Dr Ekta Sharma awarded fellowship by Australian government to solve AI space satellite challenges

She has designed efficient AI models and codes for satellite and radio communications for the Australian Department of Defence.

An Indian-origin Queensland-based accomplished Mathematician Dr Ekta Sharma, at the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) with several years of experience in the STEMM discipline, was recently awarded a prestigious fellowship in the next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) space satellite challenges by the Australian Government.

Dr Ekta Sharma (Image source: supplied)

The award was nationally competitive with less than five projects selected Australia-wide. 
Dr Sharma told The Australia Today:

‘I design technologies that will help to create an early warning, fair and inclusive AI-based future for all people’.

Dr Sharma, who received her PhD with an Excellence in Doctoral Research award from UniSQ, has earlier designed a technology to help vulnerable people such as elderly people or children with respiratory concerns to help manage their exposure to pollutants that are a risk to their health.

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She is hopeful that AI systems designed in her research would be used globally to help respond to the effects of climate change and natural disasters such as bushfires.

Dr Ekta Sharma with the Chancellor of UniSQ (Image source: supplied)

Dr Sharma says she is thankful to UniSQ to award her the Vice Chancellor Postdoctoral Fellowship for Women in STEMM discipline. She adds: 

‘I am very passionate about working and enhancing opportunities for Women in STEMM and being awarded for something you believe in, is a cherry on the cake.

I am hopeful, that gradually this support and fellowship opportunity will turn the tide on Australia’s maths deficit, and strengthen maths education and participation of women across the discipline.’

Dr Sharma graduated in Mathematical Sciences and majored in Operations Research from the University of Delhi. With All India Rank 2, she undertook higher degree research and simultaneously Lectured at various Government and Privately funded colleges in Delhi. She later moved to Europe to work as a Scientist at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.

Dr Ekta Sharma (Image source: supplied)

She recalls:

‘I was the only female Scientist in my team, and I felt very proud while contributing to the projects of the Commission for Technology and Innovation which is one of the world’s most successful Swiss state funding agencies for innovations in research.’

In 2013, she moved with her family to Australia and became the only Queenslander chosen for the CHOOSEMaths grant by The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute in 2019.

The CHOOSEMATHS Grants are part of a broader program being delivered by AMSI with support from the BHP Foundation to solve the big challenges facing Maths in Australia, particularly for women.

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Dr Ekta Sharma (Image source: supplied)

Dr Sharma has showcased her research on best practices to measure and forecast the catastrophic effects of air pollutants and how the accurate prediction helps in reducing the ongoing and future healthcare costs reducing the public health risk in Australia, and globally.

She says: 

‘Interventions need to happen much earlier on. I have seen students, particularly women, greatly improve in Maths because of the encouragement and training from teachers who have both a passion for and strong academic knowledge in Mathematics. Young girls need to be shown more female role models. Later, the challenge of returning to the workforce after having children can be challenging, especially if it has been a long career interruption. I think the grants will be quite helpful in assisting such women to get a foot in the door.’

Dr Sharma says her mother was her role model who taught her the relationship between Maths and real life and that she will use Maths every day in her life.

Dr Sharma observes:

‘I am a part of UniSQ’s School of Mathematics, Physics and Computing and Advanced Data Analytics Research Lab. We have a very supportive group of researchers. Apart from the wonderful research support, we always encourage students to pursue Maths as a career, and conduct training and regular meetings for the members who are interested to pursue AI.’

Following a successful project with the Australian Department of Defence in 2020-2021, Dr Sharma designed efficient AI models and codes for satellite and radio communications. This project received extensive media coverage and went on to develop highly advanced AI for a radio system that will transform the way soldiers communicate on the battlefield.

Dr Ekta Sharma (Image source: supplied)

The multi-talented Dr Sharma is also an accredited translator for Hindi, German, and Indo-Aryan languages and a non-accredited translator for Japanese. In 2022, she was a lead coordinator in a short story collection for women published by Bose Creative Publishers (BCP), Switzerland.

She adds:

‘Working as volunteers, besides our day jobs is not easy but the smile on the faces of children who benefit from the profit of book sales make it worthwhile for each member of our BCP team. Getting a book together by March 8th every year shows geographical and time zone challenges don’t matter if there is determination.’

On being asked where she sees herself in five years, Dr Sharma confidently replies:

‘Hopefully doing something I love! I have worked both in academia and industry and I envisage myself in pursuit of developing maturity in AI through the synergy of industry experience, student mentoring, and academic activities with a healthy work-life balance.’

When not researching, Dr Sharma also writes poems in Hindi and works as an active volunteer for children from 4-14 years of age with mathematical and statistical learning disabilities.