Inaugural joint PhD candidate making international bonds

01/05/2024 | 3 mins

The first recipient of the history-making joint PhD program between The University of Western Australia and The Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research (AcSIR) has hit the ground running.

Nutan Darandale travelled to Western Australia from her home in the western Maharashtra state of India in late 2023 and began her formal PhD research soon after.

Ms Darandale is working in the field of organic and organometallic chemistry supervised by UWA School of Molecular Science Associate Professor Scott Stewart and Professor George Koutsantonis, with support from external supervisor Dr Dinesh Sawant at the National Chemical Laboratory in Maharashtra.

Nutan Darandale at the UWA Bayliss BuildingImage: Nutan Darandale at the UWA Bayliss Building.

“I feel really special to be the first-ever AcSIR-UWA joint PhD student, and I truly appreciate the chance that has been given to me,” she said.

“This experience will be very valuable, as I am learning so many new techniques and theories that will be definitely helpful for my future research projects as well.”

The historic agreement, for UWA to train five high quality students per year for five years (and encourage UWA students to seek a similar experience at AcSIR), was signed by UWA’s Graduate Research School and AcSIR Director and Vice-Chancellor Professor Rajender Singh in March 2022.

Director of The UWA Institute of Agriculture Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique said the joint PhD program in science and technology, including agriculture and plant science, was the first that UWA had ever established with an Indian university.

"Thirty-five students have been shortlisted for the next intake of AcSIR-UWA joint PhD students."

Professor Kadambot Siddique


Ms Darandale’s PhD project aims to develop a novel nickel catalyst to be used for carbon (C)–nitrogen (N) bond formation reactions focusing on amine and amides as the coupling partners.

“Our main target is to develop a room temperature protocol for C-N bond formation reactions which will save energy and ultimately the environment because the chemical industry typically uses a lot of energy when heating reactions,” Ms Darandale said.

“I have already started working on synthesising new nickel catalysts by modifying parts of the catalyst called ligands.

“We are expecting that new catalyst will be efficient in C-N bond formation reactions when others are not.”

Once the primary study is completed, Ms Darandale said she would start looking for the applications of the protocol in industry.

“We will then use this catalytic protocol to improve/reduce the synthetic steps in fine chemical synthesis, in the synthesis of pharmaceutical compounds as well as natural products,” she said.

Nutan Darandale seated with her supervisors Professor George Koutsantonis and Associate Professor Scott StewartImage: Nutan Darandale seated with her supervisors Professor George Koutsantonis and Associate Professor Scott Stewart.

Principal supervisor Associate Professor Stewart said he was extremely pleased with Ms Darandale’s early results and that she had learnt a range of new skills in the laboratory.

“It is fantastic that Nutan has been able to join us as a mature research PhD student following training in Dr Sawant’s group in India,” he said.

“Outside the laboratory, she has learnt some Australian slang, nuances of Australian lifestyle, and will attend her first Australian Football League (AFL) game soon.

“I look forward to the next few months and being able to publish Nutan’s work.”

Media references

Rosanna Candler (Communications Officer, The UWA Institute of Agriculture) +61 08 6488 1650

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