International researchers and opinion leaders convene to discuss sustainability challenges

Sunway University has partnered with the University of Cambridge to drive interdisciplinary collaborations to develop solutions for humanity’s most pressing challenges.

Both universities, partners for the ASEAN Emerging Researchers Conference (ASEAN ERC) brought together seven international sustainability experts for the first of its series of virtual events known as the ASEAN Emerging Researchers Hub which was held on November 30. 

The ASEAN ERC, an international platform, aims to drive research excellence and stimulate interdisciplinary research to address ASEAN’s needs. It is a strategic partnership among the ASEAN Young Scientist Network, Sunway University and the University of Cambridge’s Wolfson College. 

The virtual conference, attracting more than 200 participants from around the world, focused on thought-provoking key ideas, case studies and challenges concerning the sustainability and conservation of global development. 

The virtual conference was opened by University of Cambridge Wolfson College president Professor Jane Clarke and Sunway Education Group Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Lee, and convened by University of Cambridge Whittle Laboratory Research Fellow Wen Yao Lee.

In her opening speech, Professor Clarke underscored the importance of researchers coming together to solve humanity’s most pressing issues. 

“The Covid-19 crisis has made us realise what a small world it is and just how global the problems are that face the world today. It is just through a community of researchers in universities and in companies and without that we are going to find answers to these problems,” she said.

Lee, in her opening speech, said the ASEAN ERC is the group’s attempt to rebuild the world in this new normal. 

“Learning to live sustainably requires enormous advances in our understanding of the natural world and our relationship with it. With so many people, food, clean water, housing and energy needed; but to stay within our planet’s carrying capacity, we must be smart about how we utilise while protecting Mother Nature’s resources.

Everyone must come together and work towards balancing the needs of our planet and the global economy. We have to constantly look out for solutions, for the benefit of future generations. Which is why at Sunway, our Chancellor Jeffrey Cheah is very committed towards harnessing the brightest minds from around the world, to work towards global solutions,” Lee addressed.

In Yeang’s keynote address, he shared insights from his work on remaking the built environment for a resilient planet. 

“Everything depends on biointegration. If we can biointegrate everything that we make and do on our  planet with natural systems and the natural environment, there won’t be any environmental issues. Effective biointegration is not just for architects and designers but also for everybody whose daily lives impinge on the environment,” he said.  

Four presentations from emerging student conservationists were then held as below:

  • University of Cambridge alumni and creator of the Siren Sundays web-series Lashanti Jupp from the Bahamas, introduced her web-series, citing it is aimed at breaking the silos between conservationists and environmentalists and the  public.
  • Kasetsart University Faculty of Science Department of Botany’s Patsakorn Tiwutanon shared his research on chemical profiles and chemometric analysis of selected leucobryum species from Thailand for the conservation of the moss.
  • Sunway University’s Yong Joon Yee presented his findings on the importance of fruit bats, currently being hunted and killed as pests, are durian pollinators. Yong hopes that by demonstrating an ecological link between bats and the local economy, his research will provide policymakers and durian farmers with insight into the actual role of fruit bats and the importance of their conservation to increase the production of durians. 
  • National University of Singapore student and Our Singapore Reefs co-founder Sam Shu Qin presented her unique work in Singapore’s marine environment, building unique “terraced houses” for corals which allow corals to take root and grow naturally while providing nooks and crannies where marine life can take shelter. 

Thereafter, a panel discussion took place with panellists sharing insights, success stories, key transformative ideas, and stressing the urgent necessity to create science networks and making science accessible to everyone, so people can come together to solve humanity’s greatest challenges.

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