Activities in 2013

Animal Ethics, Laboratory Safety and Design Seminar

At the apogee of its austerity and ubiquity in the twilight of 1950s, the dreaded 'S' appellation - Smallpox - unleashed unprecedented turmoil and apprehension that corkscrewed the world population into the periphery of lucidity. No, this is not the infamously abysmal and mentally harrowing scene from Steven Soderbergh's venerated medical debacle thriller - Contagion - but a potent glimpse of what laxity and shoddiness in research can bring about as conjectured by Gaia Science (M) Sdn Bhd CEO Dr Chua Teck Mean during the Animal Ethics, Laboratory Safety and Design Seminar held at UTAR Perak Campus on 14 January 2013. The seminar was a brainchild of UTAR Centre for Biodiversity Research.

The well-swotted Dr Chua tactfully addressed the attentive audience over two prized sessions: In the first session titled 'Animal Biosafety in Research', he vigorously imparted to them the principal importance to abide by the generically acknowledged Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) implicating all researches on animals. "Cutting edge research is the chief accelerator of renaissance and the indubitable hallmark of a prolific university," he elucidated before adding, "Great science is tantamount to terrific facilities which inexorably comprise animals. Animals, like humans, also warrant meritorious treatment."

Dr Chua also vehemently advocated the use of certified, specific pathogen free (SPF) animals for laboratory pursuits. "These thorough bred come with authenticated documents about their pedigree. However clear cut their validation is, they must be methodologically quarantined - a foremost exercise to segregate and incarcerate them according to breed, purpose and duration of research. No room is vacated for discrepancy and compromise; else, your research product is irrevocable and disposable as it could not facilitate future researches. Unsolicited practices, poor subtlety and lackadaisical attitude are all promiscuity of research," he avowed.

Dr Chua, a former World Health Organisation (WHO) technical advisor with expertise in the field of biohazard containment spanning across 16 years, ephemerally divulged arcane details about infectious maladies before unfolding his second selling point: Design and Operation for Research Animal Facilities. He induced, "Scientific research is a multidisciplinary realm that solicits holistic approach from all the parties involved. Engineers and building contractors are oblivious to the intricacies in biosecurity; thus, it is the researcher's onus to enlighten and cox them. Go for functional designs. The obnoxious truth is that a lab might boast swanky façade but is unwittingly a smokescreen of portentous menaces."

The seminar, which was inundated with members of UTAR Faculty of Science, intermittently saw the emancipation of the humorous side of Dr Chua. At one juncture, he twitted, "Humans splurge candidly at five star hotels, so let's mollycoddle animals with six star hotels since they are not going to make it out alive!" 

The seminar featured a talk by Dr Chua and a display of scientific products related to the topic

A man of scientific credibility, Dr Chua addresses the audience on issues pertaining to animal research.

UTAR exhibits in Penang International Science Fair

UTAR Faculty of Science participated in the Penang International Science Fair, an annual event organised as part of the mission of 'inspiring Innovation' of Penang Science Cluster that focuses on developing young minds and exposing them to science and engineering through a unique, stimulating and innovative experience.

Participated in the fair, which was held in Penang on 13 and 14 April 2013, were two faculty members Centre for Bio-Diversity Research Chairman Dr Tee Chong Siang and Asst Prof Dr Say Yee How, and six students Tan Si Nan, Yeoh Ze Qing, Phuah Szu Ann, Mohd Zulfadhli Azizan, Foong Wei Hern and Ng Yee Wen.

The UTAR's booth exhibited life science materials such as plant tissue culture, DNA extraction and gel electrophoresis, and virus models.  Visitors, mainly schoolchildren, were not only explained and shown how to culture plant tissue in a controlled environment, extract DNA sample and perform agarose gel electrophoresis, but also given the opportunity to perform them.

"The exhibition was a platform to share knowledge especially with the children on life science," said third-year Biotechnology student Foong Wei Hern, adding that he was glad to see young children getting fascinated by the exhibits at their booth.  He added, "All of us have been well prepared by our lecturers before we come to the exhibition."

At UTAR's booth: Dr Tee (left picture, right) with students (from left) Mohd Zulfadhli, Tan, Phuah, Yeoh (sitting), Foong (behind) and Ng; and Dr Say with virus models (right picture)
Plant tissue culture: UTAR students explaining about plant tissue culture and (bottom right picture) a young visitor trying to culture a plant tissue
DNA extraction: Visitor grinding onion tissue (top left), UTAR student extracting DNA sample from grinded onion tissue (top right) and showing it (bottom).

Gel electrophoresis: Dr Say showing visitors how to use a micropipette (left) and Student showing how to load a DNA sample into gel (right)  

Curious visitors swamping UTAR's booth

UTAR National Postgraduate Fundamental and Applied Sciences Seminar (NPFASS) 2013

The inaugural UTAR National Postgraduate Fundamental and Applied Sciences Seminar (NPFASS) 2013 was held at UTAR Perak Campus from 13 to 14 May and saw the active participation of around a hundred postgraduate students from UTAR and also other public and private universities in Malaysia

A joint effort by UTAR Centre for Biodiversity Research, Faculty of Science and the Institute of Postgraduate Studies and Research, the two-day seminar consisted five sessions which covered five science topics namely Chemical Science, Biotechnology, Health Sciences, Molecular Biology and Agricultural Science which not only saw erudite professors being keynote speakers and moderators but also postgraduate students presenting their research findings. The seminar also had participants displaying colourful and informative posters on their research topics.   

Organising Chairman Dr Say Yee How said in his welcome speech that the participants were privileged to have prominent experts as keynote speakers. "I thank the keynote speakers from the bottom of my heart and truly appreciate their enthusiasm in disseminating and sharing their latest observations and discoveries in their respective fields."

Vice President (Student Development and Alumni Relations) Assoc. Prof Dr Teh Chee Seng who was invited to open the seminar echoed his sentiments. "This is a good platform to interact with academics from UTAR and other institutions and we are honoured to have prominent speakers here today such as Prof Dr Taufiq- Yap Yun Hin from Universiti Putra Malaysia, Dr Anthony Ho from Taylor's University, Prof Dr Tengku Sifzizul bin Tengku Muhammad from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Prof Dr Choo Kong Bung from UTAR and so on." Dr Teh then applauded Dr Say's effort in successfully organising this seminar for the first time and hoped there will more for the following years. 

Fazilah Abdul Manan from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia expressed her pleasure in attending the seminar. "It is good to be here to pick on the keynote speakers' and other outstanding speakers' brains. I think the number of participants would double should the seminar be widely publicised next year," shared the supervisor who was introduced to NPFASS by a UTAR lecturer.   

Towards the end of the seminar, NPFASS also awarded deserving participants who performed well in the oral presentation and poster presentation at the seminar. List of the winners in random order is as follows:

  • Oral Presentation:




  • Poster Presentation:




    • Sivakamy Sunthiram, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, SYNTHESIS OF NOVEL POLYMERIC ANTI TUBERCULOSIS DRUG.
Participants looking at the displayed posters.
Winners of the poster presentation categorty (starting with second from left) - Lim Sheng Jye, Tan Kar Soon and Sivakamy Sunthiram flanked by Chairperson of UTAR Centre for Biodiversity Research Dr Tee Chong Siang (left) and Dr Say (right).
(From left to right) Sivakamy, Fan Sook Ha, Tan, Dean of Faculty of Science Assoc. Prof Dr Lim Tuck Meng, Lim, Jamie Kok Mei Lin and Dr Say posing for a photograph session.

Honorary Talk by Professor Dr. KalaiMathee: 

Genes, Greens and 65Roses – The Pseudomonas aeruginosa Connection
Date: 27 June 2013
Venue: DDK1 Faculty Science
Time: 3.00 - 4.30pm

Prof. Dr. Mathee is the first founding faculty member and founding chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. She received BS (Genetics) and MS (Microbial Genetics) degrees from the University of Malaya and completed her PhD in Molecular Microbiology at the University of Tennessee, Memphis. About 300 students and staffs attended the talk and it was a very informative and interesting talk. The talk covered the molecular mechanisms responsible for (1) antibiotic resistance, and (2) conversion to mucoid strains. In addition, it addressed alternative therapies (compounds of botanical and synthetic origin) to combat P. aeruginosa. Her talk also covered the use of metagenomic tools to determine bacterial diversity in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. The studies involving cystic fibrosis lungs showed that the diversity of organisms in the lung can potentially determine disease outcome.

Agricultural Technology Seminar Series VII - Integrated Farming Systems'

"I am glad that the seminar has been organised continuously and has since received more and more support from the industry such as Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) Berhad and others," commented UTAR Vice President Prof Ir Dr Lee Sze Wei when delivering his welcome address during the Agriculture Technology Seminar titled 'Integrated Farming Systems' which was held at UTAR Perak Campus from 28 to 29 June 2013.

Jointly organised by the Faculty of Science and UTAR Centre for Biodiversity Research and sponsored by KLK Berhad, the one-and-half day agricultural science seminar was indeed a convention of great minds. The seminar featured accomplished keynote speakers, ranging from a successful CEO of a local plantation company to learned professors, who shared their expertise and research findings in the industry with the rapt audience.

Prof Lee delivering his welcome address.

Prof Ooi thanking the people who have made the seminar a success again.

Organising Chairman Prof Dr Ooi Aun Chuan extended his unstinting gratitude to a list of people for their unswerving support and assistance. "I'm grateful for having the three moderators, Prof Dr Goh Swee Hock, Dr Chee Kheng Hoy and Dr Tan Swee Lian, for being here and assist us with the Q&A session," the Head of Department of Agricultural and Food Science said. "Thank you, Prof Lee Sze Wei, KLK Berhad, Chairman of Centre for Biodiversity Research Dr Tee Chong Siang, committee members, the speakers and friends for your support that ensures the success of this seminar."

First moderator Prof Goh introducing the keynote speakers before the seminar began.

Dean of Faculty of Science Assoc Prof Dr Lim Tuck Meng presenting a token of appreciation to second keynote speaker Dr Francis Ng.

CEO of IJM Plantation Berhad Mr Joseph Tek Choon Yee, who was the first keynote speaker, started the seminar's ball rolling with his talk titled "Oil Palm: The Holy Grail of Malaysian Plantation Agriculture - Timeline and Appraisal. "I aspire to inspire you before I expire," he started off jokingly, and proceeded to highlight the key challenges confronting the oil palm industry currently and the abundant opportunities towards enhancing oil palm yields and others.

Participant Puan Julie Marzlinda Mohd Razek from Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) found the seminar rewarding as she was able to gain extra knowledge and information that could assist in her research field. "I'm one of the delegates led by Dr Habsah Bidin, Head of National Animal Embryo Center (NAEC). Since our research is on livestock and somewhat interrelated with agriculture, this seminar gave us the opportunity to learn from speakers who are conversant with the agriculture sector."