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Curtin Sarawak academic staff receive Best Researcher and Best Research Paper Awards

(Left)Best Researcher Award recipient Dr. Nader Nassif Barsoum. (Right) Best Research paper winner Ismail Ait Saidi.

(Left)Best Researcher Award recipient Dr. Nader Nassif Barsoum. (Right) Best Research paper winner Ismail Ait Saidi.

Miri – 4 January 2010 – Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) recently awarded its annual Best Researcher and Best Research Paper Awards to outstanding researchers amongst its academic staff.

Recipient of the Best Researcher Award 2009 was Associate Professor Dr. Nader Nassif Barsoum of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who was chosen based on his achievements in areas such as research publications, research supervision, research projects and grants, and research leadership.

Dr. Nader holds degrees in Electrical Power Engineering, Pure and Applied Mathematics and Engineering Mathematics from Alexandria University in his native Egypt, and a PhD degree from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the United Kingdom.

His research interests are electric machine control and stability, power electronics and speed drive systems, and he has published extensively on these subjects. He also has extensive experience in teaching mathematics for engineers.

Dr. Nader is currently conducting research in three different areas. The first is on renewable energy in Sarawak, for which he holds a Curtin Sarawak Collaborative Research grant and has published 11 papers on. It focuses on creating a hybrid energy system that harnesses solar, micro-hydro, biomass, hydrogen fuel cell and wind energy.

His second project, which is funded by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), investigates variable speed drives. He has published 36 research papers on the subject, which combines electric machine theory with that of power electronics and controllers.

The third project is on optimisation in industrial planning, which looks at genetic programming, particle swarms and colonies, and line and pattern searches when applied in business planning, power system optimisation and control engineering, and on which he has published a total of 16 papers.

According to Dr. Nader, his research is in many ways geared towards the needs of the local community. “The hybrid energy system is a good example. It offers an efficient, low-cost standalone solution to the energy needs of remote communities in Sarawak that have yet to enjoy electricity supply, and it also has commercial applications that can help the state save energy costs,” he said.

Ismail Ait Saidi, a lecturer in economics and finance at the School of Business, was meanwhile presented the university’s Best Research Paper Award for 2009 for the content and medium of publication of his outstanding research paper entitled ‘Asian Currency Crises: Indicators of Vulnerability Using CART-Logit Model’, which he co-authored with fellow researchers Mansor Jusoh and Norghani Md. Nor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). The paper was presented at the faculty of Economics University of Cambridge in December 2008.

According to Ismail, the research paper is about the economic and financial indicators that make a country vulnerable to currency crises, with special reference to the Asian crisis in 1997-98. “We used a new methodology to identify those indicators; by combining two methodologies in one.  The research is an extension of Kaminsky’s work on currency crises,” related Ismail.

He added that the findings can help governments and central banks in making the right policies and decisions in order to avoid what happened in 1997-98. This of course will help banks, firms and, of course, the people as well.

A graduate of the University of Algiers in his native Algeria, Ismail teaches economics at introductory and advanced level at Curtin Sarawak. His research interests include currency crises, monetary economics, exchange rate regimes, emerging markets and capital flow.

“I am very honoured to have received this award for two consecutive years in the School of Business. I am also very thankful to Curtin Sarawak for the support it provides academic staff involved in research. Producing quality research outcome is one of the strategic objectives of the university, and with the contribution of all, we will achieve that objective,” said Ismail.

“My future research will focus on the new type of financial crises and their effects. It is amazing to note that despite all the great economic models, we still do not understand how these financial crises come about and how to prevent them from happening in the future,” he added.

The Best Research Paper Award is open to submissions from full-time academic staff in any of Curtin Sarawak’s schools each year. Applicants can submit only one research paper for consideration and the paper should have been published in the previous year. Furthermore, applicants should be one of the authors or the sole author of the paper.

Similarly, applicants for the Best Researcher Award should be full-time academic staff of Curtin Sarawak, and for the 2009 awards, applicants had to submit portfolios of their research output from January to December 2008.

The aim of the annual awards, which were first introduced in 2007, is to facilitate the attaining of the university’s R&D strategic plan objectives of building research capability and building a reputation for quality research.

The winners are decided by an Awards Committee comprising the Pro Vice-Chancellor and other members with relevant expertise, which reviews submissions of research papers and portfolios by applicants. Applicants are sometimes also required to make presentations before the Awards Committee to present evidence of their research.

The awards include cash prizes that the awardees can use for academic purposes with approval from the university’s R&D Department.

In congratulating the winners, Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor John Evans said, “Your achievements are testimony to the high standard of research here at Curtin Sarawak.”

“Curtin Sarawak is not just a teaching institution. It has a vibrant research culture and a wide range of research activities involving both academics and students. Today, we have an R&D portfolio that truly reflects our commitment to innovation and excellence in research, focusing on research that is relevant to Sarawak and Malaysia, and it is all thanks to dedicated academics and researchers such as yourselves,” he added.

By providing an environment that encourages investigation, Curtin Sarawak has been successful in attracting world-class researchers. Curtin Sarawak currently counts around 90 academic staff distributed among the School of Engineering & Science, the School of Business and the School of Foundation & Continuing Studies. A total of 57 academics are teaching at under- and postgraduate levels, of which more than 40% are PhD-holders.

All academic staff have access to financial support for conference attendance as well as seed funding for new research projects. For junior staff, the opportunities to acquire skills necessary to the performance of R&D are presented in the form of staff study support as well as continuous staff development activities, such as seminars and workshops.

Through a combination of selective hiring criteria and staff development activities, the number of researchers at Curtin Sarawak Campus has steadily increased over the past years. To date, over 80% of all academic staff teaching at the degree level are research-active and this number is expected to increase further in the near future.

In August 2003, Curtin Sarawak became the first international university in Malaysia to be entitled to access the prestigious IRPA (Intensification for Research in Priority Areas) grants of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment. In December 2004, researchers at Curtin Sarawak were awarded their first IRPA grant.

In addition to sources of funding from the Federal Government, Curtin Sarawak has also access to funds from the Sarawak State Government and various industrial partners, as well as Curtin Sarawak Research Fund (CSRF), an in-house seed fund aimed at encouraging staff to initiate R&D activities.

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