Nobel laureate inspires young Malaysian scientist

Inspiring moment: Reena (left) coming up close with Macmillan after the dialogue session.

ADVERSITY yields invention, and tough situations give rise to fruitful results if one knows how to redirect and channel one’s energy.

That was one of the takeaways for Dr Reena Sri Selvarajan from her participation at the 11th edition of the Global Young Scientists Summit (GYSS) held recently,

One of 20 participants selected to have a dialogue session with Nobel Prize-winning chemist Sir David Macmillan, Reena said, “It was as if he was saying, ‘Turn your pain into victory’.”

It was a message that resonated with the 33-year-old engineering scientist, who had had to overcome hurdles in her academic endeavours.

Despite being a stellar student at school, she didn’t secure her desired scholarship to study medicine.

“I accepted an engineering course offered by a public university, graduated with first-class honours, and enrolled in a PhD programme,” she shared in a press release from Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU), where she now lectures at its School of Engineering.

Representing Malaysia at the summit, held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) from Jan 17 to Jan 20, Reena was among over 350 young scientists from 29 countries who joined the 21 plenary lectures and four panel discussions featuring 21 Nobel laureates, who included Prof Brian Kobilka and Prof John Mather.

An expert in microfabrication and nanoelectronics, specialising in biosensors and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology, she was picked to represent Malaysia based on her contribution and commitment to her research field, the press release read.

“The participants were from five continents, mainly from top research institutes such as the University of Cambridge, University College London, Kyoto University and ETH AI Center.

“Attending the event widened my perspectives and gave me a direction to up my A-game in both academic and research fields,” she said.

Reena, who has used graphene nanomaterials to develop field-effect transistor-based biosensors for artificial kidneys and a prototype of a coronavirus detector, added that she was inspired to further explore graphene’s potential for developing sustainable solutions after listening to the plenary lecture by Nobel laureate in Physics Prof Andre Geim on his discovery of graphene, the “world’s wonder material”.

Reena and her team had bagged a Gold Award at the Malaysia Technology Expo (MTE) 2020 Covid-19 International Innovation Awards for the idea and prototype.

She said the input from the interaction with multidisciplinary researchers at the GYSS would be valuable in developing final year projects and group design project titles for her students.

Having been inspired to promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, she continues nurturing young minds via her Project Einstein.

As part of the project, students enrolled in APU’s Communication Engineering Principles module are taught to present science and innovation topics confidently .

“Finally, my visit to the SUTD 5G Drone Technology Lab has fostered collaboration where APU students will be part of its internship programme,” she said.

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