‘M’sians stand to gain from research’

Visiting booths: Mohamed Khaled (third from right) visiting an exhibition booth at the carnival. With him are Prof Mohd Hamdi (second from right) and Higher Education deputy secretary-general (Policy) Datuk Dr Megat Sany Megat Ahmad Supian (far right).

RESEARCH benefits everyone – that was the message Universiti Malaya (UM) wanted to impress upon the public when it held a three-day carnival at its campus recently.

It was because of findings made through research that Malaysians can be better prepared for increasingly severe weather conditions, for instance.

According to Universiti Malaya Research Carnival (UMRC) 2022 advisor Prof Dr Saiful Anuar Karsani, the perception that universities “always just do research and get publications out” is due to the fact that the public does not see the impact and the role of universities in educating the community other than producing graduates and research journals.

“We want to show that we are also capable of producing high-impact research which brings benefit to the entire country and does not just end up in a library,” he told StarEdu.

Present to officiate the ceremony was Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin. In his speech, he expressed his hope for more research outcomes to be impactful to the nation.

He added that only through the best innovations and technologies that Malaysia would be able to be a “middle power” nation.Comparing the carnival to other research-related events such as academic paper presentation conferences and innovation exhibitions, Prof Saiful said the event, held from Jan 8 to 10, was meant to make research fun and unintimidating.

It provided a platform for different stakeholders, including the four major sectors of society – industry, the government, research institutes and the public – to discuss and talk about research, and how it can benefit everyone, he added.

Speaking at the ceremony, UM vice chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor said the carnival was also meant to be a networking platform for public and private universities, as well as various agencies, to exchange ideas in ensuring that research development and the provision of solutions to industry are achieved. “The university-industry collaboration is intended to maximise the impact on the community. This will ensure that the findings of the research innovations are given to the people so they can further implement and benefit from it,” he said.

Among the highlights of the carnival were the innovation and technology exhibition where researchers from various fields showcased their findings to the public.

National Antarctic Research Centre climatologist Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah and his team – whose findings have been adopted by the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) resulting in frequent extreme weather warnings – highlighted how weather events in Malaysia such as flooding and heavy rain are influenced by various natural phenomena.

“We have two papers that MetMalaysia has adapted, and now they have been used to help Malaysians prepare for extreme weathers much earlier,” Prof Azizan shared.

Another exhibitor at the carnival, paediatrician Assoc Prof Dr Subhashini Jayanath shared that her research on vitamin D deficiency in autistic kids found that nearly two-thirds of children with autism in her study were vitamin D insufficient or deficient.

“The main implementation after that was just to encourage them to go outdoors and do physical activities. So that’s a little bit of change in practice.

“It’s easier in a sense that now we have solid advice for parents with autistic children to bring their kids out and do outdoor activities,” she said.

Aside from academic lectures, research and innovation competitions, and industry engagement and entrepreneurship activities for academics and industry professionals, social and community engagement activities like research-themed explorace and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for kids were held to encourage learning at a young age.

UMRC 2022 chairperson Assoc Prof Dr Chai Lay Ching said the carnival also offered opportunities for schools to pitch their inventions to potential investors.

“These investors would be able to see other research outcomes that may not be at the level of commercialisation yet, but have potential so they probably would want to get involved (with funding the inventions) earlier,” she added.

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