Young researchers present on the global stage (Part 14)

In this fourteenth edition of the researcher series, three rising stars, competing for Sparrho’s Early Career Researcher Prize, tell us about their work and why they chose to become scientists.

Shuvashis Dey

PhD student, Monash University, Australia & Research Affiliate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

#IoT #sensor #RFID

Shuvashis spoke at the 11th International Conference on Sensing Technology in Sydney, Australia, in December 2017, winning the Best Presentation Award in the Student category.

How would you introduce your research to a non-expert? The core objective of my research is to develop inexpensive and compact electromagnetic (EM) transduction-based chipless RFID (radio frequency identification) tag sensor nodes for a specified set of IoT (Internet of Things) application areas. The main applications that motivate this project are: 
(i) Precision agriculture 
(ii) Smart buildings 
(iii) Retail and supply chains.
The key specific targets of this research are the developments of chipless RFID-based tag and sensor nodes to monitor:
(i) Soil moisture and salinity contents 
(ii) Cracks in buildings and public infrastructures 
(iii) Temperatures in perishable food items and the environment.

“The internet of things is the subject of intense worldwide research.”

What can your field of research contribute to the world? The recent development of chipless RFID technology offers a new direction in the field of RF identification to address new markets such as item tracking, where the unit cost compared to the cost of using an optical barcode is an economic constraint. This technology uses an electromagnetic signature for data encoding which reduces the cost of an RFID tag to a level equal to the cost of a barcode. Nowadays, the internet of things is the subject of intense worldwide research with the goal of interconnecting a large number of “things” such as intelligent sensors, tags and mobile phones. The list is virtually endless.

Sensors are the fundamental components that enable the IoT. These are the very elements that provide connectivity among different devices and systems across various industries. The smart sensors used in IoT can identify and locate items. They can also detect any events or changes in their physical qualities, along with changes in environmental conditions. Recent advances in wireless sensor networks have paved the way for combining sensor and sensing technologies with RFID systems.

“The researcher in me finds limitless chances to identify the fundamental cause of an as yet unknown problem.”

Why are you a scientist? I presume that my endlessly curious nature made me what I am today! Ever since my childhood, I have been doing one thing with a lot of perfection and energy: questioning! I used to be a good kid otherwise; however, I would bombard my near and dear ones with all sorts of questions on a topic if it was of any interest to me. Thankfully, as I grew up, I became more focused and I started to often ask myself –“why and how?” I wanted to know how things work and to do so I often used to dig down to the reason of it.

While studying, I found physics to be more interesting than anything else. It was so close to my heart, perhaps because it would allow me to easily learn about a new innovation, the theory behind it and most importantly its physical relevance and application. It eventually took me into an engineering career where I thought I would find more ways to apply my theoretical and perceived knowledge.

The researcher in me finds limitless chances to identify the fundamental cause of an as yet unknown problem and dig down to find a solution for it. Such chances, coupled with a vision to make the world a better and more comfortable place, made me the scientist I am!

What advances in your field are you most excited about? The most exciting facet of RFID lies in the fact that the concept of IoT emerged from it. Even though IoT has expanded well beyond its starting point, RFID still keeps playing a significant role in its ever-evolving growth. According to the forecasts of several leading industries, there will be about 26 to 50 billion connected devices by 2020. This means in just a few years, there will be at least three IoT enabled devices for each person on the planet!

IoT is going to facilitate virtually endless opportunities and connections. The day is not too far when a smart washing machine will perform all the tasks of a household on its own, calibrating off the RFID tags attached to clothes, and a smart fridge will sense that it is running low on milk and will order some more!

“In just a few years, there will be at least three IoT enabled devices for each person on the planet!”

What advice would you give to younger students regarding attending a conference? My initial suggestion to my fellow younger colleagues would be to keep an open mind. Conferences provide an excellent platform for enriching your knowledge by providing opportunities for listening to other presentations and talking to the leading scientists in the field. Please try to make the most out of it by initiating a conversation! Show your interest in the work of others and ask a question, or more: you never know where it might end up! Attend the dedicated networking sessions, get yourself introduced and start talking. Don’t be shy. Even if you are not one on the inside, become an extrovert–at least for the sake of becoming a better scientist!

Read more about Shuvashis’ research here.


Susie Hewlett

PhD student, Macquarie University, Australia

#neuroimaging #social #honeybees

Suzie will speak at the International Congress of Neuroethology in Brisbane, Australia in July 2018.

How would you introduce your research to a non-expert? I use a comparative approach to understand which neural mechanisms driving social behaviour are general, and which are more specific to a model species or genus.

What can your field of research contribute to the world? All science contributes to the world because knowledge is power. My particular field of research is most directly connected to mental illnesses that feature impaired social behaviours. As my study species is the major pollinator, the honey bee, research into better understanding how their societies form and persist is of use for scientists trying to remedy the negative impacts human activity has on the Earth’s biological systems.

“All science contributes to the world because knowledge is power.”

Why are you a scientist? I have many questions I want answers to and feel research is a way, most suited to me, to try and make a difference with my life’s work.

What advances in your field are you most excited about? The neuroimaging techniques being developed are incredible. Some of the most contemporary techniques will allow whole brain activity to be observed in freely moving animals — an ideal tool for studying the neurobiology of social behaviours that require animal interactions. The continual sequencing of insect genomes is also providing invaluable information for evolutionary studies.

“Some of the most contemporary neuroimaging techniques will allow whole brain activity to be observed in freely moving animals.”

What advice would you give to younger students regarding attending a conference? Going to conferences and meeting experts and peers that share your passion for the same fields of research is extremely motivating and inspiring. I always return to the lab with a renewed energy and excitement about my work. Talking out ideas with other people also broadens your thoughts on your ideas and often gives you new ones too. Free wine is also never a bad thing!

Do your homework — check out who is attending that connects to your work and research them. I have no problem contacting people beforehand (especially if I’m attending a big conference), introducing myself and asking if we could arrange a meeting during the conference, possibly at your or their poster. Don’t be afraid: putting yourself out there is good for your current research and future job perspectives.

Read more about Suzie’s research here.


Patrick Brice Deeh Defo

PhD student, University of Dschang, Cameroon

#sexualhealth #medicinalplants #drugdevelopment

Patrick spoke at the Conference in India Pharma in Bengaluru, India in February 2018.

How would you introduce your research to a non-expert? My research focuses on the therapeutic effects of medicinal plant extracts on sexual troubles (erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory disorders and infertility). Sexual troubles cause frustration, depression and divorce in some couples, especially in developing countries where infertile people are marginalized. Therapeutic agents obtained from indigenous medicinal plants would be of immense benefit: particularly for inhabitants of developing countries, since the cost of these drugs would be within their means.

“Therapeutic agents from indigenous medicinal plants would be of immense benefit particularly for inhabitants of developing countries.”

How can your field of research contribute to the world? My research contributes to the identification and development of new drugs (pro-sexual/aphrodisiac drugs) from plants with fewer side effects and at a low cost for the population.

My proudest moment as a researcher is when my scientific research is published in high impact factor journals. I feel honoured to be able to make a contribution that benefits people in my society. This gives me a sense of fulfilment, as lives are changed positively around me.

What is your biggest struggle as a researcher that you don’t think is discussed widely enough in academia? As an African researcher, I have the challenge of limited research facilities that affects the effectiveness of my research, limited research finance, and limited training in my particular research field related to sex which is still a taboo in some populations. All these setbacks affect the effectiveness of my research. Unfortunately these challenges are not often discussed at many academic forums, as their focus is directed at more advanced, technical problems.

“Conferences expose younger students to a wealth of information.”

What advice would you give to younger students regarding attending a conference? Conferences expose younger students to a wealth of information in general as well as in their specific fields of interest, because it gives them a platform to share their ideas, gain new research concepts and make useful contacts for future research collaborations which is very important and desirable in research circles.

Read more about Patrick’s research here.


The above applicants are finalists in Sparrho’s Early Career Researcher Prize that awards £500 to early career scientists who are presenting their work at an academic conference. To apply, follow this link to the 5-minute application form and use the Sparrho platform to share your research. Applications close at the end of each month and are reviewed on a rolling basis.

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