Growth through knowl­edge and in­no­va­tion

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Post Graduate -

RE­SEARCH plays a vi­tal role in the de­vel­op­ment of any coun­try. The back­bone of knowl­edge is re­search, and knowl­edge opens path­ways to progress. The more a coun­try in­vests in re­search, the bet­ter it can work to­wards progress in ar­eas such as sci­ence, his­tory, art and phi­los­o­phy.

How­ever, a coun­try needs re­searchers who place higher value on learn­ing than earn­ing. The field of re­search is not with­out its perks. One ben­e­fit is that you are con­tribut­ing to the coun­try’s growth, but in the early days of your ca­reer, an im­pres­sive salary may not be some­thing you see in your grants.

The five re­search uni­ver­si­ties in Malaysia have been pi­o­neer­ing sig­nif­i­cant ad­vance­ments in the field of re­search and de­vel­op­ment de­spite be­ing al­lo­cated only 1.1% of the na­tion’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. The ideal fig­ure is around 2%, ac­cord­ing to Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy and In­no­va­tion Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Wil­fred Ma­dius Tan­gau.

A work­around to this sit­u­a­tion in­volves lo­cal re­searchers col­lab­o­rat­ing with pri­vate and in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions that award grants.

Be­com­ing a re­searcher in Malaysia

The com­pe­ti­tion among grad­u­ate stu­dents to en­rol in re­search uni­ver­si­ties is fierce since spots are open to in­ter­na­tional ap­pli­cants as well.

Ev­ery ap­pli­cant wants ac­cess to the top-of-the-line fa­cil­i­ties ma­jor re­search uni­ver­si­ties pro­vide.

Hav­ing a first­class bach­e­lor’s de­gree in a rel­e­vant ma­jor along with re­search ex­pe­ri­ence can make it more likely for you to earn a spot in a re­search uni­ver­sity.

Prof Dr Mohd Jamil

Maah, se­nior pro­fes­sor at Univer­siti Malaya, says, “At least

80% of can­di­dates ap­ply­ing for a post­grad­u­ate de­gree in re­search have a cu­mu­la­tive grade-point av­er­age (CGPA) of 3.0 and above, but the CGPA is just a guide. Stu­dents should not ob­sess over it.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, if stu­dents are not ac­cepted into a pub­lic re­search uni­ver­sity, re­search po­si­tions in pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties or in­ter­na­tional branch cam­puses in Malaysia are avail­able.

Lack of af­ford­abil­ity is an ob­sta­cle one may face when ap­ply­ing to post­grad­u­ate re­search po­si­tions in pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties or in­ter­na­tional branch cam­puses. How­ever, stu­dents can ap­ply for schol­ar­ships and grants from these in­sti­tu­tions or other pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions.

Dr Wong Ee Phin, who did her re­search on non-in­va­sive mon­i­tor­ing of stress among wild Asian ele­phants, com­pleted her doc­tor­ate un­der the Uni­ver­sity of Not­ting­ham Malaysia.

“In my first year, I re­ceived a grant from Ch­ester Zoo in the United King­dom and started work­ing there.

“I learnt en­docrinol­ogy tech­niques (a fun­da­men­tal part of my ele­phant stress re­search) at the zoo lab­o­ra­to­ries.

Upon re­turn­ing to Malaysia, the uni­ver­sity helped me set up a lab­o­ra­tory here so I could con­tinue with my re­search,” says Dr Wong.

Ac­cord­ing to her, the lab­o­ra­tory was not as well equipped as the one in Ch­ester Zoo, but she took it in stride.

“The uni­ver­sity of­fered me the best it had. Sourc­ing other things I needed for my re­search only con­trib­uted to my learn­ing process,” she says.

Be­cause of Dr Wong’s part­ner­ship with Ch­ester Zoo, the zoo sent a lab­o­ra­tory tech­ni­cian to Malaysia to as­sist Dr Wong in set­ting up her lab­o­ra­tory.

The lo­cal re­search cli­mate

Re­search uni­ver­si­ties in Malaysia are sub­ject to strict gov­ern­ment su­per­vi­sion to main­tain and en­hance their stan­dards of re­search.

“Re­search uni­ver­si­ties must meet these stan­dards to con­tinue op­er­at­ing. We can­not af­ford to be com­pla­cent,” says Prof Jamil.

“We are au­dited ev­ery year on ev­ery­thing from num­ber of re­searchers and qual­ity of re­search to num­ber of pub­li­ca­tions and ci­ta­tions. Ev­ery­thing is rated pe­ri­od­i­cally, which means we con­stantly strive to per­form bet­ter.

“As a na­tion, we are do­ing very well in re­search and de­vel­op­ment de­spite the cuts in re­search grants.

“With the price of raw ma­te­ri­als in­creas­ing, we need more grants to af­ford bet­ter re­search ma­te­ri­als and to at­tract stu­dents to work for re­search projects by pay­ing them well for their work.”

On the bright side, he says, Malaysia has an abun­dance of knowl­edge­able su­per­vi­sors, state-of-the-art fa­cil­i­ties and an aca­demic en­vi­ron­ment that sup­ports re­search, which bodes well for the na­tion’s fu­ture per­for­mance in re­search and de­vel­op­ment.

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