Like most switched on head honchos and CEOs of any reputable Australian Enterprise, of late the mob at La Trobe University have been quite rightly – focused on India. Last year they honoured Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) with an honorary doctorate and announced that the University had planned a prestigious Shah Rukh Khan -La Trobe University Scholarship for research and PhD applicants – to do their PhD at La Trobe University. The scholarship gives the winning student , Australian $200,000, fully funded by the University. The winning candidate to be carefully selected by a panel of La Trobe academics.
That was only August last year. Yesterday in Mumbai, (February 26, 2020), the first recipient of the prestigious scholarship was announced at a special ceremony attended by Shah Rukh Khan, the student Gopika Kottantharayil Bhasi and La Trobe University Chancellor John Brumby AO.
BT understands the amount of scholarship – $200,000 will be contributed by La Trobe University with no financial input from Shah Rukh Khan or any of his entities.
Yesterday was a dream come true for the lucky girl, Gopika Kottantharayil Bhasi, who felt honoured and cannot wait to get to Melbourne – to start her project at the university. Gopika is a researcher with a passion for improving farming practices through animal science, ecology and molecular studies.
Gopika from Thrissur in the southern state of Kerala was chosen from more than 800 Indian women and received the four-year scholarship to La Trobe University at a ceremony in Mumbai attended by La Trobe Chancellor, the Honourable John Brumby AO.
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.
Shah Rukh 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,” Shah Rukh 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 added.
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.
La Trobe is part of the 31 member delegation of Australian Education representatives to India led by Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham for the Australia-India Business Exchange 2020.