UNSW biomolecular engineer Dr Rona Chandrawati has been named in the 2018 Young Scientists Community of 50, the World Economic Forum’s annual listing of the most outstanding researchers in the world aged under 40.

Research at UNSW Sydney by Dr Chandrawati from the School of Chemical Engineering that aims to use nanotechnology sensors to simplify the early detection of life-threatening diseases and reduce food wastage has been recognised by the World Economic Forum for its significance to engineering for public benefit.

Dr Rona Chandrawati

Dr Chandrawati’s work aims to save lives by introducing simple tests that remove the need for specialised equipment in the early detection of some deadly diseases.

Dr Chandrawati, who recently joined UNSW Engineering as a Scientia Fellow and senior lecturer, is developing sensors that change colour in response to disease indicators such as blood-clotting proteins, cancer and flu biomarkers, and heavy metal ions.

She has also developed sensors to detect food contaminants, in the form of a sticker or film that can be attached to food packaging and that changes colour when the food is no longer suitable for consumption.

Through the development of low-cost, easy-to-use technologies that alert consumers on food safety, she hopes to help reduce the incidence of food poisoning and dramatically reduce food waste.

“I have travelled a lot and that has really made me realise what’s most important in life and that’s to help other people,” said Dr Chandrawati. “I want to create technology that is practical, low cost and easy to use so that it’s accessible by all, regardless of economic or other limitations.”

UNSW Dean of Engineering Professor Mark Hoffman says: “Rona’s recognition by the WEF is an outstanding and well-deserved credit for the significance of her work in nanotechnology based sensors. UNSW Engineering’s motto “Innovation in Action” defines our staff’s passion for creating solutions to world challenges, and we were delighted that Rona recently chose to join UNSW on this mission.” 

Each year, the World Economic Forum, WEF, selects the most forward-thinking young scientific minds from a wide range of disciplines for their contributions to advancing the frontiers of science, engineering, and technology. The selection of the Community of 50 is based on their outstanding quality of research and leadership, how their work contributes to improving the state of the world, and their ability to explain the research simply to the broad public.

As a member of the Community of 50, Dr Chandrawati will attend the WEF 12th Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, China, in September. She’ll enjoy access to the WEF young scientists community and also a network of experts across the WEF, giving her the opportunity to discuss emerging technologies and promote entrepreneurship in the global public interest.

Dr Chandrawati says she is thrilled and honoured to be recognised by the WEF: “The WEF is a forum for innovation and change. To truly change people’s lives, we can only do so in partnership with others and I am excited by the opportunity to engage with business, political and academic leaders from all over the world to share innovations and visions for a healthier and safer world.”