Matters of the heart

Dr Dhani Dharmaprani holding a heart model

Applying her expertise as a biomedical engineer to cardiology research, Dr Dhani Dharmaprani’s (BEng(Biomed)(Hons) 2016, PhD(Med) ’20) work aims to better understand and develop new treatments for the world’s most significant heart rhythm disorders.

As a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Cardiac Signals Analysis Lab, Flinders University, her research in the area of cardiac electrophysiology has led to Dhani being highlighted as one of Australia’s top 25 female scientists (The Advertiser/The Daily Telegraph).

She has now presented at 16 national/international conferences and participated as faculty for prominent scientific societies such as the Heart Rhythm Society, regarded the premier scientific body in cardiac electrophysiology.

It was from humble beginnings though, that a daughter of immigrant parents would find herself studying at Flinders University, using personal tragedy as inspiration to change the world one heart at a time.

“I have always been drawn to healthcare,” says Dhani.

“I was specifically drawn to cardiology, because when I was younger, I had a little brother who passed away from a heart condition.

“In some ways, me getting into cardiology research feels serendipitous because on a small scale it lets me fulfill my dream of fixing hearts.”

Dhani also pursued STEM pathways early in her studies, with biomedical ending up being a perfect synergistic marriage between all of her interests – understanding the mechanics of the heart to one day provide flawless performance.

She is currently one of Science and Technology Australia’s Superstars of STEM for 2023-2024, a government funded program that aims to encourage the involvement of women and non-binary individuals in STEM.

“I am enthusiastic when I hear that I have helped inspire others to look at careers in STEM that they wouldn’t have otherwise thought about,” says Dhani.

“I am also often told that my experiences shed light on exciting avenues of engineering that aren’t as well publicised or known.”

To better understand the processes of underlying cardiac fibrillation, Dhani is now receiving training from distinguished leaders in cardiac modelling based in the UK.

“On my recent overseas trip, supported by The Hospital Research Foundation, I was fortunate enough to work with and learn from my collaborators at Imperial College London and Queen Mary University London,” says Dhani.

“It was such a privilege to see all the great science that is being done in the field and learn new methodologies not currently available in Australia.”

There are few top honours and awards that haven’t yet been bestowed upon Dhani, but her drive to push the boundaries of technological advancements in cardiology and nurture the next generation of thinkers and innovators will no doubt see her name remain in the spotlight.

“My long-term ambition is to develop technologies that significantly enhance patient outcomes, particularly in the realm of cardiovascular health,” says Dhani.

“The ever-evolving field of computational cardiology captivates me, as it presents opportunities to blend innovative tech solutions with the intricate world of heart health.

“With this vision in mind, I would love to establish my own research group dedicated to computational cardiology.”

Dr Dhani Dharmaprani was awarded a 2023 Early Career Alumni Award for her significant research in cardiac electrophysiology through the use of engineering techniques to further develop technologies improving cardiovascular health.

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