Dr David Nayagam (1998 – current)

Dr Nayagam began working at the Bionics Institute in 1998; it was known as the Bionic Ear Institute back then. He was studying Science and Engineering at the University of Melbourne, and had forged a new combination of subjects that included neuroscience and electrical engineering.

David was offered a summer job at the Bionics Ear Institute after completing a neuroscience subject placement at the Department of Otolaryngology. Subsequently, Prof Graeme Clark offered David a PhD scholarship and David became his final student.

After completing his PhD, David was employed to establish and run the Bionic Ear Institute’s ‘Eric Bauer Laboratory’ (St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Daly Wing, Level 5) as part of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science. He studied advanced bio-materials and led a study to demonstrate the safety of implanting carbon nanotube electrodes.

When the ‘Bionic Eye’ project began in 2009, David jumped at the offer to join that team under the leadership of Prof Rob Shepherd. David worked closely with A/Prof Chris Williams, A/Prof Penny Allen, and others, to develop the world first Suprachoroidal Retinal Prosthesis – currently going through second generation clinical trials.

David is currently involved in the ‘MIRA’ project, developing a ‘Minimally-Invasive Retinal-degeneration Arrestor’ to protect the retina against cell loss in degenerative eye conditions.

David enjoys working at the Bionics Institute due to its multidisciplinary environment; the chance to work with and learn from great researchers, clinicians and engineers; the wide variety of activities and challenges he is able to tackle as part of his role. However, when asked what he enjoys the most about working at the Institute, David feels passionate that it gives him an opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

In year 10, David was interviewed for a high school promotional video and when asked what science he was most interested in, he replied – without knowing about the existence of ‘Bionics’ – that he would love to interface electronics with a human brain. Now he is paid to do this!

“We have a chance to help people, who would otherwise lose their sight, to gain extra years of vision – maybe enough to see their kids grow up. That is a very motivational thought.”

Dr David Nayagam