Merdeka Award Grant Briefings Generate Keen Interest Among Young Malaysians

14 NOVEMBER 2013
Kuala Lumpur, Wednesday, November 13, 2013:
The Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment continues to generate keen interest among young Malaysians, judging from the turnout at a briefing held Wednesday at University of Malaya’s High Impact Research Centre (UM HIR).

This session follows a number of other similar events held at Universiti Putra Malaysia, the Malaysian Invention & Design Society (MINDS) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Shah Alam over the course of the past six weeks, to brief young Malaysians on the opportunities the Merdeka Award Grant provided and the process of applying for the Merdeka Award Grant, which is currently open for application.
The Merdeka Award Secretariat has also reached out to 148 other institutions online, ranging from non-governmental organisations, government agencies and public research institutions, through to think-tanks, private universities and colleges as well as student and business councils. The application period for the 2013-2014 cycle will close on November 30, 2013.
The one-hour briefing at UM was conducted by Merdeka Award Secretariat Executive Director Mr Joseph Edwin, and attended by over 60 University of Malaya Masters and Doctorate (PhD) students as well as some lecturers and senior lecturers. They represented a myriad of faculties and fields such as medicine, dentistry, science, engineering, education and the social sciences.

The briefing session was made possible through the efforts of University of Malaya High Impact Research Consultant Emeritus Professor Dato’ Dr Lam Sai Kit, who is the 2013 Merdeka Award recipient in the Outstanding Scholastic Achievement category. Professor Lam was honoured with the Merdeka Award for his outstanding contribution to scholarly research and development in medical virology and emerging infectious diseases including dengue.
Also present at the briefing were 2010 Merdeka Award Joint Recipient in the Outstanding Scholastic Achievement category, Professor Emeritus Dr Yong Hoi Sen and Associate Professor Dr Koshy Philip, a senior Lecturer who is attached to the Faculty of Science, University of Malaya.


Mr Edwin briefed the students and lecturers on the application process, selection criteria, submission and details of the 2013-2014 Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment. He emphasised the need for applications to be original and unique, innovative and sustainable. Above all, he said, applicants must demonstrate that the research they proposed to do would bring benefit to Malaysia and Malaysians.
He stressed that selection was not based on the academic achievements alone; shortlisted applicants would be interviewed and judged on factors such as ability to articulate their thoughts and views, ideas on how they can share their knowledge with other young Malaysians, and how they plan to use the Merdeka Award Grant opportunity to build on their body of work as well as their future plans.  He said that the final selection would be done by a Selection Committee that would include senior human resource management representatives from the three founding partners of the Merdeka Award – PETRONAS, ExxonMobil and Shell.
Mr Edwin also touched on the unique opportunities that the Merdeka Award Grant provides to young Malaysians, and the benefit, the experience and exposure would bring to their research, by widening their network of contacts, and establishing connections with internationally renowned scholars in their particular fields.

The briefing was followed by an animated Q&A session with the students, with Mr Edwin fielding questions ranging from selection criteria, budget, timeline, the institutions where attachments would be done and contracts. Professor Lam also fielded some questions from the attendees with regard to the impact participating in a Merdeka Award Grant attachment would have on their work at University of Malaya, emphasising that obtaining leave to participate in the 3-month attachment could be easily arranged.
In his closing remarks, Professor Lam applauded the Merdeka Award for introducing the Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment and for creating the opportunity for young Malaysians to gain international exposure, establish contacts, expand their network and participate in the sharing of knowledge.
He said: “They get to experience and utilise the best facilities and laboratories in the world, and upon their return from the international attachment, build further on their body of work and research, share knowledge and expertise, and inspire others, especially the younger generation and other students.”
University of Malaya’s Lecturer from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Dr Jegalakshimi Jewaratnam who attended the briefing and is involved in programming and simulation in the field of chemical engineering said: “The Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment is a good opportunity for young Malaysians to explore and have hands-on experience abroad. It offers real-time experience, besides helping to establish contacts in their own field of study, and enhancing and promoting research collaborations.”
Professor Emeritus Yong was also enthusiastic about the opportunity, saying that beyond the benefit the Merdeka Award Grant would bring to the academic work of a recipient, it would also help them grow as individuals.  “We need our students to be broad-minded, not just focussed on narrow pursuits.  They will come back with a more global outlook. Having been a recipient of the Merdeka Award Grant, they will also learn how to do more to help others develop their careers, to do community service. They will learn to give back, not just receive.  The Merdeka Award Grant will instill in them the spirit of helping people.”
The Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment, a signature outreach programme of the Merdeka Award Trust, is a short-term grant designed to make it possible for qualified Malaysians, between the ages of 22-35 to engage in collaborative projects/programmes at selected, internationally-recognised host institutions.
It is designed to identify and recognise outstanding young Malaysians who personify the Spirit of Merdeka, and those who, in their own way, demonstrate a commitment to excellence. The Grant provides them the opportunity to expand their network and to enhance research collaborations.
Launched in April 2012, the Grant creates the opportunity for recipients to establish contact and working relationships with other experts in their fields, share knowledge and expertise, and upon their return, use these relationships and shared knowledge to further build on the body of work in his or her area of research.
Two Grants are offered annually to successful candidates in select disciplines – Education and Community, Environment as well as Health, Science and Technology, mirroring the categories in which the Merdeka Award itself is accorded. The broad categories include areas such as visual and performing arts, heritage and social work, sports, traditional disciplines like economics and finance, scientific disciplines and areas related to the environment such as climate change, biodiversity and the protection and conservation of the environment. These categories have been carefully selected because of the importance of these disciplines to the progress of the country.
In its first year, the Merdeka Award Grant was awarded to Dr Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam, Assistant Professor as well as Director of Scientific Foundations of Medicine at the Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine and Dr Natrah Fatin Mohd Ikhsan, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Aquaculture, Universiti Putra Malaysia. 
Dr Abhimanyu holds a Doctor of Philosophy (Oncology) from the University of Cambridge and a Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Sciences) from University Putra Malaysia. He is planning to strengthen his research on the identification of molecular markers for the diagnosis, prognosis and therapy of bladder cancer through greater molecular understanding of the disease.

Dr Natrah holds a PhD in Applied Biological Sciences (Aquaculture) from the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at the University of Ghent, Belgium.  She plans to further her work on understanding molecular microbial ecology towards sustainable agriculture production.
The Attachment is made possible and facilitated through the global network and reach of the three Merdeka Award founding partners - PETRONAS, ExxonMobil and Shell.
Applications for the 2013-2014 Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment opened on June 28, 2013 and will close on November 30, 2013. All applications must be made online at
For more information on the Merdeka Award and its signature outreach programmes, please visit


Dr Edison Lee Tian Khoon
Dr Edison headed to Sweden’s Uppsala University, where he joined the Department of Chemistry, Ångström Laboratory, as part of his attachment stint. He is currently carrying out active research in polymer electrolyte and nanomaterials for Lithium-ion batteries. Read more about him here:
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Chrishen R. Gomez
Having attended the prestigious Ivy League Brown University as part of his attachment programme, 27-year-old Chrishen is now with the Wildlife Research and Conservation Unit at Oxford University. Chrishen is busy developing a genetic-based research project on the Sunda Clouded Leopard. Read more about him here: Conserving Our Forests & Future
Dr Zetty
Dr Zetty is currently working on anti-cancer compounds found in Malaysian seaweed and has continued to pursue her original project proposal of microalgae vaccine carriers for fish. A working solution has been patented by Dr Zetty and will be deployed within the coming year.
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