Health, Science & Technology

Research title:

The Potential of Malaysian Seaweeds As The Source of Antifungal Compounds For Application in the Oil Palm Industry

Institutions: University of Cambridge

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. - Charles Darwin

Dr. Zetty was born in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan on the 2nd of February 1982 and she is the second child out of four siblings to her parents, Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Balia Yusof Wahi and Puan Sri Datin Sri Faridah Amiruddin.
Her early education started at Sekolah Rendah and Sekolah Menengah Convent Bukit Nanas Kuala Lumpur before pursuing her secondary level education at MRSM Kuantan, Pahang. She carried out her matriculation program at Kolej Matrikulasi Negeri Sembilan, Kuala Pilah before embarking on the starting of her journey in the world of science at Universiti Putra Malaysia as a Bachelor of Scince (Hons.) in Microbiology student. Immediately after her first degree is obtained, she continued her passion for science by venturing further into the world of plants by undertaking a Master of Science in Mycology and Plant Pathology where she was the recipient of the Graduate Student Assistanceship Scheme (GSAS), a scholarship offered by Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB).
Her passion for science did not stop there as she marched on to further secure herself a spot at one of the world’s most prestigious universities, University of Cambridge where she pursued her Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Plant Sciences, supervised by the world renowned Plant Biochemistry Professor, Professor Alison G. Smith at the Department of Plant Sciences.
Dr. Zetty married her husband, Dr. Mohd Hefni Rusli who is currently a Senior Research Officer at Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) in 2008. They are blessed with 3 beautiful kids, Raees Andika (8), Adeel Indera (6) and Ruby Inaara (4) and currently residing in Putrajaya.
Dr. Zetty is currently an Associate Professor at the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia. She graduated from University of Cambridge, United Kingdom with a PhD in Plant Sciences under the supervision of Professor Alison Smith from the Department of Plant Sciences. Her Ph.D. thesis work focused on the regulation of thiamine (vitamin B1) biosynthesis in a green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. She is currently the head of Plant-Algae Biochemistry and Biotechnology Laboratorary (PABB), FBSB UPM and also an affiliate researcher at Institute of Bioscience (IBS) UPM and Bioprocessing and Biomanufacturing Research Centre (BBRC) UPM.
Her research interests include looking at thiamine (vitamin B1) biosynthesis pathway in plants, specifically in oil palm, microalgae and seaweeds. She is interested in investigating the role of thiamine towards the immune system of plants, specifically in Malaysia’s golden crop, oil palm (Elaies guineensis). Her current research includes challenging oil palm with various types of stresses (biotic and abiotic) in order to see how thiamine biosynthesis is affected, and elucidating the role that it plays in plant protection against stress. Besides that, her research interest includes looking at the effect of application of endophytic bacteria and fungus to thiamine biosynthesis in oil palm and also for the hunt of riboswitches, an RNA regulatory element in oil palm’s thiamine biosynthesis genes.
In 2017, Dr. Zetty was selected as the recipient of the prestigious Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment. The title of the proposed project is "The Potential of Malaysian Seaweeds as the Source of Antifungal Compounds for Application in the Oil Palm Industry". This project aims to discover the possession of antifungal characteristics specifically towards G. boninense from Malaysian seaweeds. She carried out a short research attachment at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge where she carried out metabolomics analyses of the Malaysian seaweed extracts. The outcome of this project will lead to the utilization of local seaweeds as a source of antifungal compounds to control basal stem rot disease of oil palm without any harmful effects to the environment and human health.
Besides doing research, Dr. Zetty is also teaching undergraduate students at the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UPM. Her core teaching subjects include Principles of Biochemistry and Comprehensive Biochemistry, the two most fundamental biochemistry subjects offered by the department.
Besides that, she has been teaching various metabolism courses namely Protein and Nucleic Acid Metabolism and Lipid and Membrane Metabolism due to her expertise in metabolism. She has also been given the responsibility as the department’s Industrial Training coordinator since she has various local and international industrial contacts and linkages which have been proven useful in getting placements and sending students for various activities. On top of that, Dr. Zetty has supervised more than 20 undergraduate students for their final year projects and currently supervising and co-supervising up to 15 graduate students. She has authored and co-authored more than 20 research papers with more than 30 conference proceedings and have won several best paper and best poster awards along the way.

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