Dr Aida Brankovic shares her name with Verdi’s famous opera heroine, Aida. Therefore it’s fitting that her research journey also contains elements of the operatic.
“As a researcher I think the main thing that drives me is making positive change,” Aida said.
“Because I see the sciences as a tool for moving society forward. That, for me, is the purpose of science above all.”
Aida grew up as a Bosnian refugee. She faced discrimination and isolation in Croatia during the 1990s war of aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a result, she was not allowed to enrol in primary school.
As all great operatic stories go, Aida managed to overcome these educational challenges with the support of her engineer mother.
Aida’s school awarded her the ‘student of generation’ as a mark of highest achievement in their schooling system. She went on to attend two schools simultaneously – music school and regular school.
‘I would go to one school from 8am to 2pm, then the other from 2pm to 8pm. I wanted to study either opera or astronomy,” she said.
After several twists and turns, Aida found herself with a scholarship from the prestigious Politecnico di Milano. There she completed a PhD in Information Technology.
A project at the University of Queensland (UQ) drew Aida to Australia. During this project, she developed an algorithm for a new brain scanning tool and also won an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship.
“I think that was the key thing that made me decide to come to Australia. The project was so exciting because of its potential to help so many people, especially those in remote communities,” she said.
When the UQ project started to wind up, Aida decided it was time for a change. She joined our Australian e-Health Research Centre, where she leads development of novel machine learning algorithms in the health setting.
One of her algorithms was crucial to recent work with us that saw the development of a lifesaving clinical decision support tool. This groundbreaking tool can predict patient deterioration two to eight hours ahead of current clinical indications.
The finale (well, not quite)
Aida was recently selected as finalist for the prestigious Australian Global Talent Award. This firmly positioned her as the protagonist of a truly operatic journey and the triumph via faith, knowledge and science.