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Researcher profile: Mustafa Atee

Early Career Researcher, Mustafa Atee, graduated from Curtin with a Bachelor of Pharmacy in 2005, and built up a career as a community pharmacist. He returned to Curtin in 2011 to pursue postgraduate studies, and is currently completing his PhD on pain management in dementia patients. Mustafa is currently a Research Fellow with the School of Pharmacy and part of the award-winning ePat app team.


Mustafa Atee, Research Fellow School of Pharmacy.
Mustafa Atee, Research Fellow School of Pharmacy.

Could you provide a brief overview of your research career to date?

I am an early career researcher, who is undertaking an award-wining PhD project titled ‘Improving Pain Management amongst Patients with Dementia’. The project has been supported by Alzheimer’s Australia and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). I am currently a Research Fellow with the School of Pharmacy.

How long have you been at Curtin?

I graduated from Curtin University with a Bachelor of Pharmacy in 2005. I mainly worked as a full time community pharmacist for seven years, then returned to Curtin to pursue postgraduate studies. I completed a postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pharmacy in 2011, and a Master in Clinical Pharmacy in 2012. I then began my PhD journey. In 2013, I became a sessional academic teaching Pharmacy Practice to third and fourth year pharmacy students, and Evidence Informed Health Practice to Health Sciences students.

Why were you drawn to academia as a career?

Academia is a highly focused, objective and dynamic environment, which embraces science and innovation. It provides you with a career that allows you to develop analytical and problem solving skills, generate knowledge and evidence-based research, and pushes you to be in a constant learning environment. Further, teaching is another rewarding experience where you interact with students and learn from them.

What are your areas of research interest/specialisation?

My main research interest is studying clinical pain in non-communicative populations – such as people with dementia and critically-ill and preverbal children – and improving the pain management in these populations through the use of computer vision, such as automated facial recognition technology. Other areas of interests are clinical pharmacy, pharmacotherapy, polypharmacy and de-prescribing, as well health outcomes in Indigenous Australians.

Who do you collaborate with?

I am part of the ePAT research team, which collaborates with a large number of aged care groups in Western Australia and nationally. We conduct validation and implementation trials of a technology-based clinical pain tool to benefit people with advanced dementia, and those who care for them. The team also collaborates with researchers from the UK and technologists from Switzerland.

Mustafa is part of the ePAT research team.
Mustafa is part of the ePAT research team.

Tell me about the Creative Innovation 2016 (Ci2016) Innovation Leader Scholarship and being a finalist for the ICT Researcher of the Year Digital Disruptor Awards.  

Creative Innovation 2016 Innovation Leader Scholarship

I am very pleased and thrilled to have received this scholarship. I am one of only nine Australians who have won the opportunity to present their innovations to the world’s elite business thinkers and leaders at Creative Innovation 2016 Asia Pacific. I have been selected for my achievements as a founder of a start-up commercial enterprise. This scholarship will enable me to receive a coveted place at this year’s Creative Innovation 2016 giving me a rare opportunity to rub shoulders with key industry leaders, share and discuss ideas and issues, and present my innovation ideas in a 60 second pitch on the main stage to renowned global innovators, futurists, scientists and leaders and event attendees. The theme for Ci2016 this year is ‘The Exponential Shift: Making Transformation Happen’ and, as a winner of this scholarship, it is also an acknowledgement of innovative thinking and creativity to bring fresh ideas, leadership and courage to a range of challenging issues.

Finalist for the ICT Researcher of the Year Digital Disruptor Awards

I was very delighted to be named as a finalist for this prestigious award. I am immensely grateful to the Australian Computer Society (ACS) for this nomination, which will make a valuable contribution to my professional and academic development in research. This will also provide me with the opportunity to promote Curtin University as a hub of innovation and excellence. Whilst I am an academic pharmacist, I have been shortlisted for this significant award in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). I am honoured and humbled to be placed alongside the best ICT researchers in Australia, which will be showcased at the Reimagination Thought Leader’s Summit and ACS Digital Disruptors Awards, to be held in Sydney on the 1 December 2016.

What are the highlights and challenges of your career to date?

The commercialisation of my PhD project which has led to:

  • The development of world’s first apps, the electronic Pain Assessment Tool (ePAT), which use automated facial recognition technology to assess pain for non-communicative people – for example, the very young, those who are critically ill, those with advanced dementia, stroke patients and people with intellectual disabilities – at the point-of-care.
  • Publishing an international patent.
  • Raising an investment capital of $6 million.
  • Successful establishment of a startup company, ePAT Pty Ltd, which recently listed on the ASX after an RTO acquisition by MinQuest Ltd, and has been rebranded as ePAT Technologies Ltd.
  • Winning a research agreement of $950,489 for ‘Development and Evaluation of Automated Pain Assessment Technologies’, which earned me a two year employment contract as a Research Fellow.
  • Successful collaboration agreements with several aged care groups in Australia.

Our inventions have been recognised for excellence:

Mustafa at the Incite Awards.
Mustafa at the Incite Awards.

Where to from here?

I have just been appointed as a Research Fellow with the School of Pharmacy, and will be part of a team that will develop electronic pain assessment tools for people who cannot communicate the fact they are in pain across the continuum of life.

What are your interests outside of work?

I do academic and non-academic mentoring for university students and new graduates. I also enjoy travelling, playing basketball and soccer.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to take the opportunity to thank my research team, particularly Professor Jeff Hughes, for his encouragement and support, and for believing in me! Jeff has been my PhD supervisor, mentor and excellent teacher who I have learnt a lot from. My thanks also go to my other PhD supervisors, Dr Kreshnik Hoti and Dr Richard Parsons.