Malaysia’s Premier Green Chemist conferred Outstanding SEARCA Scholarship Alumni Award

  • 26 October 2016

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Marie Curie once said that "nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood.” This may have been the motto in life of Dr. Mahiran Basri, who found success through illuminating the unknown.

Dr. Basri was born with a curious mind. As a young girl, she always expressed interest in science and mathematics, not fearing the unknown, and instead fueled by insatiable curiosity. Driven by this, she took up BS Chemistry in Northern Illinois University and also earned an MS degree in the same field. However, these were not enough for her, as she pursued a PhD in Protein Chemistry in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) under a SEARCA scholarship.

It was this university’s laboratory that became her machine for converting her curiosity into amazing discoveries, allowing her researches in biocatalysts and enzyme technology to be incubated and born. The core of her research worked on the concept of sustainability, giving new possibilities to organic biocatalysts to be produced in an environment-friendly way. With this, she was able to help cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries use renewable resources for their products.

Moreover, she was instrumental in developing nanotechnologies that helped consumers of cosmetic and pharmaceuticals around the globe to safely enjoy their products. Some of her major contributions in her field were her study on the successful nano-delivery of ‘agrochemical actives’ to lessen pollution in the environment and her work on ‘transdermal delivery of drugs,’ which helped the young and old effectively absorb medicines that were applied through the skin. She also pioneered the work on using palm oil and derivatives as feedstock for synthesis of new compounds.

Her dedication and passion to her work did not go unrewarded. She was named as the Top Research Scientist of Malaysia for publishing more than 300 papers. She also earned various awards such as ISESCO Science Prize in Chemistry, Archer Daniels Midland Award, Tan Sri Datuk Ong Kee Hui Award, Ram Bais Biotechnology Award, and UPM Best Researcher Award. She was also able to register patents in Southeast Asian countries and in the United States.

Aside from being a chemistry expert, Dr. Basri is also a model teacher, a mentor who is well loved by her students. She is nurturing and caring, dedicated to her craft. She even used grant money to build laboratory facilities in her Faculty, and sometimes bought materials needed by students for their research immediately. According to Dr. Basri, despite the awards she has received, nothing makes her prouder than her students.

Despite how expertly she wielded the knowledge she acquired over the years, she still humbly recognizes how even one great person cannot be enough to solve everything. That is why even if she is set to retire next year, she will still continue to contribute and help do research in her field. “I will still contribute, but not as a full-time lecturer because, in our university, we have a scheme where we can help in the department, but we are not paid.”

For being an outstanding scientist whose researches have benefited many and contributed to sustainable development, Dr. Basri is awarded the SEARCA Outstanding Scholarship Alumni award.  The award gives recognition to SEARCA’s graduate alumni who have personified SEARCA’s values and philosophy and have distinguished themselves through their personal achievements, professional accomplishments, public service, and other meritorious endeavors. This is the first time since its establishment that SEARCA will be giving such prestigious recognition to its alumni, who it considers as ambassadors for agriculture and rural development in the region. Dr. Basri and 10 other OSSA laureates will be conferred the award during SEARCA’s golden anniversary celebration on 25 November 2016. (Jarah De Guzman)