Meet Prabhpreet Kaur: winner of the Rex Williamson Prize

Meet this year’s recipient of the Rex Williamson Prize awarded to the highest achieving PhD student enrolled within the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment whose research involves a significant component of chemistry.


Prabhpreet Kaur

Prabhpreet is part of Richard William’s Medical Matrices team at IMPACT. The Rex Williamson Prize was established in 1984 in honour of Dr Rex Williamson. Dr Williamson was a widely respected teacher and researcher who worked at Deakin University (formerly known as Gordon Institute of Technology) in 1949 until he retired in 1983. He was a key figure in the establishment of Deakin’s Geelong Waurn Ponds campus and mentored thousands of students over the 34 years he spent at Deakin.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am currently enrolled in a collaborative doctoral program between two distinguished institutions, Deakin University in Australia and TERI Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre in India.

My research focuses on the development of a biodegradable and biocompatible hydrogel based on rice straw derived biopolymer for agricultural and biomedical applications.

I am working under the expert supervision of esteemed faculty members, A. Prof. Fred Pfeffer, A. Prof. Richard Williams, Dr. Ruchi Agrawal and Prof. H.B. Bohidar. My research interests lie in the fields of biomass valorization, sustainable nanotechnology solutions and applied microbiology. Seeking answers, acquiring new skills and travelling new places excites me. In my free time, I enjoy nature walks and listening to music.

Why are you passionate about your chosen field of study?

It gives me immense satisfaction to believe that my chosen research study has the potential to transform waste into wealth – a low cost agricultural residue into a value added natural biodegradable polymer that has huge potential in various fields such as agriculture, medicine, water remediation. At the present existential cliff, the world needs to reimagine, redesign and reset solutions that are eco-friendly and minimize the reliance on synthetic harsh chemicals, and with this circular bioeconomy based research, I feel like I can contribute my share of responsibility towards achieving the global sustainable development goals.

What aspects of your course have you most enjoyed?

During the course of this collaborative research program, I conducted a part of my research at Deakin University, which offered me opportunities to network with esteemed academics and make amazing memories with friends. I genuinely enjoyed working in the positive work environment which was truly rewarding experience for me.  I cherish the patience, courage and discipline that this PhD journey has taught me.

What does it mean to you to receive a donor-funded prize and what impact will it have?

To achieve this recognition means a great deal to me. Initially, I hesitated to pursue this prize, being sceptical about myself and my project, something that every PhD student can relate with I guess. However, receiving this prize has given me a sense of security and boosted my confidence to keep hustling and thriving for greater opportunities to come.

What are your goals and plans for the future?

In the future, I aspire to see my developed technology take the form of a product that can reach the welfare of a wider audience. Following the submission of my PhD thesis, my plan is to pursue a postdoctoral opportunity, which will facilitate the acquisition of new skills and contribute to my growth as a researcher.

If you could say anything to the Williamson Family (the donors), what would it be?

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Williamson Family for acknowledging my passion for research and giving me this esteemed honour. This is undoubtedly a very significant event in my research career. Your generosity to support the welfare of early stage researchers is very thoughtful and appreciable. I am committed to upholding the trust you have placed in me and strive to make meaningful contributions to research and society.