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Activities in 2011 
 
Fourth Series of UTAR Agriculture Technology Seminar A Success
 

UTAR Centre for Biodiversity Research had successfully organized the fourth series of Agriculture Technology Seminar recently, with the theme "Current R&D of Agroindustries in Malaysia". Held on Saturday, 19th November 2011 at the UTAR Perak Campus Auditorium A003, the seminar saw the participation of about 100 people from universities, public and industry. With the emphasis on the oil palm industry in Malaysia, the seminar had a lineup of outstanding speakers from both the industry and academia, and saw an active deliberation on the new knowledge and solutions to key problems faced by the agro-industries.

The seminar started off with welcome speeches by the Organising Co-Chairperson, Associate Professor Dr. Wong Hann Ling and Vice President of UTAR (R&D and Commercialization), Prof. Dr. Lee Sze Wei, who both agreed that agriculture is an important sector contributing to the country’s economy besides ensuring food security in the country. Realizing the vital impact of agriculture to our country, UTAR wishes to be a catalyst in cultivating the interest of the younger generation in agriculture and these seminar series served as an interacting platform for academicians, industry and the public.
 

 

Organising Co-Chairperson, Associate Professor Dr. Wong Hann Ling (Left) and Vice President of UTAR (R&D and Commercialization), Prof. Dr. Lee Sze Wei (Right), giving their welcome speeches.

 

UTAR Professorial Chair in Agricultural Science, Prof. Dr. Ooi Aun Chuan then chaired the seminar, which started off with an academician from Universiti Putra Malaysia, Dr. Parameswari Namasivayam, who gave a talk on “Truncated leaf syndrome seedlings, a somaclonal variation in oil palm.” Dr. Parameswari enlightened the audience on the morphological, physiological and molecular differences between the truncated leaf syndrome and normal oil palm seedlings. The truncated leaf syndrome will look like grasshopper damage and have stunted growth with only a stub as remains. Next on the list was Prof. Dr. Soh Aik Chin from University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, who gave a talk on “Sustainable palm oil production.” He gave examples of reasons for the low national productivity challenge faced by the oil palm industry in Malaysia, which include labour problems and the lower yielding potential of current palm oil varieties. He reckoned that intensification and perseverance in research and innovation will ensure the further sustainability of oil palm cultivation in Malaysia.
 

   Left. Associate Prof. Dr. Parameswari from UPM giving her talk on the truncated leaf syndrome seedlings, a somaclonal variation in oil palm. Right. Prof. Soh Aik Chin from University of Nottingham Malaysia, talking on sustainable oil palm cultivation.

  The seminar was also graced by the support of a governmental research institute, with Dr. Idris Abu Seman from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) who enlightened the participants with his latest R&D on Ganoderma, a fungus which causes basal stem rot in oil palm. After breaking from lunch, joining the list of distinguished speakers was Prof. Dr. Jenniffer Ann Harikrishna from Universiti Malaya, who talked on microRNA (miRNA) and small interfering RNA (siRNA) in plants. These non-coding ribonucleic acids (RNA) can have big impacts on plant phenotypes and so can affect their agronomic value.

Left. Dr. Idris Abu Seman of MPOB shares the information of the fungus causing basal stem rot in oil palm, Ganoderma. Right. Prof. Dr. Jenniffer Ann Harikrishna talking on miRNA and siRNA.

   Participants have a lively discussion during lunch.

A technical seminar was then given by Mr. Vahid Omidvar, from Illumina Agriculture Consortia, who shared his company’s latest technology in next generation sequencing and microarray and how they could be used to improve and speed up R & D in agriculture. Ending the list of talks for the day was Dr. Harikrishna Kulaveerasingam, the Senior Vice President II and Head of Quantum Leap R & D, Sime Darby R & D Centre. Dr. Harikrishna was instrumental in spearheading the effort to sequence the oil palm genome at Sime Darby and in May 2009, Sime Darby announced that it has successfully sequenced, assembled and annotated the oil palm genome. 

     Left. Mr. Vahid Omidvar, from Illumina Agriculture Consortia who presented the applications of next generation sequencing and microarray technology in agriculture. Right. Dr. Harikrishna Kulaveerasingam, from Sime Darby R&D Centre giving a talk on the oil palm genome.

 Wrapping up the seminar was a lively discussion between the audience and the panel led by Prof. Ooi Aun Chuan, with questions from participants which ranged from inculcating interest in agriculture biotechnology among them, to the safety of genetically modified organisms. Faculty of Science Dean, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lim Tuck Meng, presented tokens of appreciation to all the speakers and the chair of the seminar session and gave a closing remark thanking all the invited speakers, advisors, participants and organizing committee before ending the day with light refreshment.

 Top. A lively discussion with between the audience and panel, ending the seminar for the day. Associate Prof. Dr. Lim Tuck Meng, Dean of Faculty of Science giving a closing remark (lower right corner).


Centre for Biodiversity Research Organized Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) Workshop

In line with the university’s encouragement for research excellence, the Centre for Biodiversity Research successfully organized a workshop entitled “Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE)-Principle and Tool for Analysis”.  Held on 23-24 May 2011 at Faculty of Science in Perak campus, the workshop which was jointly organized by Chemoscience Sdn Bhd, saw the participation of approximately thirty of the centre’s members and postgraduates.

The objectives of this workshop were to aid the participants in understanding the extensive applications of the Pulse Field Gel Electrophoresis, and to expose the participants on the execution, interpretation and maintenance of the system.

The workshop was divided into two sessions. It kicked off with a short presentation by the application specialist for the CHEF Mapper® XA (Bio-Rad) Miss Corrinne Lee, before the participants adjourned to the experimental session in the laboratory. Both days of the workshop ended with lively discussion sessions from the participants. It is without doubt that the workshop has helped to foster better research culture and enhance better interaction amongst the staff and postgraduates alike.

                                

 Bio-Rad’s application specialist, Miss Corrinne Lee, giving a talk on the principles and uses of Pulse Field Gel Electrophoresis to the participants

        The participants of the workshop, comprising of academic staff, lab officers and postgraduates, were briefed by Miss Corrinne Lee on the procedure before they were separated into groups of four for the actual hands-on session.

   Participants totally engrossed in the gel slicing step.

           The participants learning to prepare the gel before it was loaded into the electrophoresis chamber for the electrophoresis run. The days ended with lively discussion amongst the participants and the application specialists.


 

Applications of Modern Sciences and Biotechnology in Agriculture

Continuing with its seminar series on Agriculture Technology, the UTAR Centre for Biodiversity Research had successfully organized the third part of its series recently, with the theme "Applications of Modern Sciences and Biotechnology in Agriculture". Held on Saturday, 28th May 2011 at the UTAR Perak Campus Auditorium A003, the seminar saw the participation of about 90 people from universities, public and industry. With a good mix of speakers from the different fields of modern sciences and biotechnology in agriculture, the seminar saw an active deliberation on the use of science and biotechnology to enhance plant yield and production and to overcome propagation and disease problems, e.g. - the use of plant tissue culture, beneficial microbes and biotechnological tools in agriculture.

The seminar started off with welcome speeches by the Organising Chairperson, Assistant Professor Dr. Tee Chong Siang and Vice President of UTAR (R&D and Commercialization), Prof. Dr. Lee Sze Wei, who both commented that the organizing of these Agriculture Technology Seminar Series is not only timely to address the nation’s concern to have sustainable and affordable food reserves, but also in line with UTAR’s mission to launch its Agriculture Bachelor’s degree programme at the Perak Campus in the short future.
 

 

Organising Chairperson, Assistant Professor Dr. Tee Chong Siang (Left) and Vice President of UTAR (R&D and Commercialization), Prof. Dr. Lee Sze Wei (Right), giving their welcome speeches.

 

UTAR advisor Dr. Tan Swee Lian then chaired the seminar, which started off with plenary speaker Prof. Dr. Maziah Mahmood of Universiti Putra Malaysia, who gave a talk on “Biotechnological approaches to produce high quality planting materials.” Prof. Dr. Maziah who has vast experiences in the micropropagation technology of various plants such as banana, orchid, Tongkat Ali and other medicinal plants, stressed on the advantages of combining micropropagation with transgenic technology to produce plants which are healthy, uniform and free from diseases. Next on the list was academician from Monash University Sunway Campus, Malaysia, Dr. Adeline Ting Su Yien, who gave a talk on “Applications of microbes in agriculture.” She gave examples of microbes which include bacteria, fungi and protists which can be used as biocontrol agents/biopesticides, biofertilisers, effective microorganisms (EM) and for biodegradation and bioremediation in agriculture. These include Bacillus thuringiensis, Metarhiziuman sopliae and Beauveriabassiana sp.

   

Left. Prof. Dr. Maziah Mahmood from UPM giving her talk on micropropagation and transgenic technologies in agriculture. Right. Dr. Adeline Ting Su Yien from Monash University Malaysia, giving examples of microbes which are beneficial in agriculture.

 

The seminar was also graced by the support of the industry, with Dr. Liu Ning from Bio-Rad Inc. who enlightened the participants with his company’s latest technologies in biomolecule level detection and protein interaction analysis. Also supporting the seminar was United Plantations Bhd. who enjoyed brisk sales of their high quality banana varieties and tea tree oil at very affordable prices.

       

Left. Dr. Liu Ning of Bio-Rad Inc. shares the information of proteomic research using latest technology and equipments. Right. Brisk sales of banana and tea tree oil at the United Plantations Bhd. booth.

 

Ending the line of speakers for the day was Dr. Tan Chon Seng, from MARDI, who gave his story on the trials and tribulations in commercializing our very own Lingzhi-like medicinal mushroom, the Tiger Milk Mushroom or commonly known as Cendawan Susu Harimau to the locals. Wrapping up the seminar was a lively discussion between the floor and the panel led by Dr. Tan Swee Lian, with questions mainly from students which ranged from inculcating interest in agriculture biotechnology among them, to the safety of genetically modified organisms. Faculty of Science Dean Assoc. Dr. Lim Tuck Meng gave a closing remark by thanking all the invited speakers, advisors, participants and organizing committee. He presented tokens of appreciation to all the speakers and the chair of the seminar session.

  

Left. Dr. Tan Chon Seng from MARDI who attributed one of the reasons to pursue his research and commercialization of Tiger Milk Mushroom to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Right. A lively discussion with between the panel and the floor, ending the seminar for the day.

 

 

Left. Participants listening attentively to the talks by the experts in the field of agriculture modern science and biotechnology. Right. Dr. Francis Ng, UTAR advisor, sharing his views and experiences to the audience.

 

Left. Associate Prof. Dr. Lim Tuck Meng, Dean of Faculty of Science presenting tokens of appreciation to the speakers. Right. Dr. Tan Swee Lian, UTAR advisor, chairing the forum session at the end of the seminar.