January 31, 2020, by Lisa Chin

Recipients announced for the International Research Collaboration Award 2020

This post is written by Ms Vimaleswari Danapal, Assistant Manager at the Graduate School. 

International Research Collaboration Award 2020

The Graduate School provides strategic funding for a variety of internal schemes to support research activities for early career researchers (ECR) and postgraduate research students (PGR). Last year, the International Research Collaboration Award (IRCA) was awarded to two PGR recipients for their research attachments abroad. This year, we are delighted to extend the scheme to include two inaugural awards to the ECR category. A total of 11 PGR and 7 ECR applications were received this year and we have awarded four prizes worth up to RM15,000 each. These enable all award holders to expand their research work in new directions and enable the primary supervisors to establish new relationships.

One recipient is Karen Thivya Lourdes from the School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences and supervised by Dr Alexander Lechner. Karen’s award will enable her to spend one month at the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center (GECSC) in Denver, Colorado under the supervision of Dr Darius Semmens and co-hosted by Dr Kenneth Bagstad, Dr Jay Diffendorfer and Dr Ben Sherrouse, who are part of the USGS team in developing ecosystem service tools. Karen will be working closely with the USGS ecosystem service assessment and valuation tool developers, listed above, on their software, Social Valuation of Ecosystem Services (SolVES) and Artificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services (ARIES). The end-goal of this project is a publication on applying SolVES and/or ARIES in Greater Kuala Lumpur. The application of SolVES and/or ARIES in Greater Kuala Lumpur, through this project, would be the first of its kind in Malaysia and would be one of the first applications of SolVES to an urban environment.

Another worthy recipient is Yew Guo Yong from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and supervised by Dr Show Pau Loke. Yew will be based at the Swedish Centre for Resource Recovery at the University of Boras, Sweden under the supervision of Prof Mohammad J. Taherzadeh for a duration of two months. Yew’s main focus is to learn the membrane bioreactor design and utilisation for non-degradable products and further develop the idea from this research finding in Malaysia. During his attachment, Yew will study the microalgae compatibility for reverse membrane bioreactors (RMB) and design a bioreactor with similar mechanism for the RMB, understand the bacteria strain types, functions and ability on digesting the non-degradable materials and adapt the optimisation parameters and troubleshooting skill on the RMB. The findings attained from this trip could potentially constitute a new research scope for his PhD research, on the topic of degrading non-degradable material to produce biogas for power generation. It is hoped that the generation of bioenergy will bring a new line of prospective in research field to Yew, Dr Show and the entire research team at UNM.

From left: Yew Guo Yong, Prof Deborah Hall and Karen Thivya Lourdes

Meanwhile, Dr Marieke de Vries from the School of Psychology is the recipient of the ECR category. She will be on a month long research collaboration visit to Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, Clinical Developmental Psychology at the VU University Amsterdam. Dr Marieke aims to study cultural differences in several domains related to autism (cognitive theories, parental stress, attitudes towards autism) where it is beneficial to have collaboration with international partners to collect data in different countries, publish together and to learn from their experience. She will be hosted by Dr Sander Begeer and Dr Anke Scheeren who are experts in Autism and Theory of Mind (ToM) research. During this time, Dr Marieke plans to set up a research collaboration with the Dutch Autism Database (Nederlands Autisme Register; NAR) Lab at the VU University, attend the JASP workshop at the University of Amsterdam and strengthen the existing collaboration with Prof M. de Jonge at Leiden University. Furthermore, this collaboration will give Dr Marieke the opportunity to apply for Dutch funding in conjunction with the hosting researchers who are very successful in securing funding in Netherlands.

The other deserving ECR recipient is Dr Anurita Selvarajoo from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering who will be on a six weeks research attachment at School of Geosciences, University of Edinburg. The context for Dr Anurita’s study concerns modifiers of biochar carbon stability, particularly how biochar carbon storage might be optimised for use under Malaysian climate and soil conditions, considering available biomass resources. She will have the opportunity to access knowledge from experts; Dr Saran Sohi and Dr Ondřej Mašek who will be the main collaborators from the UK Biochar Research Centre (UKBRC). This research visit is hoped to benefit Sustainable Palm Oil Group under the Future Food Malaysia, development of international networks, knowledge transfer and exchange and the addition of human capital through return mobility. Meanwhile, two funding bodies have been identified to pursue the collaborative fund application on biochar research; Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and Trans-disciplinary Research Grant Scheme (TRGS-KPM) in Malaysia and applications for this fund is expected to happen after the research visit is concluded sometime end of 2020 or early 2021. It is also hoped that this visit will lead to a suitable joint-authored publication sometime later this year.

From left: Dr Anurita Selvarajoo, Prof Deborah Hall and Dr Marieke de Vries

A signing ceremony of agreement was held on Wednesday 22 January 2020. The ceremony was witnessed by Prof Deborah Hall, Vice-Provost of Research and Knowledge Exchange. Also present were Dr Show Pau Loke and Dr Alexander Lechner.

Congratulatory message 

The Graduate School is committed in nurturing young researchers and recognises the value of these talents. We would like to once again congratulate all the IRCA 2020 winners and wish them all the very best!

From left: Dr Show Pau Loke, Yew Guo Yong, Prof Deborah Hall, Karen Thivya Lourdes, Dr Alexander Lechner, Dr Anurita Selvarajoo and Dr Marieke de Vries

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