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Life’s pathways are not set in concrete – just ask Rag

Life’s pathways are not set in concrete – just ask Rag

Published:10 November 2017

Raghavendra Upadhyaya pictured with some of his test materials at CQUniversity Rockhampton North campus.

On the surface, Raghavendra (Rag) Upadhyaya seems like many other hard-working research students who have come from India with a lot of ambitions to an Australian university to further their careers.

When it comes to his PhD thesis project, there’s certainly plenty of focus.

However, Rag just can’t help following his other diverse interests, ranging from performing magic and dabbling with technology to acting as an official cricket umpire.

That’s despite the fact his brain is already crammed full of languages – seven in all.

“Growing up in India I had relatives from different states so I grew up being able to speak Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Tulu, while also learning French. We learnt a little English in school but not as much as the private school system,” Rag says.

“Arriving in Australia from a non-English speaking background, I found it hard initially to manage all by myself.

“I have been through a lot of ups and downs and was initially quite stressed but have managed to establish myself over the last couple of years.”

Rag completed his undergraduate studies in civil engineering and specialised his postgraduate studies in structural engineering, while still living in India.

One of his first opportunities was working for a German collaboration using Indian conditions to test the ability of subway tunnels to withstand terrorist bomb attacks.

“We worked with 1:1000 scale models for explosive testing, as well as computer simulations and field visits,” Rag says.

At the age of 23, in 2014, Rag took the opportunity to study for his PhD in Australia, selecting CQUniversity due to its modern laboratories and the talented research supervisor in his field.

His project focus is proving the ability of a cement-based bonder to patch and heal damaged concrete in large industrial structures, instead of using epoxy-based patches which can create toxic fumes.

For example, if concrete structures are cracked or corroded, they can be rehabilitated with fibre-reinforced sheeting to attain the original strength.

It’s no surprise that Rag is working as a casual lecturer, tutor and marker to supplement his Commonwealth scholarship funding.

However, he still finds time to do casual work for the Electoral Commission and to act as an interpreter for Sri Lankan refugees, apart from helping the Department of Main roads with traffic survey projects. In fact he has worked in over 30 casual jobs and also volunteered for many events since arriving in Australia only a few years ago.

Rag is an official cricket umpire for his local competition and also experiments with robotics and drone technology, while sustaining his skills as a ‘certified ethical hacker’.

He's also passionate about adrenaline-pumping adventures and exploring this beautiful country.

"I have tried everything from scuba diving, skydiving, ballooning, bungy jumping, bridge climbing, and riding superbikes, to list a few.

"With 15 international publications in my research career, I will be among the youngest students to finish my PhD at the age of 26," he says.

The icing on the cake is Rag’s popularity as magician. He has teacher friends who arrange for him to perform at holiday camps.

“I’m just starting out as a magician and have been researching future tricks,” he says.