An RMIT University PhD researcher was a big winner at the 2016 Victorian International Education Awards, taking out two Student of the Year awards.
Jessica Pandohee, from RMIT’s School of Science, was named International Student of the Year (Research), and also received the coveted Premier’s Award for overall International Student of the Year.
Now in their fourth year, the Victorian International Education Awards comprise seven student categories and seven provider categories, as well as two overall Premier’s awards.
The awards were presented in a ceremony at Government House by Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, Philip Dalidakis, on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.
Since completing secondary school in Mauritius, Pandohee has attained a Diploma in Science and Bachelor of Forensic Science (Honours) and is now studying a PhD in Applied Chemistry at RMIT.
A collaborative endeavour with two industry organisations, Victoria Police and CSIRO, her project aims to analyse key components for forensic science, food, agriculture and biology.
Pandohee said she was very impressed with the other nominees and felt privileged to be selected as a finalist.
“Winning the two awards is a huge achievement for me – it is still sinking in,” she said.
“This gives me more confidence for the next step in my career as a researcher.
"The awards will help me develop links with groups in other universities and research institutes.
“I believe that working in collaboration with researchers in other fields will enable us to look at new approaches to solving some of the world’s most difficult problems such as the food, water and energy crisis."
Pandohee said she was attracted to study at RMIT because of the potential for strong industry involvement and hands-on work experience.
Describing her experience at RMIT as “fulfilling”, she said she had been able to develop into an independent researcher capable of using her knowledge and research skills to tackle real world challenges.
“My supervisor, Dr Oliver Jones, has been an excellent mentor and trainer, guiding my research in the right direction and assisting me with thesis preparation,” she said.
“It has been a great experience to work with one of the best researchers in metabolomics and analytical chemistry."
Pandohee hopes to develop as a research leader and to use her chemistry expertise to address global problems and improve quality of life.
“I also want to enhance the education experience of young people, especially women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who are hoping to attain senior roles in their field."
Pandohee said she enjoys the platforms RMIT offers to enable students to develop transferable skills such as leadership, cross-cultural awareness and adaptability.
“My student experience at RMIT has encouraged me to be involved in extra-curricular activities,” she said.
“I mentor new students settling into Melbourne and help them to connect with other students and people outside of the University, and I also volunteer as an ambassador through RMIT’s Global Mobility Program, Student Ambassador Program and Vacation and Internship Fair.”
RMIT’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Science, Engineering and Health and Vice-President, Professor Peter Coloe, praised Pandohee’s achievement.
“Jessica’s work has been outstanding,” he said.
“She exemplifies RMIT’s commitment to innovative research that has the potential to make a positive impact on society, while also working on projects to make a difference in the international student and wider community.”
The annual awards acknowledge the significant, unique and diverse contribution which international education providers and students make to Victoria.
Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade Philip Dalidakis reiterated the importance of the sector to Victoria’s overall trade revenues.
“A thriving international education sector changes people’s lives for the better, while also generating jobs and economic growth for this State,” he said.
“Congratulations to all of this year’s winners. I look forward to seeing the award-winning students go from strength to strength.”
Story: Pauline Charleston