Meet the Department of Engineering's postgraduates

Meet Akesh Babu Kakarla, Satya Guha Nukala and Dao Hoang Hiep Phan, research candidates in the Department of Engineering

Meet Akesh Babu Kakarla, Satya Guha Nukala and Dao Hoang Hiep Phan, research candidates in the Department of Engineering.

Akesh Babu Kakarla
Around 1600 people are on Australian organ transplant waiting lists. On average, people can wait from four months to six years for a transplant.

PhD candidate in engineering, Akesh Babu Kakarla, has entered the brave new field of 3D bioprinting where, one day, it might be possible to print functional organs and tissues.

“The process begins by taking an image of the organ or tissue, and then using special software to convert the image into a machine-readable format,” explains Akesh.

“Healthy cells are then taken from the patient to produce bioinks, which are used to print a software-generated image layer by layer. The result is a new organ or tissue.”

Implants need to be strong enough to maintain their form. Akesh’s PhD focuses on producing reinforced bioinks to print functional skin tissue. “I hope my research will help to reduce the number of patients on the transplant waiting list,” he says.

Satya Guha Nukala is in his first year of our Master of Engineering (Research) degree at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus.

“I have always been curious about how objects are designed and manufactured, from the raw materials right through to the final application. I look at an object and think, ‘Why was it made with this material? How was it made? And can we recycle it?’ I decided to pursue a research degree so I could answer these questions.

I chose the Master of Engineering (Research) degree at La Trobe because it is a top-quality university with world-class research facilities, and offers a wide range of expertise in technology and engineering. I was delighted to find my supervisor, Dr Ing Kong, who is a materials expert.

I am researching wood-based materials that could provide a biodegradable alternative to plastics. Australian households generate, on average, 24 kilograms of wood waste each year. I am making composite materials from wood waste and plastics, and testing their properties, such as strength and water absorption. I hope my research leads to new materials that could be used in anything from outdoor furniture to construction.

I have enjoyed my research experience. I have had the opportunity to meet with professionals in industries related to my work, and see production and manufacturing techniques first-hand. My supervisor has always encouraged me and challenges me to think creatively.

I would love to continue my research in recyclable materials, and explore the possibilities emerging in the field of biodegradable materials. Sustainable materials will play a large role towards a greener planet.”

Dao Hoang Hiep Phan is a fourth-year civil engineering PhD candidate at our Bendigo campus.

“My father was an engineer in regional Vietnam. I grew up surrounded by his passion for solving engineering problems and wanted to contribute to the solutions myself. I studied civil engineering in Vietnam, then worked as a lecturer, teaching students about design, construction sites and surveys.

Engineering technologies are developing rapidly. I soon realised that I needed to expand my knowledge and upskill, which brought me to La Trobe for a doctorate in civil engineering.

I started my PhD in 2017. I am researching the behaviour of high strength steel/concrete composite structures. Because of their fantastic structural performance, these materials are well-suited to high rise buildings. They reduce the size of the supports needed, saving floor space and construction costs. I am also developing new models to assess and predict the properties of these materials for construction design. I hope my research will help to optimise these materials and their use in practical engineering.

I am based at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus. I have enjoyed working in the new civil engineering laboratory with its state-of-the-art equipment and machines. The lecturers and technical staff have been welcoming and supportive, making it a great learning environment for productive research.

The campus is tranquil, peaceful, and multicultural. I have made friends from all over the world, and have support from the warm-hearted, local people. I think it is an amazing place to study.

I would love to pursue an academic career when I graduate. I am passionate about finding solutions to a wide range of engineering problems, and I’m eager to pass on the latest engineering knowledge to the next generation of students.”

Find out more about our engineering degrees.

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