Cover Story

The University of Queensland–
IIT Delhi Academy of Research (UQIDAR)

The University of Queensland (UQ), a top international university, and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD), an Institute of Eminence, have joined forces to create a joint PhD program that allows scholars to deliver global impact. To build a long-term, sustainable partnership, UQ and IITD have established the joint UQ–IITD Academy of Research – UQIDAR. UQIDAR attracts the best global talent – high-achieving students and academicians – to work on goal-directed, cross-disciplinary challenges of interest to Australia, India, and the world. Disciplines include agriculture, architecture, business management, engineering, computer technologies, medicine, science, and mathematics.

The collaboration also involves strong industry links, bridging the gap between academia and industry. It allows for a mobility fellowship scheme enabling fellows to spend time at each institute and will offer early career-development opportunities. The UQIDAR students spend time in both India and Australia. Students from India typically spend three years at IIT Delhi and one year at UQ and students from Australia spend three years at UQ and one year at IIT Delhi. Students of the academy receive a generous scholarship, enjoy world-class resources, and gain exposure to a fresh research ecosystem, apart from benefiting from global expertise via dual supervision. Finally, they will receive a joint international qualification from both institutions (UQ and IITD) at the end of four years. The programme has already attracted over 85 top PhD scholars in various disciplines. At a steady state, the target for the UQIDAR is to have approximately 300 students enrolled in the joint PhD programme. The programme fulfils all 3 I’s of importance to IIT Delhi – Internationalization, Interdisciplinary Research and Industry connect.

In the subsequent section, we provide a glimpse of some of the ongoing PhD projects of the UQIDAR scholars and their experience in this program.

Sudeep’s research on “Influence and drought and river regulation on macroinvertebrate communities in Goulburn River, Australia” evaluates the water required to sustain river ecosystems, using macroinvertebrates as indicators. The research project combines hydrology, morphology, and river ecology to understand river regulation and climate change and its impact on the Goulburn River in Australia.

In Sudeep’s words, “My PhD at IIT Delhi has been a great learning experience. The coursework and atmosphere provided me with a great opportunity to interact with colleagues from other departments and understand the process of research. The UQIDAR’s research program offers an opportunity like no other for developing your research interests with the supervision of the most experienced faculty.”

Sudeep Banad​

Impact of changing flood characteristics on river morphology
Supervisors: Yongping Wei (UQ), Dhanya CT (IITD)

Madhumita Ramakrishna

Student classroom behavioural issues in India and digital health behaviour management intervention for teachers
Supervisors: Matthew Bambling (UQ), Purnima Singh (IITD)

Madhumita’s work focuses on creating a “Digital Teacher-Training Program” that equips teachers in the senior secondary division to address classroom behavioural concerns in adolescents. They hope that this digital intervention will reduce dependency and help overcome logistical and psychological barriers in seeking help. The goal is to make teachers in tier-2 and tier-3 cities self-reliant for prompt redressal of behavioural concerns.

“My experience at UQIDAR has been terrific. The faculty has been incredibly supportive of the project’s pace and our ability to complete it amidst the pandemic. They are genuinely driven to the cause and engagement for the growth of the program.”

Vallari’s research aims to develop a cost-effective, environmentally friendly process to utilize sugarcane bagasse, to produce high-value chemicals, including biofuels. The utilization of sugarcane bagasse provides a renewable low-cost alternative to fossil fuels, creating a sustainable process with zero net CO2 emissions.

“At IITD and UQ, the continuous guidance from my supervisors has been very helpful in progressing my project. The leadership of UQIDAR is driven to create a mark globally. They are involved with the students at every level and with this momentum, we will soon become a success story for both institutes.”

Vallari R. Chourasia

Catalytic conversion of sugarcane bagasse into aromatics and high-value platform chemicals
Supervisors: Robert Henry (UQ), KK Pant (IITD)

Mayuri Kashyap

Terahertz spectroscopy and imaging in quantitative assessment of plant hydration towards implementing optimised irrigation management in Australia and India
Supervisors: Aleksander Rakić (UQ), Amartya Sengupta (IITD)

Mayuri’s research deals with the dynamics of plant yield with water using Terahertz (THz) spectroscopic and imaging techniques. The project aims at developing algorithms and protocols using THz and ML for a commercially viable system to monitor hydration content in plants for an efficient irrigation process.

“UQIDAR not only offers state of the art research facilities but also helps its students develop an integrated approach with its interdisciplinary projects. Moreover, with predefined project objectives and a stipulated timeline, it provides an ambient atmosphere for building cultural bridges with research, innovation, and exchange between two esteemed institutes, which is the most beneficial for students when compared with other PhD programs.”

Simran’s research seeks to address challenges to social acceptance of renewable energy technologies and provide answers to pressing issues on expediting the energy transition. It will incorporate insights from three stakeholders- the communities impacted by large-scale renewable projects, the consumers of renewable energy, and the policymakers bridging the gap between research and its application.

The IIT Delhi campus is vibrant, beautiful and a self-sustaining community buzzing with humble people. In line with popular perception, the academic life here is tough, but the struggle is all worth it. The constant support I get from my peers, friends, professors, and acquaintances is an invaluable resource.

Simran Agarwal

Examining the social acceptance of concentrated solar power (CSP) projects in India
Supervisors: Paul Lant, Vigya Sharma (UQ), Upasna Sharma (IITD)
IITD supervisor: Dr. Upasna Sharma

Alok Ray

Assessment and comparison of performance of thermal and electrical battery for renewable energy applications
Supervisors: Hal Gurgenci (UQ), Dibakar Rakshit (IITD) 

Alok’s project deals with designing high-temperature thermal batteries for renewable energy applications. He hopes to demonstrate the technology as an alternative to conventional Li-ion batteries in the energy storage spectrum.

“UQIDAR has set the correct advent tone. The administration is ever supportive of students’ needs, which is why the program will continue to grow stronger.”

Experiences

Hugo Esanto, Portugal

Kumaon Hostel 2019

When I entered my hostel room for the first time, I noticed that there was no mattress available. Already tired from jet lag, I approached the security guard and informed him that I have no mattress and no idea where to buy it. But I believe he didn’t understand what I was trying to convey, and as a typical Indian gesture, he started nodding. It was quite a funny incident when I look back on it now.

Prof. Lucinda Doyle

Assistant Professor in Department of Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology Research Interests: Electrochemically-active microorganisms

Being originally from Ireland, it’s a long way from home. But I completed my Ph.D. at Singapore Nanyang Technological University. There’s a huge Indian community at NTU from where I got to know many Indian people living there. I was in Singapore for seven years. So, through that, I became acquainted with the IIT system. And so, when I was approaching the end of my postdoc, I thought it would be interesting to apply to IIT Delhi because I saw a lot of the work they had been doing, and some of it was within my research area.

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