Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

PhD caps off a long list of achievements for international student

Coming from Iran to study at Charles Sturt University (Charles Sturt) in Wagga Wagga has seen Dr Forough Ataollahi complete her PhD, become an advocate for other international students and a mentor for high school students.

Dr Forough AtaollahiDr Ataollahi was awarded a PhD during a ceremony on Monday 16 December for her research through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation examining the impact of supplementing the diets of pregnant Merino ewes with calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) on their general health and the health of their offspring.

She said the research aimed to see if there was a benefit in supplementing diets when the mineral contents of pasture or feed are sufficient.

“I found providing Ca and Mg to pregnant and lactating ewes improved metabolic status of pregnant ewes, boosted the immune response in twin newborn lambs and increased their live-weight gains,” Dr Ataollahi said.

“Providing Ca and Mg resulted in a 25 per cent increase in live-weight gain of twin lambs at one month of age, and a 31 per cent increase at weaning.

“Mg supplementation boosted the efficiency of the immune system in lambs by improving the antioxidant capacity, which has positive health impacts on lamb survival, post lamb-marking infections, and parasite infections.

Forough Ataollahi“This indicates that mineral supplementation of ewes raising multiple lambs should be considered, even when the mineral content in feed on offer appears adequate.”

Dr Ataollahi was supervised by Dr Marie Bhanugopan, Professor Michael Friend, Dr Shawn McGrath, Dr Geoff Dutton and Dr Andrew Peters from Charles Sturt’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.

Her research was supported by a Charles Sturt postgraduate research scholarship and was part of a project funded by Australian Wool Innovation. Read the full thesis.

During her studies at Charles Sturt Dr Ataollahi took an active role in the International Students’ Association at the university and at a national level.

She was named NSW International Student of the Year in 2018 in recognition of her advocacy for the rights of women international students studying in Australia, her works as a volunteer and as a mentor supporting migrants in the regional community of Wagga Wagga.

Dr Atoallahi said being appointed the first women’s officer for the Council of International Student Australia (CISA) was very rewarding allowing her to advocate for greater awareness.

“There’s almost 400,000 international students enrolled in higher education in Australia accounting for more than 22 per cent of all enrolments.

“There are many issues related to the health and student well-being that need to be improved, including sexual assault and harassment, and workplace exploitation.

Being awarded international Student of the Year“Sexual assault and harassment can be particularly sensitive for female international students because of their cultural beliefs.

“As the first women’s officer in Council of International Student Australia, I was able to advocate for improved awareness amongst female students about their rights in Australia, at university and in the workplace.”

Dr Ataollahi has a simple message for other international students: get involved in social activities.

“I understand they came to Australia to pursue their studies, but at the same time engaging with the community is very rewarding and has helped me to understand the culture and feel more at home,” said Dr Ataollahi.

Dr Ataollahi is now a NSW Department of Primary Industries Animal Health and Welfare research officer based in Wagga Wagga.