Small town girl from India wins South Australia’s Young Innovator award

Ishika is at the forefront of the battle against Glioblastoma which is considered one of the most lethal brain cancers.

Ishika Mahajan was announced as the winner of the Women in Innovation SA’s Young Innovator of the Year Award.

21-year-old Ishika is at the forefront of the battle against Glioblastoma which is considered one of the most lethal brain cancers.

Three years ago, Ishika moved to Australia from a small town in India to pursue the Bachelor of Biomedical Research (Honours).

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Image: Ishika Mahajan at UniSA lab (Source: UniSA)

In a post, she observed:

“From young age, I used to say myself; it isnt important if you are getting seen or not and if you are falling more times than getting up, but you gotta work hard and be resilient without complaining because you are working to create a change in this world and the dream of making this world a better place is not only a big dream but a long journey.”

In her academic journey so far, Ishika has won numerous scholarships that have helped support her Honours research.

Ishika holds a prestigious diploma in Genomics from Harvard University and boasts an impressive collection of over 35 awards recognizing her leadership and contributions to STEM research.

She was also a finalist in the in the 7News Young Achiever Award for University of Adelaide STEM Award.

Image: Ishika Mahajan at the 7News Young achiever awards (Source: LinkedIn – Ishika Mahajan).

On receiveing the Young Innovator of the Year Award, Ishika thamked her supervisor.

“Dr Guillermo gomez, my supervisor who believed in extremely young kid and gave her a chance to lead this project. Brain cancer is a difficult fight and the work in drug repurposing that me and my lab are working on is a way to improve the survival of patients.”

On chosing research in cancer studies, Ishika observes:

“I am often asked why research, science and cancer and my answer as usual is why not. Being a scientist as a woman is unconventional but thats how you inspire more girls to become cool scientists by leading to become as one. I am no inspiration but if I can lead by an example that if she can do it then I can, my goal will be fulfilled.”

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On hearing of Ishika’s success in the STEM world, her mother cried. She notes:

“Hearing that her little girl is trying to save lives and is working to inspire more little girls especially immigrants and woman of colour to pursue STEM.”

With a multidisciplinary background in AI, Machine Learning, and Bioinformatics, Ishika has identified promising and innovative therapeutic targets.

Key to her innovative approach is the utilisation of patient-derived tumour explants organoids (PD-TEO).

This groundbreaking technology allows for the swift assessment of the impact of anti-tumour treatments within physiologically relevant 3D human brain tumour tissue. Significantly, it reduces the reliance on animal experimentation for testing novel therapeutics, underscoring Ishika’s commitment to ethical and effective research practices.

Image: Ishika Mahajan volunteering with UniSA Sport (Source: UniSA).

Ishika is an ardent STEM enthusiast and volunteers to promote science communication. She will start a job at CSIRO and says the next step is PhD.

Women in Innovation SA is a community of professionals passionate about innovation and striving to support and elevate South Australia’s innovative women. The 2023 awards mark Women in Innovation SA’s 10-year anniversary.

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