Professor Suresh Kumar Bhargava, AM: Queen’s Birthday Honours 2022

For significant service to tertiary education, and to Australia-India relations.

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“I feel incredibly happy that my adopted country has recognised my 30 years of work and effort. It’s a great feeling,” Professor Suresh Kumar Bhargava of the RMIT University told Indian Link.

A distinguished professor at top universities in six countries, he is the founding Director of the Centre for Advanced Materials and Industrial Chemistry (CAMIC), a multidisciplinary research centre for nanotechnology and sensing, molecular engineering, nano-biotechnology, applied electrochemistry, industrial chemistry, and supramolecular chemistry.

For his ground-breaking work in his field, Prof. Bhargava holds 12 relevant patents, including one for engineering gold-based molecules for the treatment of cancer.

Much of his research has also looked into air pollution control in a big move towards sustainable solutions.

“I’m a strong believer that what we take from nature is a loan from the next generation,” he elaborated. “So it was important to look into ways to leave this a better place than we got it. For example, we developed a nanotechnology mercury sensor for industrial use, to measure and monitor mercury in the toxic smoke emissions from refineries.”

He has formally advised the Commonwealth Government and numerous industries on environmental issues. Some of his industrial consultations include Rio Tinto, Alcoa, Reliance Industries, Bharat Petroleum, and Australian Alumina Council.

“It’s all about taking your mind to the marketplace and finding ways to translate research into practical applications that can help the wider community. Research with responsibility,” he added.

In his three-decade career, Prof. Bhargava has won some of the most prestigious awards in engineering. He is the first RMIT researcher ever to receive the RMIT University Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award twice. He is also the only Australian scientist to be granted the ‘P.C. Ray Chair’ by the Indian National Science Academy.

In 2009, he was conferred DSc (Honoris Causa) by Rajasthan University, presented by then President of India Pratibha Patil, for his significant contributions to chemical technology.

The passion in his voice is clear as he describes his early days in the country. Shortly after finishing his PhD in the UK, he moved here in 1983 to take up a research fellowship at the Australian National University.

“It was difficult to adjust at first. In the ‘80s, most Australians knew India for spices and cricket, but I found they were keen to learn more about the country,” Prof. Bhargava recalled.

It was the first step in his lifelong commitment to connecting India and Australia. Over the years, he’s advised numerous Australian officials on Indo-Australian relations, including being invited to Canberra to meet with PM Kevin Rudd ahead of his trip to India in 2009. When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first trip to Australia in 2014, Prof. Bhargava was among the attendees at the event at MCG.

Suresh Kumar Bhargava AM with Mr S Jaishankar, India's Minister for External Affairs
Prof. Suresh Bhargava with Mr S Jaishankar, India’s Minister for External Affairs (Source: Supplied)

But perhaps his fondest memories remain his interactions with former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“I got to spend time with him, six weeks in fact, in an advisory capacity and it’s left a lasting impression on me. In 1997, I was lucky enough to interview him for a segment with SBS and I still remember the date – it was the 23rd of March,” he elaborated.

Prof. Suresh Bhargava has been a founding architect of the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund and more recently, he developed an award-winning Global PhD program that connects RMIT with 39 CSIRO laboratories in India, providing a platform for collaborative research and engagement between Indian and Australian academics.

“From the time I moved to Australia till date, I remain deeply connected with India,” he said. “We’re incredibly pleased to have 70 graduates enrolled in the program at the moment. Through this joint research program, we’re training the next generation of scientists.”

In fact, he adds, one of the most important aspects of his career has been his role as mentor.

“I always tell my students that age is not a barrier to making discoveries,” he explained, having supervised more than 60 PhDs so far.

As he looks back at the relationship between India and Australia over the years, Prof. Bhargava remains optimistic.

“There was once a perception that India had a lot to learn from Australia, but as recent developments have shown, the time has come that India can offer a lot too,” he confirmed.

READ ALSO: Dr Marlene Kanga, AO: Queen’s Birthday Honours, 2022

Rhea L Nath
Rhea L Nath
Rhea L Nath is a writer and editor based in Sydney. In 2022, she was named Young Journalist of the Year at the NSW Premier's Multicultural Communications Awards.

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