Making a difference in Science and for Science

Alumni Mar 25, 2017

Just imagine: You are Iron Man’s apprentice. He desires to upgrade Jarvis’s memory to match that of his brains!

Sounds crazy?

Well, it has been made possible by one of our alumni!

Dr. Sharat Sriram

Let me introduce you to Dr. SHARATH SRIRAM (2004 – B.E Electronic and Communication Engineering), who has invented Nano scale materials that has the ability to store brain like memory states. He is currently an associate professor at the RMIT University, Melbourne campus, Australia and the scientific coordinator of the 30 million dollar Micro Nano Research Facility at the RMIT University. He has also won the prestigious “3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leaders in Science” awarded by the Australian Museum in 2016 for his determination and dedication in the field of science. Presented annually, this award recognizes projects and research studies which are ground breaking in the field of science and technology, also serving humanity a great deal.

Dr. SRIRAM was also part of the Executive, Australian Early and Mid-Career Researcher Forum, Australian Academy of Science. He has won many awards viz,

  • Has been named as one of the Australia’s Most Innovative Engineers – 2016

  • Netexplo (UNESCO) Top 100 Innovations of 2016 (for Nano memory cell innovation)

  • Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excellence – Early Career Researcher Award

And the list continues. In spite of his hectic schedule, Dr. Sriram has taken some time off and responded to THE BRIDGE. Here are the excerpts from the email interview:

Q. Congrats once again on your achievements! How do you feel, as an individual, to win the prestigious 3M Eureka prize?

Thank you!

It was a real honour to be named the recipient of the award. The Eureka Prizes represent the pinnacle of Australian science awards and are nicknamed the ‘Oscars of Australian Science’, and all finalists are excellent.

While an individual award, nothing in science or research now-a-days is ever achieved by an individual, but by teams, I was extremely happy it validated the work of different teams I have led and worked with.

Q. You are involved in so many activities and now you have emerged as a leader in science! What is the secret to your success?

Balancing multiple roles keeps me very motivated. In science/research, when trying to solve old problems, there will be failures. Keeping many activities going means that something is always working well to keep people motivated.

In short, success is often built not on brilliance but on resilience. I like to refer to a quote attributed to Winston Churchill:

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

Q. The RMIT, Micro Nano research facility has contributed so much to the field of science and technology. Being the scientific coordinator to this facility, what is your research facility’s motto and where do you see yourself in 10 years?

At the Micro Nano Research Facility, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, our aim is to support researchers in making discoveries and transforming this into technology. We want to utilise equipment, infrastructure, and capabilities to create real-world impact.

The Facility was a major $30 million investment from the University, and in addition has a significant investment in equipment.

With this Facility and my team’s research, we hope that we can transform science fiction into reality.


Q. In your YouTube video, you have stated that your vision is to make a “difference in science and for science”. Can you elaborate on it?

An individual can make discoveries and create technology. That makes a difference in science by advancing knowledge.

The ability to make a difference for science is very distinct and significant. Here, my vision is to improve the scientific environment such that people feel empowered to do their best work. So, making a difference for science relates to breaking down barriers by improving career structures, enhancing all aspects of diversity (including and beyond gender and ethnicity), showcasing the impact of science on life for public engagement and support, etc.

I am passionate about leading with vision, and being clear about the distinction between a ‘leading researcher’ (related to leadership in science) and a ‘research leader’ (for science).

Q. Your research on bringing brain like memory states into a few Nano meters of materials is amazing, ground breaking and futuristic. What inspired you to do this?

My goal is to unlock interesting functionality in materials to realise new technology. Whenever we embark on a new project, we look for such opportunities.

With respect to Nano scale memory cells, our expertise in oxide thin films led us to tackle this problem. Oxide thin films are essentially forms of glass, where the coatings are extremely thin on the order of 1/100th the thickness of a human hair. From our understanding of how to control defects in these materials, we had a fresh approach to a problem many researchers were trying to solve. Our results show promise for high-density electronic memories, ability to store more than the typical two states in a single cell, and offers a platform for brain-inspired computing and complex information security.

Q. You were the executive member of The EMCR (Early- and Mid- Career Research) forum, which is the voice of Australia’s future science leaders. What is your advice for those young minds out there who want to be the next future science leaders?

I was a part of the Executive of the Early- and Mid-Career Researcher Forum (EMCR Forum) affiliated with the Australian Academy of Science from 2013-2016, and chaired it in 2014-2015. The Forum’s executive members are all passionate people who want to make the scientific environment better for everyone wanting to pursue science – we work with an Australian emphasis as the challenges encountering each environment is very different. We work with Ministers, Members of Parliament, and heads of funding agencies to shape policies to better support young researchers to allow them to excel and become leaders.

Q. As a leader how does it feel to lead a team filled with young, bright and passionate minds?

Very easy to answer that: it makes every day worth it! The fun part of research is every day can hold something new, and it is the people who work with us who generate results and share the successes.


Q. On a lighter note, how were your days in PSG Tech and how did it help you in your career and life?

I did my Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Communication Engineering at PSG Tech from 2000 to 2004. It was an interesting experience; learning to balance my priorities and manage time. It also made a big difference to networks, friendships, and relationships. Some of the courses I learnt and staff I met influenced many choices in my career.

Q. Your notes of wisdom for students who are keen on pursuing research in their future

Research is fun and findings can be significant; however, it is a challenging and competitive environment. When you are mentally prepared for that reality and focus on staying positive, you will be successful.

Dr Sharath Sriram is heading many projects in his research facility at RMIT and is passionate about bringing changes in the field of science by breaking barriers and encouraging more people into research. THE BRIDGE wishes him all success in his endeavours. “May the force be with him!”


Prakruthi R

Prakruthi is an extrovert and an ardent reader of the “The Vogue”. She loves to Dine, Drive and Dance. She is a feminist and a big fan of Margaret Thatcher.