USP Alumni Network

Name: Lalit Kumar
Country: Fiji
Programme: Diploma in Education (1981), Bachelor in Science (1988), Postgraduate Diploma (1989), Master in Science (1992)
Occupation: Professor – University of New England, Australia


Why did you choose your field of study? 

I am very passionate about the environment and the need to maintain it for future generations. Sustainable use of the resources is paramount. With the rate of pillage that is currently occurring and the projected impact of climate change, future generations will not have much left. Through education we can raise the awareness of what we are doing to the environment and the need for sustainable use. We also need to raise awareness of how humans (especially those in developed countries) are directly impacting on the climate and how this is impacting the livelihood of island communities.

Briefly reflect on your student life at USP?

Student life at USP was not easy. First of all I did not get accommodation on campus for the first year, so had to stay with family and friends. Then, when accommodation did become available, it was off-campus in a small rented house. Only in my second year did I get on-campus accommodation. 

On reflection, I do not think I enjoyed my university life as much as I should have. I was too much into studies and neglected my social life to a certain extent. Probably should have had a better balance.

Greatest achievement[s] as a student

I excelled in my work and, if I recall correctly, over 90% of my subject grades were A or A+. This is over five qualifications from USP.

Career Highlights since Graduation 

Being granted an AusAid merit scholarship to undertake a PhD at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Opportunity to work in Europe after PhD

Promoted to Professor at the University of New England

Being asked by the Commonwealth of Australia to undertake a major consultancy on climate change impacts in the Pacific.

Recently published a paper on climate change impacts on 23 Pacific island countries in the journal Nature Climate Change – the highest ranked climate science journal.

Invited to Flores in Indonesia to advice on the use of GIS and spatial modelling for refining likely hobbit bone locations. Hobbits in Flores were a new human species discovered a few years back.

Who/what do you credit your success to? What inspires you? 

I credit my success to hard work, consistency and a desire to excel.

How do you think USP helped you in your career? 

USP is a great institution and the education standards are comparable to anywhere else. Being offered a broad-based undergraduate degree really prepares you well for future opportunities. The one thing that I can credit my success to is the opportunity to study via distance education. After graduating with a Diploma in Science, I went into teaching and was based in Nadi. If it was not for distance education, I would not have been able to further my education and would not be where I am today. To put this into perspective, I completed 16 units for my Bachelor of education through distance education.

Describe any challenges you faced to reach where you are today and how you overcame those challenges? 

Opportunities are fairly limited in Fiji, and being an Indo-Fijian, there were limited scholarships. So I needed to take whatever came my way and work slowly upwards. This is the reason why I have so many qualifications: Diploma in Education, Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Science, Postgraduate Diploma in Physics, Master of Science (all these from USP) before going to Sydney and undertaking a Master of Applied Science and PhD. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years (career and/or personal goals)? 

I see myself in a senior administrative role or a research leader at a university. I think I have the research profile and publications to lead an international re4search group in the area of climate change impacts, particularly in the Pacific.

What advice would you give to current and future students of USP? 

1. There is no substitute for hard work. Perseverance pays off in the long term.

2. Education at USP is of world standard, so be proud that you are attending a frontier university and can compete on the world stage with anyone else out there. 

3. You are living in the age of the internet. Use it as it has a lot of very useful information. Also search for postgraduate opportunities outside Fiji. There are many universities in Australia, Canada, US and Europe that offer full scholarships, and some of these are dedicated to students from developing countries. 

4. Develop a network. Communicate with people who have been successful and ask for advice. Request someone to mentor you in the early stages of your career. Many of us will only be too willing to do this. Fiji is still my home and I want my countrymen (and women) to succeed.

Please share top three tips that you think are most important for our current students or recent graduates that will help them when starting out on their career paths. 

1. There are plenty of opportunities out there, so never give up.

2. Take opportunities as they come. Do not wait for that perfect job as it may never eventuate.

3. Keep your undergraduate degree broadly focused so that you can take opportunities in various fields as they arise, rather than becoming too narrowly focused too early on.

What has your involvement been with the University since you graduated? (if any) 

Have helped in organizing conferences at USP on Climate Change impacts in the Pacific, and have contributed to these conferences (Organising committee member, plenary presenter).

Co-supervised research students.

Visit USP every second year to hold discussions with former colleagues on research collaboration.

Any other information you would like to share.

Other [Feel free to include other relevant information and photographs] 

… Thank you for your time …

Education/Qualifications

1979 - 1981 Diploma in Education, University of the South Pacific, Fiji.

1984 - 1988 Bachelor of Education, University of the South Pacific, Fiji.

1987 - 1988 Bachelor of Science (Environmental Physics), University of the South Pacific, Fiji.

1990 - 1991 Post-Graduate Diploma in Physics, University of the South Pacific, Fiji.

1992 - 1993 Master of Science (Soil Physics), University of the South Pacific, Fiji.

1994 Master of Applied Science (GIS/RS), University of New South Wales, Sydney.

1995 - 1998 PhD (GIS/RS), University of New South Wales, Sydney.

Employment

1989 - 1994 Lecturer, University of The South Pacific, School of Pure and Applied Sciences, Fiji.

1996 - 1998 Lecturer (P/T), University of New South Wales, Sydney.

1998 - 2000 Research Scientist, Wageningen University, The Netherlands and Netherlands Academy of Sciences.

2000 - 2002 Assistant Professor, International Institute for Aerospace Survey & Earth Sciences (ITC); Agriculture, Conservation & Environment Division; The Netherlands.

2002 - present Professor/ Associate Professor/ Senior Lecturer– Spatial Modelling, Environmental Science, GIS and Remote Sensing, (University of New England)

Coordinator, Centre for Spatial Sciences (2003 – 2008)

Convenor – Ecosystem Management (2008 - 2011)

Conducted research and consultancy in the following countries:

Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Lesotho, Jordan, Oman, India, China, Indonesia, Australia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Iran, 

Research Publications

145 papers in international peer review journals

1 book

11 book chapters

60 Conference papers

Granted Erasmus Mundus (European Union) Guest scholar award in 2006. Through this, I delivered guest lectures in universities in Poland, Sweden and Netherlands.

1993 - AusAid Merit scholarship to undertake Masters and PhD degrees at UNSW, Sydney.


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