The prestigious Shah Rukh Khan La Trobe University PhD Scholarship was today awarded to an Indian female researcher with a passion for improving farming practices through animal science, ecology and molecular studies.
PhD research student Gopika Kottantharayil Bhasi, from Thrissur in the southern state of Kerala, was chosen from more than 800 Indian women and received the four-year scholarship to LaTrobe University at a ceremony in Mumbai attended by La Trobe Chancellor, The Honourable John Brumby AO.
The La Trobe-funded PhD scholarship and La Trobe’s relationship with Mr Khan were made possible by La Trobe’s ten year partnership with the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne.
Gopika will be joining La Trobe’s research team who are discovering new techniques to protect the world’s honey bee population from viruses, pollutants and declining diversity in flora. Gopika will research a field-deployable diagnostic test for honey bee viruses and with the aim of developing therapies to aid honey bee health.
Mr Khan praised Gopika for her passion to find scientific solutions to challenges facing the world.
“I admire Gopika’s dedication and determination. This scholarship will enable her to travel to La Trobe in Melbourne, Australia, where she will pursue her dreams of helping to improve India’s agriculture sector. I wish her well,” Mr Khan said.
A graduate from the University of Calicut, Gopika has a passion for animal health, having grown up in a farming family and researched the management of Asian elephants in Kerala. For the past year she has been managing her family’s poultry farm, while her father recovered from heart by-pass surgery. During this time Gopika researched the impacts of feed, water, diseases and climate on livestock for food production.
La Trobe Chancellor The Honourable John Brumby AO said the University looked forward to welcoming Gopika to start her PhD.
“It is highly appropriate that a scholarship created to recognise Mr Khan’s humanitarian and social justice work to inspire positive change in the world is now about to change Gopika’s life forever,” Mr Brumby said.
“We are proud to be part of her story, and to contribute to advancing knowledge in her field,” he said.
In receiving the scholarship, Gopika said she was honoured.
I can’t wait to travel to La Trobe and start my studies,” she said.
“Through my research, I know I will be contributing to improving agricultural science in India. Protecting our honey bees is vital to food production and I’m so excited for the opportunity to be working with leading scientists conducting cutting-edge research,” Gopika said.
The AUD $200,000 (about 9.5 million Indian rupees) scholarship, announced in August 2019 when Mr Khan was conferred an Honorary Degree by La Trobe University to recognise his wide-ranging humanitarian work, including his establishment of the Meer Foundation to support and empower women who have survived acid attacks in India.
More than 800 women from India expressed interest in the scholarship. The field was eventually narrowed to a shortlist of three, with Gopika chosen by an independent panel of academics from the La Trobe Graduate Research School.