Meet an environmental chemist who’s fighting soil pollution with nanoparticles

Meet an environmental chemist who’s fighting soil pollution with nanoparticles

How far would you travel to follow your passion? For La Trobe PhD student Aminul Islam, the chance to study with a respected mentor meant moving from Bangladesh to Bendigo. He shares the day-to-day challenges of doing a PhD in environmental chemistry and how his community at La Trobe is getting him through.

La Trobe PhD student Aminul Islam in the laboratory, where he’s using chemistry to tackle soil pollution.

I was born in Charailder, a small village 185km away from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. In my boyhood, my prospective path through life was full of struggle and uncertainty. My mother always said, “If a flood comes, all crops are washed away, but knowledge is immortal and cannot die out. If you desire to be a successful human being, you must aim well.” I took her advice to heart, studied hard, and graduated with a Master of Science from the University of Dhaka. After several teaching positions, I also completed a Master of Philosophy at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

I arrived in Australia in 2015 to undertake a PhD with Dr Michael Angove, one of my greatest mentors and an expert on environmental chemistry. Globally, rapid urbanisation has resulted in significant water pollution. Wastewater, for example, contains heavy metals, organic dyes, phosphorous compounds and humic substances – and exposure can have harmful effects on human wellness and aquatic life.

My PhD focuses on cleaning these pollutants with manganese-oxide nanoparticles before they are released into the environment. Manganese-oxide nanoparticles also provide us with a new understanding of how pollutants interact with the mineral surface in the soil environment. I hope that, one day, I will be able to apply my research in the Australian context to soil environments in other countries.

My PhD journey has been full of surprises, tears, enjoyment and happiness. Undertaking PhD research is a very challenging job and it needs a lot of patience, dedication and being in the lab after hours. It can be lonely and isolating from family and friends. But my wife, son and my future dream always inspire me. I comfort myself by thinking that to become something valuable, I must lose something smaller.

To follow his dreams of a research career, Aminul relocated from Dhaka, Bangladesh to La Trobe University in Bendigo, Australia.

I deeply love La Trobe – it’s a very congenial environment for research and learning, and it’s offered me a chance to meet my dream. I look up to how it’s instructing me about life, research, and career experiences. I’ve made some good friends here and share my day-to-day life with them. Nearly every day, I meet the cleaner who comes to clean my lab in the evening. And one of my most important experiences here is being a role model for chemistry graduate students. All these experiences will guide me for the remainder of my lifetime.

With a career in research, you can join brilliant minds to solve global environmental challenges. Launch your research career with postgraduate study at La Trobe – we’re top-rated nationally and ‘well above world standard’ in 19 fields of research.