Meet our latest PhD Scholarship recipients

As part of the Monash Data Futures Institute’s (MDFI) initiative to support the next generation of AI and data science leaders, we are pleased to introduce our four newest recipients of MDFI PhD Scholarships.

They join our existing cohort of PhD students to accelerate our progress in addressing research problems using AI and data science, and to further our work in AI for social good.



FFlavien Owolabi

Flavien Owolabi holds two Masters’ degrees - in Environmental Science from SUNY-ESF, USA and in Health Sciences from McMaster University, Canada. He has previous experience working with data within the public and private sectors, and now brings his learnings over to academia. Over the course of his research and workplace experience, his passion to do more with data caused him to learn to use a variety of data analysis and visualisation tools (e.g. SPSS, SAS, R, SQL, Python for advanced data analysis and web app development).

In recent years, Flavien has developed a keen interest in using machine learning for social good. Through a work placement to complete a thesis, he developed a predictive model to manage complex patients at risk of hospitalisation in primary care settings. Seeing the usefulness of such work using data, he decided to expand his skills using Python to develop decision support tools for managing any issue and embed them in web applications to deploy them for convenient use.

As a recipient of the MDFI scholarship, Flavien’s PhD project is in collaboration with the Faculty of Science and the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, where he aims to apply AI tools (e.g., Machine Learning) to automate evidence synthesis process – in conservation – making it faster and more efficient in meeting time cost constraints while reducing potential sources of bias. The project also aims to produce living web-based evidence maps for knowledge users in conservation.



Pranita Shrestha

Pranita Shrestha completed her Master of Science in Engineering from Tsinghua University, China with a major in Computer Science and Engineering. Her Master’s thesis was “Curiosity-inspired Personalised Recommendation” where she leveraged psychological theories to improve the recommender system. After graduation, she worked as a Lecturer in Apex College (Pokhara University), Research Project Manager in NSDevil (North Star Developer’s Village) and Research Consultant for Monash University’s Action Lab’s Paroli Project.

Pranita joined Women LEAD Nepal in 2017 as a Young Women’s Political Leadership Institute fellow. Her team went on to win Women LEAD Nepal’s “Sujata Baskota Changemaker Award” for their project Aawaaz (My Voice, My Consent). As a feminist, she has been involved in numerous projects to promote gender equality and create more feminist allies. She was the Project Lead for the project ‘Allies for Feminist Leadership’ which focused on creating awareness about gender and sex, realizing the inequality faced by various genders, understanding the concept of consent, and fighting the myths related to menstrual taboos. In her free time, she likes to dance, sketch, go on a hike and watch Korean and Chinese dramas.

Pranita strongly believes in the interdisciplinary approach of combining various areas of society with technology to solve prevalent societal problems. As a recipient of the MDFI PhD scholarship, she will be working on “Context aware interventions for eating disorder prevention and improved body image”, along with the Faculty of Information Technology’s Department of Human-Centred Computing and Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. This project is a fusion of health co-designing process, context-aware computing, software engineering and clinical eating disorder aspects.



Vidushani Dhanawansa

Vidushani Dhanawansa received her Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering (Honours) from the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology, affiliated with Curtin University, Australia. She was awarded the Curtin Award for Excellence for academic achievements and the Student Recognition Award by the Curtin Alumni Sri Lanka Chapter.

She has a keen interest in research integrated with various health or medical domains, and therefore her previous research was centred on applying Computer Vision and Deep Learning to aid Sinhala Sign Language Interpretation and diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Sri Lanka.

Vidushani is an avid nature lover and foodie, and in her free time you can find her reading fiction or fixated on a TV show.

As a recipient of the MDFI PhD Scholarship, Vidushani’s PhD project is developing an ‘Artificially Intelligent Consciousness Meter’ which will be designed to gauge levels of consciousness during general anaesthesia and surgery, in collaboration with the Faculty of Information Technology and the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.