Four research degrees, including a PhD in Computer Science at UNE in 2011 and a multi-disciplinary academic career spanning almost 40 years and five countries – Dr Om Kumar Harsh's life's work is nothing but varied, and he is now being recognised with a 2018 UNE Distinguished Alumni Award.
Early in his extensive career, Om conducted research and taught in various Indian universities, before holding posts at the University of South Australia; Monash University, Malaysia; US Champlain College, Dubai; University of New England; and branches of the University of Missouri and California University in Oman. Computer science, engineering and physics in all their forms have been his abiding passions.
Om was director of one of the largest engineering colleges in northern India – the Hindustan College of Science and Technology – and group director at the Amritsar College of Engineering and Technology, before becoming Vice Chancellor of Tantia University and, most recently, Pro Chancellor (Additional) of Glocal University.
Even as he has risen up the ranks of academia, Om has remained dedicated to the practical applications of learning, and has actively promoted international collaborations between universities and industry.
"At UNE I learnt the importance of sharing research findings with other researchers, people working in that field and the public, to add to the scientific knowledge base," he said.
"I remember the UNE staff fondly, for their love of learning and sincere interest in motivating students to succeed.
I had the privilege of learning from some of the best computer science staff in the field and it prepared me well for a successful research career in advanced higher education and subsequent professions. I owe so much to the UNE School of Science and Technology.
Studying at UNE, Om said he met people from all over the world, learning that we share similar challenges and can impact on each other in positive ways.
"It made me more modest and appreciative for what I have," he said.
"UNE instilled in me the desire to be active in my community and to make a difference in other people’s lives.
"The best global citizens are informed and have global relationships. They operate in whatever way they can – within their own country or others – to generate the change they desire. UNE introduced me to such concepts.
"My experience at UNE was different to what I experienced at other universities.
"UNE taught me the power and value of knowledge and its strategies, which is vital for anything I plan to do for wider humankind."
Despite his academic trajectory, Om never forgotten his humble origins, and has organised fellowships for disadvantaged rural students and opened TAFE-like centres in India to allow less affluent students to develop skills.
"In collaboration with my Australian colleagues, I have also sought to help students from the Middle East, India and Malaysia to acquire an Australian education," he said.
"I cherish my UNE memories and personally appreciate the opportunities that study abroad can bring. I will always keep a warm place in my heart for Armidale and UNE."