Scrapbooking leads to passion in science

Interesting reads: Sivapragasam going through her scrapbook of science-related newspaper articles that were her source of inspiration to become a scientist today.

IT only took a newspaper column about science to spark a girl’s interest in the subject.

Today, Dr Magaret Sivapragasam, 35, is an internationally recognised scientist.

Recalling her childhood and the hobby that set her on a path to finding her passion, the lecturer said she used to read and compile articles in The Star into a scrapbook.

“There was a column in the daily featuring random science facts which I loved reading. It was easy to understand.

“I would diligently cut these weekly articles and stick them in a scrapbook. I have 259 articles collected so far, ” she told StarEdu.

The column made science simple as it had colourful pictures that the then five-year-old scientist loved.

Sivapragasam who now heads a programme at Quest International University, Perak, credits her mother for instilling a love for science and reading newspapers at a young age.

“She would patiently explain everything my curious mind questioned – how water became ice, how birds flew, why the chimney smoked and every other query I had.

“Having a profound sense of appreciation for science books from young, I enjoyed reading the The Star very much.

“I would really encourage everyone, young and old to read the newspaper.

“There is so much information to be gained and who knows it may just spark a new project or idea, ” she said.

Sivapragasam, who is the first Malaysian to be selected by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) to be named on the Periodic Table of Younger Chemists, said her scrapbook was also the catalyst to creating a Facebook group to educate the public about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Together with fellow lecturers Dr Maisara Shahrom Raja Shahrom, Nur Mashitah Mustaffa Albasre and Noor Hafizah Abdul Halim, they created “Sembang Science” on June 1 last year which contains a mix of conversations in Bahasa Malaysia and English.

The group was initially apprehensive as they did not know how the public would react to the page. But six months on, “Sembang Science” now has 2,000 members, and the numbers are growing.

“Since many people are spending more time online after the pandemic hit, we wanted to share some fun knowledge with netizens and bridge the gap between the science community and the public, especially the younger community which get most of their information from social media.

“Scientists work on so many discoveries and somehow this information gets lost in translation from the workbench to the public.

“We live in a world where fake news seems to be a new fact of life and science is not immune to this trend.

“Social media is a great opportunity for the science community to share the correct scientific information with a wider audience, ” she said, adding that there are many societies and governmental bodies that have put in much effort in disseminating science knowledge to the public.

She said she hopes that the Facebook group would help attract more youth to pursue STEM by making it simple and fun.

“The main idea is to showcase the application of science and how it can be used in everyday learning.”

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