A Deakin PhD graduate’s passion for medical research has led him from his home in India to Australia and now to the United States.
Growing up in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands off India as the son of two well-known clinicians, Dr Ajay Ashok was always intrigued by the way things work, especially in medicine. What intrigued him even more was the way things work on a microscopic, or even smaller, scale.
It was this curiosity that led him away from the small group of islands in order to further his education.
“There are not a lot of colleges and academic options on the islands, so students have to come to ‘mainland’ India to pursue their dreams,” Dr Ashok explained.
After graduating as a biotechnologist from SRM University in India in 2009, Dr Ashok researched nanoparticle-based drug delivery for his master’s degree in medical nanotechnology at India’s SASTRA University.
Last year he completed his PhD in Australia at Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials and School of Medicine under Dr Rupinder Kanwar and Prof Jagat Kanwar.
With his field of research involving clinical pathologies – chiefly cardiovascular diseases, nanotechnology and drug delivery techniques – the focus of Dr Ashok’s PhD was developing innovative and safe nanoformulations to address site specific delivery of natural and safe proteins and drugs for treatment of heart failure and myocardial ischemia.
His research found that both the proteins and their nanoformulation counterparts exhibited immense potential for translation into cardioregenerative therapies.
“Nanotechnology-based drug delivery and protein functionality, when put together, have a synergistic clinically beneficial effect that holds immense potential for unprecedented therapies in various pathologies,” Dr Ashok said.
Now, Dr Ashok has secured a postdoctoral position at one of the United States’ top universities, Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
Ranked among the top 33 private research universities in the United States (by The Centre for Measuring University Performance, Arizona) and 133 in the world (Times Higher Education), Case Western Reserve is associated with 16 Nobel laureates, many of them in medicine.
Dr Ashok joins the University as a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Pathology (School of Medicine) where he will work on ocular pathology and the role of trace metals, with a primary focus on diabetic retinopathy.
“I hope to flourish as a medical researcher and contribute more to the scientific community through publications and novel research work,” Dr Ashok said.
“We are all here for a reason and I would like to believe that I am here to deliver what is expected of me as a researcher in the field of medicine.”
Dr Ashok said he was excited about his new position and grateful to Deakin for the opportunity to study in his chosen area of research.
“The research environment at Deakin is commendable and inspires scholars to undertake comprehensive study on various topics in different fields, ranging from medicine to engineering.
“This helped me augment my research as it involved both medical research and nanotechnology (engineering), which presented a novel avenue to my data.”
Deakin has almost 500 international higher degree by research students from over 50 countries and offers opportunities for overseas students to study in Australia or their home country. The University was recently ranked among the world’s “most international universities” by Times Higher Education, acknowledging the high priority it places on internationalisation and global education.
“Deakin gave me the skills required to help me prosper and be successful in the scientific arena and helped me grow as a scientist and as an individual,” Dr Ashok said.
“I am grateful to my supervisors, Dr Rupinder Kanwar and Prof Jagat Kanwar, who encouraged me to follow my passion and guided me with their knowledge in the field.”
The Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) at Deakin University was established to address some of the major challenges facing society through innovations in materials design and performance. We make use of the University's strong research capability in materials science to tackle complex problems in the areas of energy, health, environment and manufacturing.View Website