Focusing on R&D

Prof Jack hopes students here will get into the flow of the varsity’s strong ‘research culture’.

Heriot-Watt University Malaysia aims to establish quality research at its campus and make connections between researchers in the UK and Malaysia.

CREATIVITY and innovation contribute a great deal in the advancement of basically everything, from businesses, technology, to our well-being, and more.

However, it is research and development (R&D) that provides a platform for creativity and innovation to flourish.

Without R&D, valuable information would remain undiscovered and subsequently, wasted.

“R&D is an important aspect in any sector,” says Prof Lynne Jack, the newly appointed Heriot-Watt University Malaysia Director of Research.

“Conducting research and developing information is what Heriot-Watt is known for. It is part of our culture and makes up a core component of who we are and who we want to be in the future,” she says, adding that it is also the base where the institution’s teaching reputation is built on.

Prof Jack recently moved from the varsity’s Edinburgh campus in the United Kingdom (UK), where she was based for the past 24 years, to take charge of driving research and development at the varsity’s Malaysia campus.

She says it is a great opportunity to pursue knowledge and education in a vibrant culture, which she couldn’t bear to turn down.

Heriot-Watt’s research facility in Edinburgh is known to have produced top engineering research in the UK.

Besides that, the research hub also centres on renewable energy and bioreactors, geosciences and petroleum, engineering, robotics, sensors and signal processing, water resources and the blue economy, marine biodiversity, sustainable construction, mathematical sciences and actuarial maths, and economics and management, among others.

“Our research is particularly multidisciplinary, and our outputs and impact deal directly with contemporary societal sector, and global challenges.

“I would really like to put Heriot-Watt Malaysia’s research on the map, for it to be recognised as the ‘go to’ place for research expertise in areas such as engineering, physical sciences, social sciences, design, mathematical sciences, and more,” she adds.

She explains that in order to do so, she plans on establishing a footprint of quality research on the campus first.

“Rather than create a replica model in Malaysia of the research and the expertise we have in Edinburgh, we are keen to develop a profile here that fits the needs of both Malaysia and the wider region.

“We’re also eager to recognise the different drivers and requirements, and respond accordingly,” says Prof Jack, who has a PhD in building services engineering and is also the vice-president of the Chartered Institution Building Services Engineers.

Linking experts

Another part of her role here would be making connections between researchers in Edinburgh and Malaysia.

“We see opportunities for collaborating between the UK and Malaysia.

“There is a great willingness to work together and not just within Heriot-Watt, but with other universities, research funders, and industries as well,” she says.

She shares that requests to work with Malaysian researchers from her colleagues in the UK, have started pouring in since she came to Malaysia last month.

In Heriot-Watt, R&D plays a key role in laying the foundation of its lessons.

Prof Jack says the output from the institution’s extensive research on multiple fields feed into the teaching of undergraduate and postgraduate students.

She hopes students here will soon get into the flow of the university’s strong “research culture”.

Heriot-Watt is currently seeking to develop a PhD student cohort by next year and is working on it now.

Prof Jack says PhD students bring a much valued “vibrancy and excitement” to the research community.

“It will change the dynamics of the campus, and will begin to embed the research culture here.

“The doctorates offered will be aligned to Heriot-Watt’s expertise of staff, because that is a priority to make sure they have proper education and the correct and base level of PhD supervision,” she says, adding that the university is enthusiastic about helping Malaysia meet its target of 60,000 PhD holders by 2023.

She has already received quite a number of industry contacts and prospective PhD students asking to take up a doctorate course from the campus here, adds Prof Jack.

The professor who is passionate about her work in R&D says being a researcher is a viable career choice which is needed in almost all sectors globally.

However, one must have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, says Prof Jack.

“A researcher must constantly push the boundaries of where the knowledge currently lies.

“To do so, a complete understanding of the field you are in is a necessity.

“It is also important to convey the information you find and establish in a meaningful way to be disseminated to the people and industries it was intended to reach,” she points out.

She adds that students play a role in the success of researchers as well.

“Students would sometimes ask questions you don’t anticipate and that would lead you (lecturer and researcher) to think about the bigger picture,” she says.

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