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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Another milestone for Indian academic

Reading Time: 4 minutesEminent academic Prof Bhargava takes his extensive expertise to Malaysia, writes Usha Ramanujam Arvind
 

Suresh with VC of UoMalaya-website
Suresh with VC of University of Malaya

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) Suresh K Bhargava, has been recently appointed as the visiting professor at University of Malaya, the top institution of higher learning in Malaysia.
The appointment is part of the Academic Icon Program, an initiative to bring world-renowned scientists and highly cited researchers to collaborate in high-impact research programs at the university.
Prof Bhargava, who has several patents and hundreds of research papers, will bring his extensive expertise in chemical industry to the National Center of Excellence Nanotechnology and Catalysis Research Centre (NANOCAT). He will be directly involved in programs related to green productions using catalysts, carbon di-oxide utilisations and nanotechnology.
Over the past three decades, the distinguished academic has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the design, construction and operation of large-scale industrial plants. His groundbreaking contribution however, has been the incorporation of sustainable business practices in this sector. Prof Bhargava’s research focus has been in the niche areas of industrial chemistry and advanced material sciences, specialising in gold nanoparticles, broader nanoscience and technology, with a view to facilitate their use in medical formulations, as well as mercury removal from industrial waste.
Furthermore, his research in the field of catalytic wet oxidation was the trigger for ‘a number of acclaimed innovations within the Australian chemical industry in fields as diverse as the removal of organics from Bayer Process by CWAO in alumina refineries, mercury detection and removal from large scale industrial plant production, odour abatement from Alumina Refinery Condensate, rejuvenation of car exhaust catalysts, and waste treatment in magnesium sulphate from Nickel Laterite processing’.
He is also the recipient of the largest number of industrial collaborative research grants in excess of $15 million over the past decade.
“My association with UoM will provide RMIT with a platform to engage students, educators, researchers, governments, business and industry from around the world,” Prof Bhargava told Indian Link.
RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO, stated this latest honour would further reinforce RMIT’s commitment to become a global university of technology and design, with presences in key cities around the world.
“Professor Bhargava has already demonstrated his commitment to strengthening RMIT’s global reputation through the establishment of the RMIT-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) Centre in 2011,” she said.
“His appointment as Visiting Professor at the University of Malaya further extends our global physical and virtual presence, and I would like to congratulate Prof Bhargava on his efforts to support RMIT’s Internationalisation Plan,” she added.
As an academic high-flier, prestigious awards have marked Prof Bhargava’s illustrious career pathway, which began in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. He won a national scholarship to undertake his Masters from Meerut University, and completed the programme while he was only 18. He was then offered a place in the PhD programme at University of Exeter through the Commonwealth Academic Staff scholarship. He was the only one to represent India at the elite programme.
Examined by Nobel Laureate Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson, Prof Bhargava not only completed the course in two and a half years, but also published fifteen academic papers in the top international journals and was declared ‘Best International PhD student’.
Prof Bhargava was invited to take up a research fellowship at Australian National University in 1983. He subsequently moved to the fuel technology division of CSIRO at Lucas Height Research Laboratories NSW, before joining the faculty at the RMIT in 1990. He became a full professor and chair of industrial chemistry at RMIT in 1999.
He instituted a ‘multidisciplinary research platform at RMIT to include research into uranium processing, water quality, catalytic wet oxidation, nanoscience and technology, bio-nanotechnology, electrochemistry, homo- and heterogeneous catalysis, sensor design and engineering and fundamental materials science’.
A Fellow of Royal Australian Chemical Institute, Royal Society of Chemistry London, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering & Chemical Research Society of India, he is also a visiting professor at Tokyo University and Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore.
He has been a recipient of numerous academic, research and industrial citations including Ralph Mcintosh medal for service to students, Worley Parsons Award, RK Murphy Medal, RMIT Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award, CSIRO outstanding research contribution award, Golden West medal for innovative research, AGR Matthey Gold medal for outstanding contribution in the field applied gold chemistry, as well as being repeatedly honoured by RMIT in various capacities. Prof Bhargava also won the research excellence, innovation and teaching awards for seven consecutive years.
A scientific advisor to the Indian government, Prof Bhargava has also driven significant partnerships between India and Australia in the past decade. In this context, he was invited by Kevin Rudd to a discussion on national environmental research and collaborations with India.
His initiative and efforts have resulted in the founding of IICT-RMIT Joint Research Centre. The newly established centre allows researchers to work on projects such as ‘catalysis for green chemistry, advanced materials and renewable energy, processes for water quality monitoring and waste water treatment, control of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and bio-nanotechnology’. The collaboration has resulted in numerous joint patents being filed in frontier areas.
Prof Bhargava also spearheaded the Australia-India joint symposium on smart nano materials, bringing together key Australian and Indian researchers together on a single platform to promote collaboration between the two countries in the area of nanotechnology.
The RMIT-India collaborations have also led to the Indian government establishing a doctoral scholarship for an Indian student to study in Australia. As well, a number of memorandums of understanding have been signed with several leading Indian universities.
Prof Bhargava was recently bestowed CRSI Medal, one of the most prestigious science awards in India and is the only overseas recipient so far.
His global engagement activities with India were further recognised when he was awarded the 2012-2013 Australia-India Senior Visiting Fellowship, a program organised jointly by the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and the Australian Academy of Science (AAS).
In addition, the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria (FIAV) also recognised his contributions to the Indian community.
Prof Bhargava is very upbeat on the future of chemical industry. “The outlook is good for the future and various new rounds of research grants also have been introduced by Australia-India Strategic Research Fund in various areas of science, including chemical sciences,” he stated.
However this picture is clearly not rosy at the ground level in India, where more work needs to be done, he indicated. He now looks to effect significant changes in India’s chemical dye industry, one of the most polluted sectors in the world. Professor Bhargava will work closely with the sector to suggest cost effective and sustainable solutions.

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