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UM Wants To Produce Malaysia’s First Nobel Laureate

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KUALA LUMPUR – The University of Malaya, the country’s oldest, wants to produce Malaysia’s first Nobel Prize winner and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Dr. Mohd. Amin Jalaludin is confident that this is ” very achieveable”.

“But we must first dream that one day, UM will produce the first Nobel Laureate for the nation given the fact that there’s been a steady increase in the number of research findings from the university that are published in the world’s top research journals,” he told Bernama.

He said such achievements by UM’s researchers were made possible thanks to the RM590 million High Impact Research (HIR) grant awarded by the government in 2011 which enabled the university to establish central laboratory research facilities with state-of-the-art technologies.

This has led to an increase in collaborations with the world’s universities and topped up with three Nobel Laureates being attached to UM to advise and work side by side with its own reseachers to enhance the quality and relevance of their research to society.

Prof. Dr. Amin, a former dean of UM’s Medical Faculty and former director of University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) is a strong believer in transitional medicine — finding new applications for research to improve lives and where findings from basic science are translated into practical solutions, procedures and policies.

“Whatever research we do must be translated for the benefit of society. We thank the government for approving the HIR grant and it has already started to make a high impact to society especially in the medical field,” he said.

The vice-chancellor disclosed that thanks to HIR programme, the quality of life and five-year survival rate of children suffering from leukemia had improved considerably.

The same also happened to the quality of life of women down with breast cancer.

And during the recent floods in the East Coast states, UM’s geologists helped make available a number of tube wells to produce clean water for flood victims.

“Our teams dug up to 40 metres underground for water and each well costs around just RM5,000. The membrane-system tube wells are practical to use and have proven to be very handy especially for schools. We are raising some funds from donors and we are targeting to instal such facility in 10 to 15 schools,” he added.

Prof. Dr. Amin said to enhance research transformation, he had also strongly advocated a shift from the conventional culture of science or medical researchers working in silos to cross-disciplinary teamwork, roping in those from the fields of arts and humanities as well.

“The scientists are always working in the labs but it is those from arts and humanities who are surfacing it to help translate research findings into applications for commercialisation. The impressive number of patents that have been filed over the years has great potential to be tapped for commercialisation.

“Plans are afoot to provide support for researchers to work with venture capitalists so that spin-off companies can be launched.The prospects ahead are promising,” he said, adding that HIR programme’s objective was also to enhance the country’s economy.

Answering a question, Prof. Dr. Amin agreed that quite a substantial number of winners of the Nobel Prize , the world’s most prestigious award, came from the field of medical science whose research findings had helped boost the quality of public health.

Three Japanese physicists – Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura – were among the 2014 Nobel Prize winners.

He said UM also planned to engage a few more Nobel Laureates to further enhance the credibility and quality of the HIR programme. – BERNAMA

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