Dr Michelle Lee and team wins MYR250,000 grant from the Malaysian Research University Network-Young Researchers Grant Scheme (MY-RGS)

This fund, called the Young Researchers Grant Scheme (MY-RGS) provides financial assistance to teams of researchers below age 40, from research universities in Malaysia. The areas of research funded are food safety and security, water security, renewable energy, health and wellbeing, agriculture, and environment. Out of 238 teams, only six were selected, including the team that Dr Lee belongs to.
 

The six winning teams of the MY-RGS posing with MY-RGS Committee Member Prof Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam and Prof Asma Ismail, President of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.
The six winning teams of the MY-RGS posing with MY-RGS Committee Member Prof Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam and Prof Asma Ismail, President of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.

Dr Lee’s winning team comprise of Dr Cindy Teh Shuan Ju from the Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Malaysia, Dr Unaizah Hanum Obaidellah from the Department of Artificial Intelligence, Univerity of Malaya, Dr Chong Chun Wie from the School of Pharmacy, Monash University Malaysia, and Dr Azmiza Syazwani Jasni from the Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, Universiti Putra Malaysia. Their project entitled “Infection Control Management through the Integration of Conventional Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance, Advance Biopsychosocial Assessment, and Machine Learning Approach” was found to be a very relevant and practical study that would have strong implications for the public healthcare system.

The winning team: Dr Azmiza Syazwani Jasni, Dr Unaizah Hanum Obaidellah, Dr Michelle Lee, Dr Cindy Teh, and Dr Chong Chun Wie.
The winning team: Dr Azmiza Syazwani Jasni, Dr Unaizah Hanum Obaidellah, Dr Michelle Lee, Dr Cindy Teh, and Dr Chong Chun Wie.

The call for grant submissions began in early July 2019. The team went through three rounds of evaluation where the first round was a proposal submission, after which 21 teams were selected during the second round for a grant writing/pitching workshop. The third and final round saw the top 13 teams pitch for the grant where six were declared the winners. Each team had five minutes to pitch their research idea with ten minutes of questioning. They were evaluated by 16 judges comprising academics and various industry experts, who looked into the importance of a problem and the importance of addressing it, the approach to address the problem, the competency of the team, as well as the impact/benefit of the research project on the nation.

Dr Michelle Lee with two of her collaborators, microbiologist Dr Azmiza Syazwani Jasni and computer scientist, Dr Unaizah Hanum Obaidellah with their mock cheque.
Dr Michelle Lee with two of her collaborators, microbiologist Dr Azmiza Syazwani Jasni and computer scientist, Dr Unaizah Hanum Obaidellah with their mock cheque.

When asked about her team’s grant win, Dr Lee shared that she is very happy because the team can now move on with the project after working hard on the concept. “The team is looking forward to providing solutions to improve our hospitals’ management of procedures to address micro-organism infections by having better understanding of their characteristics in relation to human behaviours, and then creating an algorithm to predict infection trends”, she added. Dr Lee explained that the three main focus of the project are the characteristics of the infectious micro-organisms, the human behavioural factors that play a role in facilitating infections and the systemic data analyses into figuring out an algorithmic trend that can be made into a prototype for the Malaysian government to use for infection control in hospitals. The team’s hope is that this prototype can also be shared with private hospital settings once it is developed successfully.

As the proposer and curator of the grant scheme, Prof Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam who is also the interim Head of Department of Biological Sciences at Sunway University, commented that it was very exciting to see the evolution of the team’s progress from a concept paper to an actual project in reality. He commented, “It’s fabulous to have a public university research grant scheme that brings together partnerships between public and private universities, drawing out talents from both sectors to work together towards a common goal for greater benefit. Adding to this, it is very heartening to see united academics from diverse backgrounds and institutions, who understand each other’s roles, gel together as a team to produce meaningful work for the country”.

All smiles together with Prof Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam, MY-RGS Steering Committee Member and Chair, International Network for Government Science Advice Asia, as well as Professor of Genetics, Sunway University; and Prof Datuk Asma Ismail, President, Academy of Sciences Malaysia and Vice Chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia.
All smiles together with Prof Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam, MY-RGS Steering Committee Member and Chair, International Network for Government Science Advice Asia, as well as Professor of Genetics, Sunway University; and Prof Datuk Asma Ismail, President, Academy of Sciences Malaysia and Vice Chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Prof Abhimanyu who is also the MY-RGS steering committee member, also shared that stakeholders of the grant scheme have acknowledged the lack of behavioural sciences input in many scientific research in the country and that it is very important to look into human factors, apart from just microbes and the physical environment; in the context of addressing the problem of hospital acquired infections. This is where Dr Lee’s expertise in human factors come in. The team has microbiologists to look into micro-organism characteristics, as well as a computer scientist and data analyst to develop an algorithm based on human behavioural and microbial interactions. Dr Lee is the only psychologist on the team who will be studying the behavioural components of infections within the hospital settings.

The Department of Psychology is very proud of Dr Michelle Lee for her persistent efforts in writing grants to facilitate her research and academic career development. Her grant win adds to a steadily increasing number of grants within the Department of Psychology, including the recent Long-term Research Grant Scheme funding award to senior lecturer, Dr Yong Min Hooi (see: https://news.sunway.edu.my/articles/university/dr-yong-min-hooi-and-tea…). Dr Lee was also a recent best paper award winner at the 13th Asian Academy of Management International Conference 2019, organised by Universiti Sains Malaysia and the Asian Academy of Management (see: https://news.sunway.edu.my/articles/university/michelle-lee-wins-award-…).  We wish Dr Lee continued success together with her collaborators in their research project, and that the nation would benefit from the outcomes of their two-year study beginning in January 2020.