Dr Anjali Jaiprakash is a robobiologist at the medical and healthcare robotics lab the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision (ACRV), Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
Anjali did not always want to be a robobiologist. When she was young, she wanted to be either an artist or a doctor.
She went to school in India where she studied Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Biology.
At her school, there was not much choice of subjects. Students had to choose either the science stream or the business stream, so she chose the science stream because she loved biology.
I have always loved biology, what could be more interesting than understanding life and its interactions in an ever-changing environment.
Anjali was inspired by her father who was a surgeon and also an artist.
She says that the school she went to in India was very competitive and the teachers were always pushing students to succeed. At the same time, her family were supportive and did not push her in any particular direction.
University and first job
Anjali completed her first degree in India. She studied Biotechnology and Business at university.
She moved to Australia and continued her study to complete a PhD in Applied Science where she studied a bone disease called osteoarthritis in the knee and looked for therapeutic cures.
Through reading and meeting roboticists she became interested in the use of robotics in medicine and in particular, robotic surgery.
I realised that my skills, teamed with technology would inform the development robots (interaction with humans) and robobiology.
Anjali’s advice to students
Anjali says that the key personal attributes that have contributed to her success are:
- a positive and collaborative attitude
- being open minded
- the ability to connect people and understand the big picture.
She says she could not have done all of this without the support of her mentors, who are always ready to empower curiosity-driven research and passion.
Persistence, honesty and vision. Being humble and open to suggestions. I need ‘Eu-stress’…Distress is bad… ‘Eu stress’ is the good level of stress and motivation that is required to excel.
I dream of a future where I see robots and humans all working together.
It’s a joy and a great way to spend a career, working with teams of people to create great projects, solve tricky problems and deliver really good outcomes that couldn’t have been achieved without us on the project.
Anjali’s current job
Anjali made up the word ‘robobiologist’ to explain her current job. At the Centre for Robotic Vision, teams of people with different skills work together to develop robotic technologies to assist doctors and surgeons.
She has helped to develop a robotic surgery tool to assist surgeons operating on knee joints. The surgery is very complicated as well as stressful and tiring for the surgeons. The robotic devices help the surgeons to perform delicate operations much more accurately. In particular, Anjali and the team are developing sensors to help the robots to ‘see’ better.
Everyday is quite different. Some days I am in an operating theatre watching robots being used for surgery and planning how robotic platform may be integrated to healthcare system. Some days I am touring clinics and healthcare facilities with industrial designers to understand how we can co-create bring robotic technology. There are days when I am interacting with students and researchers from different fields all working towards the same vision. Unfortunately some days are about writing grants, reports and solving administrative problems.
Anjali says that she is now using the same technology to develop a scanner for the retina (at the back of the eye) to help diagnose and treat diseases of the retina.
It’s an interconnectedness of many things like people, ideas and nourishing environment, money that brought me to this beautiful intersection of Engineering Medicine Biology and Design.
STEM at work
Anjali’s work embraces all the aspects of STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths.
I believe that the solutions to some of the greatest challenges in today’s world of rapid change are at the intersection of STEM with many different research fields. By bringing together people from from different fields, our knowledge will expand and that will allow us to solve new challenges.