PhD student from Faculty of Engineering wins Rotary Newmarket Technology Translation Award

08 December 2017
2017 Rotary Newmarket Technology Translation Award winner Renoh Johnson Chakkal
Renoh Johnson Chalakkal with Rotary Newmarket President Michelle Smith

PhD student in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Renoh Johnson Chalakkal, was awarded the Rotary Newmarket Technology Translation Award at the recent meeting of the Rotary Club. Under the supervision of Associate Professor Waleed Abdulla, Renoh developed an app for diabetes retinopathy screening.

The annual award is open to engineering students, who are asked to submit a brief summary of their research, and how it could lead to commercialisation.

During the meeting, Professor Bruce Macdonald gave a short presentation on his research around the utilisation of robotics in horticulture, and last year’s winner Vinura Jayaneththi gave an update on his research into the development of 3D printed non-biological organs using smart materials.

The event was hosted at Newmarket Campus for the third year running. Initially established following a conversation between Dean of Engineering Professor Nicolas Smith, and Brian McMath, Chair of the Newmarket Rotary Charitable Foundation (NRCF), the use of the venue serves to develop closer links with the Newmarket community.

Rotary Newmarket was established in 1945 by a group of local businessmen, and it has made significant contributions to the Newmarket community. A member of the Sir Douglas Robb Society for contributions to the University of Auckland, its signature award is the Ross Craig Oncology Award. This award facilitates a student to spend time in the laboratory of Professor Cris Print at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

The event was judged by Associate Professor Mark Jones and Dr Chuong Nguyen, both of the Faculty of Engineering, alongside Brian McMath, who holds dual roles as Chair of the NRCF and Business Development Manager of the Product Accelerator programme based at Newmarket Campus.

Rotary Newmarket President Michelle Smith comments that the judges were “delighted with the response” to the award, with 31 applicants, an increase on the previous year. “The judges evaluated the applications individually, and Renoh’s was the standout as it already involved commercial partnerships. Whilst it had no influence on the decision, Renoh’s research was very relevant to Rotarians, as fighting disease is one of Rotary International’s six areas of focus. Diabetes is a major health issues worldwide, so if Renoh’s research is successful, the app he is developing will be a vital tool for early detection in the fight against diabetes”.

A further award of $5,000 was presented during the meeting to Professor Steven Dakin, Head of Optometry at the University of Auckland. Professor Dakin has developed a new home-based therapy for amblyopia (commonly known as ‘lazy eye’), using a Nintendo gaming console. By watching modified 3D movies on the consoles, it mitigates the need for children to wear an eye patch with the associated stigma and compliance difficulties. Professor Dakin intends to use the award to make sets available to more children suffering from amblyopia.

Find out more about the Newmarket Rotary Charitable Foundation