduation Ceremony held at Docklands Stadium in December last year, where they were accompanied by Centre Joint Directors Professor Suresh Bhargava and Dr Lakshmi Kantam.
Also in attendance were six other PhD students from the program, who are currently completing 12 months of their study at RMIT's City campus.
The graduation event also provided an occasion to celebrate the successes of the first two graduates at a dinner hosted by Professor Bhargava, Deputy Pro Vice- Chancellor (International), RMIT College of Science, Engineering and Health, with special guest Dr Kantam, Director of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) at the IICT.
Both graduates' achievements were of high standard, with Dr Agarwal being named the 2014 recipient of the Dr Megan Clark Excellence Award while Dr Koppineni was awarded the 2014 Perkin Elmer Prize by the College of Science, Engineering and Health.
Dr Agarwal investigated municipal solid waste and pyrolysis – a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen. Using municipal solid waste as a renewable energy source through pyrolysis can address global crisis relating to energy and municipal waste management.
Dr Koppineni, who was also the recipient of the Young Chemical Engineer in Academia Award from the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), conducted research into water and environmental technology with a focus on applications of membrane separations technology for water purification.
Professor Bhargava said the RMIT-IICT Joint Research Centre reinforced the depth of the University's relationship with India, which continued to grow from strength to strength through innovative collaborative research opportunities and cross-cultural study exchange.
"To date, this collaboration has resulted in an ARC Linkage grant, an Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) Grand Challenge grant, Indian National overseas scholarships, Endeavour scholarships, Victorian Government Department of State Development, Business and Innovation scholarships and Australian Academy of Science Fellowships," he said.
"It is anticipated that these successes will provide a platform for further developments and activities as part of the next stage of the PhD program, which will enrol another five students into the program."
Dr Kantam said the current model of the PhD program was extremely successful and had attracted a lot of interest from across the globe.
"Many people from different parts of the world have asked me about our joint research centre and want to copy the model," she said.
"The model works because students and institutions benefit enormously from having PhD supervisors both at IICT and at RMIT in Melbourne.
"It is designed to cultivate and attract the best research talent in India, and facilitate very promising candidates to work directly with RMIT scientists from the College of Science, Engineering and Health.
"Under the current model the students spend a portion of their final year (up to12 months) in Melbourne carrying out aspects of their projects that can be better facilitated in Australia than in India.
"Such interaction and collaboration significantly broadens the scope of work and experience of students and supervisors both at RMIT and in India.
"It also extends the reach that each party has into industry within each country for research funding."
The RMIT-IICT Joint Research Centre was established in 2011 to produce real world graduates with extensive global experience.
To date, 20 candidates have been enrolled by RMIT in the joint venture.
The main strategic objective of the centre is to recruit highly talented and outstanding young researchers to perform research in the fields of energy, resource utilisation, water treatment and re-utilisation, air pollution control, nanotechnology, nano-biotechnology and strengthen the University's relationship with India in a sustainable way.