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Biotech in a tech-savvy world

April 4, 2013 | Campus News

The Education Ministry is emphasising the need for more Science stream candidates, as statistics reveal merely 20 percent of all secondary school students are enrolled in the Science stream.

To achieve their vision of transforming Malaysia into a high-income nation by the year 2020, the government is roping in assistance from both public and private universities to nurture quality graduates who are well-versed in the fields of biotechnology, medicine, IT and science.

And UCSI University is taking steps to turn this probability into reality.

“In line with the government’s initiative, we launched a series of fun yet educational Science-themed activities last year to foster a passion for Science among secondary school learners,” says Assoc Prof Dr Hon Wei Min, dean of the University’s Faculty of Applied Sciences.

“One of our main highlights included a workshop titled ‘Putting U in CSI: The Junior CSI Agent’, where over 40 secondary school students were asked to conduct an ‘investigation’ on Lady Gaga and her infamous meat dress, and to discover where the meat came from, or more sinisterly, who it belonged to.”

“Students were absolutely enthusiastic about being part of the ‘forensic team’,” she says, explaining that the case study revolved around the fictitious story of Lady Gaga, who had been accused of murder to obtain the meat for her dress.

“The workshop introduced students to various biotechnological forensic techniques – like DNA fingerprinting, DNA extraction and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), to name a few – and forensic tools.”

“This way, participants were able to develop greater understanding of biotechnology and what it’s really about,” she adds. “And most importantly, students (who were interested to pursue further study in the field) were also able to envision the learning environment that they would be exposed to.”

According to Dr Hon, the Faculty plans to organise three interesting activities for secondary school students this year: “There will be a workshop on nutrition, one where students will ‘study’ biotechnology under a microscope and of course, another much-awaited ‘Putting U in CSI: The Junior CSI Agent Workshop’.”

“We heartily welcome all interested secondary school learners to participate in these informative activities.”

Learning more, studying less

Through such hands-on activities, it is evident that the Faculty places heavy emphasis on holistic learning and practical research – in line with the University’s Praxis approach of applying theory to practice.

“With this approach, our students apply what they learn on a daily basis, even outside the classroom,” says Dr Hon, adding that co-op placements were also arranged for students to enable them to gain real-life industry exposure.   

“Through these placements, they have the opportunity to interact with and learn from industry practitioners, and are also able to keep abreast of the latest developments in the biotechnology frontier.”

The fast-developing field of biotechnology requires a firm grasp of research know-how. The Faculty knows this for a fact and thus encourages students to immerse themselves in research projects.

“Biotechnology is a vast field and I believe that such projects will allow students to explore their research interests until they discover one that they would like to build their professional career on,” she opines, adding that it was essential for researchers to be well-versed in both knowledge and scientific methods.

The Faculty’s top Biotechnology student Khong Mei Li – who bagged the top honour for her presentation at the 23rd Intervarsity Biochemistry Seminar at Universiti Malaya – is a walking testimony of one who is committed to research.

In her presentation, Khong – who is now aiming to pursue a PhD to further her research on jellyfish – identified two toxin genes from the moon jellyfish that bore similar structural and functional similarities to toxins of the box jellyfish.

In a nutshell, her research aims to discover if jellyfish toxins can be used as a cytolysin – toxins responsible for cell destruction – for the development of new anti-cancer strategies.

With precocious students like Khong under its wing, the Faculty is set to impact the biotechnology landscape with a group of promising young researchers in tow.

To find out more about the Faculty’s courses, pay us a visit on our Open Days from Mar 30 – 31 (9am – 5pm) for course counselling. Alternatively, contact our Enrolment Call Centre at 03-9101 8882 or email for any enquiries. Scholarships are also available to deserving students via the UCSI University Trust. To know more, please visit
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