GRANTS (INTERNAL & EXTERNAL)

Completed Grant Projects 2014
 
Competency gap and coping strategies of academic leaders in higher education institutions in Malaysia
Research Abstract
The focus of this study is to investigate the key challenges faced by academic staff as they transit into their administrative positions as academic leaders. Academic leader roles are diverse, spanning across managerial and instructional/academic realms along with the demands from diverse stakeholders. Many universities do not have a systematic approach for either identifying or developing leadership skills. As such, academic leaders frequently have difficulties managing and prioritising the multiple tasks expected of them. Additionally, academics who are appointed to administrative positions often do not get enough support in enhancing their management competencies. Hence, understanding the academic leaders’ experience and their coping strategies are especially critical for retaining and supporting them.

The mixed-method approach was adopted for this study. A total of 51 responses were collected through online administered questionnaires given to academic leaders. Qualitative data were collected through face-to-face interviews that were conducted with 10 academic leaders.

Quantitative results revealed a few competency areas that academic leaders needed further skill enhancement and development. They are amongst others: motivating the overall team, ability to understand financial operations and managing employment according to policies. One key competency gap is their inability to manage a significant quality work life.

While for qualitative results themes generated from the interviews affirmed on three main coping strategies that covered the areas related to work, emotion and organisational support. The interviews further asked the academic leaders on their recommendations on how these strategies can be enhanced and these recommendations can be categorised into two categories which are work or task based and people based.

Project Leader
Nurlida Ismail (nurlida.ismail@taylors.edu.my)
 
Determining the properties of Generalized Autoregressive Moving Average (GARMA (2, 1; δ, 1)) and its application in cyber-attack prediction
Research Abstract
It is known that the modelling of time series with changing frequency components is important in many applications. Although Autoregressive Moving Average (ARMA) type models could be used in practice, there is no systematic approach or suitable class of time series models available in literature to accommodate, to analyze and to forecast a time series with changing frequency behavior via a direct method. With this in mind, this research attempts to introduce a family of Autoregressive Moving Average (ARMA) type models with indices called Generalized Autoregressive Moving Average (GARMA) to describe some hidden frequency properties of time series data to overcome the above problem. So far first order GARMA only has been introduced.

But, we introduce a family of second order Autoregressive Moving Average (ARMA (2, 1)) type models called Generalized Autoregressive Moving Average (GARMA (2, 1; δ , 1)) to describe some hidden properties of time series data sets. We propose some new results associated with the variance and autocorrelation function of underlying processes. It is shown that this approach leads to a significant improvement in the quality of forecasts of correlated data and opens a new direction of research for statistical quality control. The findings of variance and autocovariances of GARMA (2, 1; δ, 1) contribute to the improvement of theoretical knowledge of time series. The introduction of the index c5 to the traditional ARMA models have helped to produce GARMA models such as GAR (1), GMA (1), GARMA (1, 1; 1, δ), GARMA (1, 1; δ, 1), Restricted GAR (2), GARMA (1, 1; δ1, δ2) and GARMA (1, 2; δ, 1).These GARMA models have become better forecasting models than usual ARMA models. These have motivated us to do more research in these challenging fields.

We justify the importance of this class of models in practice by using a set of real time series data sets namely cyberattack process data sets for cyberattack predictions. The contributions of this research will enhance many applications that rely on forecasting.

The 12 month project was completed successfully with 3 academic papers produced; 1 published (see below) and another 2 in the process of being published.
 
  • Intrusion Detection Forecasting using Time Series for Improving Cyber Defence – Intelligent Systems and Applications in Engineering (2015), 3(1), 28-33
    Abstract: The strength of time series modeling is generally not used in almost all current intrusion detection and prevention systems. By having time series models, system administrators will be able to better plan resource allocation and system readiness to defend against malicious activities. In this paper, we address the knowledge gap by investigating the possible inclusion of a statistical based time series modeling that can be seamlessly integrated into existing cyber defense system. Cyber-attack processes exhibit long range dependence and in order to investigate such properties a new class of Generalized Autoregressive Moving Average (GARMA) can be used. In this paper, GARMA (1, 1; 1, ±) model is fitted to cyber-attack data sets. Two different estimation methods are used. Point forecasts to predict the attack rate possibly hours ahead of time also has been done and the performance of the models and estimation methods are discussed. The investigation of the case-study will confirm that by exploiting the statistical properties, it is possible to predict cyber-attacks (at least in terms of attack rate) with good accuracy. This kind of forecasting capability would provide sufficient early-warning time for defenders to adjust their defense configurations or resource allocations.
Project Leader
Thulasyammal A/P Ramiah Pillai (thulasyammal.ramiahpillai@taylors.edu.my)
 
Photosynthetic and physiological responses of Antarctic and tropical Chlorella to temperature stress
Research Abstract
There is strong evidence indicating that global warming is happening much faster than predicted by current models. The objective of this study was to investigate and compare the physiological and photosynthetic responses of similar Chlorella strains from Arctic (Chlorella UMACC 263) and temperate (Chlorella vulgaris UMACC 248) regions to temperature stress as might be experienced under future warming scenarios. Algae were exposed to two different temperature treatments: ambient (control), ambient + 4°C (future warming scenarios). The growth characteristics and photosynthetic performance of each strain were determined using spectrophotometry and PAM fluorometry, respectively.

The data obtained demonstrated that both strains were able to adapt and survive under the experimental warming scenarios. Both strains survived at temperatures higher than their ambient regime. Temperature elevation of 4°C did not affect the specific growth rate (u) the Arctic strain. In contrast, the optimum temperature for the growth of the temperate strain was at 22°C. Temperature elevation of 4°C caused higher production of carbohydrate and lipid content in the Arctic strain while no significant changes in the protein and lipid content of the temperate strain. The Arctic Chlorella achieved the highest photosynthetic efficiency under ambient condition. The reverse trend was observed with the temperate strain.

Project Leader
Teoh Ming Li (mingli.teoh@taylors.edu.my)
 
Phytochemical analysis and biological activities of Polygonum chinense and Sida rhombifolia
Research Abstract
The whole plant of Sida rhombifolia and Polygronum chinense were collected, ground and extracted using n-hexane, ethyl acetate and methanol by Soxhlet extractor. The phytochemical analysis was carried out to test on the presence of alkaloid, flavonoid, terpenoid, Saponin and tannin. TLC reagents were also used to examine the presence of alkaloid, amino acid, flavonoid, lipid, organic acid and phenolic compounds. The methanol extracts of both plants were found to contain most of the phytochemicals tested, as well as highest TPC. Moreover, these extracts possessed strongest antioxidant activities in DPPH, FRAP. FIC and H2O2 assay.

For anti-inflammatory assay, hexane and ethyl acetate extracts of both plants exhibited comparable inhibition towards NO production. Similarly, the ethyl acetate extract of P. chinense and hexane extract of S. rhombifolia showed the strongest AChE inhibitions. Besides, the plant extracts showed moderate activities towards Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria in broth dilution method. On the other hand, both plants were found to be inactive against proliferation of several cancer human cells except SNU-1 (stomach cancer cell). Lastly, the plant extracts of S. rhombifolia exhibited higher cytotoxic effects than P. chinense in the brine shrimp lethality assay.

Project Leader
Mah Siau Hui (siauhui.mah@taylors.edu.my)
 
Elucidating the molecular mechanisms of interaction between maslinic acid and secreted phospholipase A2 and its effect in regulating inflammatory response
Research Abstract
Maslinic acid (2-a, 3-6-dihydroxyolean-1 2-en-28-oic acid), a natural pentacyclic triterpenoid found in pomace olive oil has various pharmacological properties which include anti-inflammatory activity. A recent study showed that secretory phospholipase A2 (SPLA2) may be a potential binding target of maslinic acid. These enzymes are involved in lipoprotein remodeling, inflammatory pathways and atherosclerosis. In this study, it was shown that maslinic acid inhibits the activity of human group IIA, V and X sRLA2 enzymes in concentration-dependent manner. Maslinic acid showed the most potent effect on h(SX-sp|A2 with 50% inhibition at 49.40 p!M. Molecular docking study showed that massinic acid interacts with interfacial (i-face) residues and calcium binding site on these enzyme through hydrogen bonding and hydrophobic interaction.

To further elucidate the role of maslinic acid in regulating sRLA2-mediated cellular responses, adhesion assay and migration assay was performed in sRLA2-induced THP-1 monocytes. Results showed that maslinic acid significantly inhibit sRLA2-induced THP-1 cell differentiation and migration at a concentration of 201M and 50 HM. The results suggest that maslinic acid may inhibit sRLA2-induced production of adhesion and migration molecules which contributes to THP-1 cell differentiation and migratory capabilities. In conclusion, these findings provide insight into the interaction between maslinic acid and SPLA2 and its effect towards sRLA2-induced THP-1 cell adhesion and migration.

Project Leader
Yap Wei Hsum (weihsum.yap@taylors.edu.my)
 
Characterization of the chondrogenenic properties of human hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) by gene expression profiling
Research Abstract
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have been shown to differentiate into chondrocytes in vivo, suggesting its potential in articular cartilage regeneration. To characterize HSCs in vitro, Normal Human Articular Chondrocyte (NHAC-Kn) cell was first used as chondrogenic control cells to select suitable markers for chondrogenic studies. Chondrogenesis were induced in NHAC-Kn for 0, 7, 14, 21 and 28 days. Total RNA were isolated and expression levels of Aggrecan, Col2a1 and Sox9 were examined using semi-quantitative RT-PCR. Whole cell extracts were also prepared and expression levels of Sox9 and Col2a1 proteins were examined via westen blot.

Current results revealed that NHAC-Kn expressed Aggrecan, Col2a1 and Sox9 genes at different levels at different time-points during chondrogenesis. Aggrecan and Col2a1 levels gradually increased from day 0 and peaked at day 28 (6 folds and 42 folds increased, respectively). Levels of Sox9 peaked at day 7 (6 folds increased), suggesting Sox9 as a marker for short-term chondrogenesis experiments. Western blot revealed similar expression pattern of Sox9 protein during chondrogenesis. Col2a1 protein could not be detected and requires further optimization. Current study validated the expression levels of Aggrecan, Col2a1 and Sox9 as chondrogenic markers in NHACs during chondrogenesis. Careful selection of markers depending on experiment length was also highlighted

Project Leader
Toh Gaik Theng (gaiktheng.goh@taylors.edu.my)
 
The immuno-modulatory effects of Lactobacillus on macrophage responses to P. acnes
Research Abstract
Excessive growth of bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes has been identified as one of the causes of acne. Macrophage responses against this bacterium can determine whether it can be rapidly cleared or remain as a persistent infection that eventually leads to scarring. As such, modulation of their responses during acne development is a viable strategy that can be incorporated into anti-acne treatment. Lactobacillus spp. is known to have anti-bacterial and immuno-modulatory properties. In this study, we aim to investigate if Lactobacillus metabolites in spent Culture supernatants can influence macrophage responses to P. acnes and another skin commensal, S. epidermidis.

We tested if L. casei and L. rhamnosus supernatants can inhibit the growth of the two skin bacteria using 3 different assays; disc diffusion, agar diffusion and broth microdilution assays. Supernatants were used at different concentrations of 1:2, 1:4, 1:8 and 1:10 dilutions and undiluted. No growth inhibition was observed for P. acnes and S. epidermidis. The Lactobacilius supernatants were also used to condition differentiated THP-1 cells. There was no significant difference in their ability to uptake P. acnes and S. epidermidis. When we did bacterial co-stimulation assays with conditioned THP-1 and quantified cytokine levels, we also did not find any significant difference for TNF-a and IL-1a levels.

Our results suggest that crude spent supernatants from L. casei and L. rhamnosus did not modify macrophage response to P. acnes and S. epidermidis. This, and the lack of growth inhibition, suggests that direct use of these crude Lactobacillus culture supernatants may not be a good candidate for anti-acne treatment.

Project Leader
Chua Lin Lin (linlin.Cchua@taylors.edu.my)
 


Ongoing Grant Projects 2014

2014 External Grants

Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS) (funded by MOHE)
A novel automatic wrapper for deep web resources using ontology
Project Description
The resources of Web-accessible databases, which constitute a large portion of the structured data on the Web, are available through query interfaces but invisible to the search engines. To date, the amount of information in hidden web is far more than those in shallow web. Therefore, it is important to discover the domain-specific resources of multiple databases in hidden Web automatically. However, discovering this information is a non-trivial task. First, hidden web is usually presented in HTML language, and it tends to have varying format and layout in its structure. Therefore, this may require extensive and complicated searches. Secondly, HTML language is ambiguous and lacks uniformity in its design. There is no standard convention to define the language. Finally, it is difficult to translate machine understandable form to human understandable form (known as semantic gap).

To date, various techniques are proposed to handle it. They are efficient methods, but they are not without problems. A semantic tool is introduced in early 2000 where it utilizes the semantic properties of data to locate, extract, and manipulate them instead of analyzing the visual and structural layout of HTML pages. However, the vast amount of matching needed to process this data may result in higher processing power. Fortunately, with the advancement of computing power, it is possible to develop a semantic tool which could address this problem. In this 3-year project, we introduce a Web information retrieval system that obtains knowledge from multiple databases automatically using common ontology WordNet. The interface schema is extracted from two perspectives, which are HTML code and its visual properties. To retrieve the resources, the system both defines a two-phase pattern matching process to integrate the query form and implements a type-driven minimum superset predicate mapping method to fill out the queries back to the local forms automatically.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Hong Jer Lang (SOCIT-TU)
1) Loo Chu Kiong (UM)
2) Khong Kok Wei (TU)
3) Narayanan Kulathuramaiyer (UNIMAS)
4) Raja Kumar (TU)
5) Goh Wei Wei (TU)
 
Properties and estimation of the parameters of second order generalized autoregressive moving average (GARMA) models
Project Description
It is a known fact that the modelling of time series with changing frequency components play an important role in many applications. Although Autoregressive Moving Average (ARMA) type models could be used in practice, there is no systematic approach or suitable class of time series models available in literature to accommodate, to analyze and to forecast a time series with changing frequency behaviour via a direct method.

This 2 year research attempts to introduce a family of Autoregressive Moving Average (ARMA) type models with indices called Generalized Autoregressive Moving Average (GARMA) to describe some hidden frequency properties of time series data to overcome the abovementioned problem. To date, the first order GARMA only has been introduced. We intend to introduce a family of second order Autoregressive (AR (2)) type models called Generalized Autoregressive (GAR (2)) and a family of second order Moving Average called Generalized Moving Average (GMA (2)) to describe some hidden properties of time series data sets. This class of models is already in existence but the properties are not well known.

We propose to come up with findings associated with the variance, autocovariance, autocorrelation function, spectral density, behaviour of this model, normalized periodogram and various types of estimation of the underlying processes. The findings of variance and autocovariances of GAR (2) and GMA (2) contribute to the improvement of theoretical knowledge of time series. The introduction of the index δ to the traditional ARMA models have aided in producing GARMA models such as GAR (1),GMA 1),GARMA (1,1; 1,δ), GARMA (1,1;δ,1), Restricted GAR(2), GARMA (1,1;δ1,δ2) and GARMA (1,2;δ,1). These GARMA models have become better forecasting models than usual ARMA models.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Dr. Thulasyammal A/P Ramiah Pillai (SOCIT-TU)
1) Mahendran Shitan (UPM)
2) Azween Abdullah
3) Norhashidah Awang (USM)
 
Exploiting the nutraceutical potential of bioactive peptides derived from food proteins
Project Description
The last few decades have been the period where new findings of significant importance in researches to investigate the bioactivity of peptides are emerging. This bioactivity includes angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitory (antihypertensive), hypocholesterolemic, antithrombotic, antimicrobial, immunomodulating, antioxidative, anticancer, and anticariogenic properties, as well as prebiotic and opioid properties. The antihypertensive, hypocholesterolemic, and antimicrobial peptides have highly promising prospect if they can be properly exploited to address the need to combat hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and antibiotic resistance. Most of these peptides are derived from milk proteins, while various other proteins sources have also been used to produce these bioactive peptides. Respectively, soy beans and lupin seeds are well known staple and recently popularized food ingredients of health benefit claim but are mainly used as feed.

This 2-year research intends to use these two food items to produce, identify, characterise, and develop strategies to use the produced bioactive peptides in food systems to combat cardiovascular related diseases. The bioactive peptides of interest are those that possess antihypertensive and anticholesterolemic properties and will be produces through solid or liquid fermentation and hydrolysis. The research will be organized into stages include production, purification, characterization, structure elucidation and in vivo assays using both animal and human subjects as well as functional food formulation. A possible spin-off of this research will be a better understanding of the chemistry of their activities that can lead to a knowledge-based production such as through chemical synthesis and recombinant DNA techniques and application of bioactive peptides in combating hypertension related diseases.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Chew Lye Yee (SOM-TU)
Kumarappan Chidambaram (TU)
 
Development of probiotic-fermented-soy-based orally-dissolving strip for oral health
Project Description
The oral cavity is the main entry to the gastrointenstinal tract where it harbors over 1000 bacterial species. Epidemiological studies have suggested that oral microbes such as the periodontopathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis could trigger systemic diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis, by intervening with host immunity. Thus, maintaining a balanced oral ecosystem by increasing the number of health promoting bacteria in oral cavity is utmost important for personal hygiene and improve oral health.

The objectives of this study are: a) isolation of oral probiotics from healthy subjects b) optimizing the bioactive isoflavone aglycones content with minimal acids production by oral probiotic in soy during fermentation c) determining the oral health potential of the oral probiotic-fermented-soy-based product under stimulated oral condition d) developing an oral probiotic-fermented-soy-based film strip with optimum bioactivities and health potential towards oral health.

This study will first evaluate the growth profiles and metabolites production by oral probiotics in soy. Strains that possess higher bioconversion and lower metabolites production will be selectd, via enzymes assay. Isoflavones aglycones will be quantified with High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). The oral probiotic-fermented-soy-based product will then be evaluated for its oral health potential under stimulated oral cavity condition, oral health efficacy tests, aggregation with oral bacteria and interaction with oral epithelium. Immunity stimulation and modulation of inflammatory response in the oral cavity by the oral probiotic-fermented-soy-based product will also be evaluated. Following this, the oral probiotic-fermented-soy-based product will be freeze-dried and formulated into oral strip. The oral probiotic-fermented-soy-based strip will then be subjected to physical, mechanical properties and sensory evaluation by panelists to ensure the product is acceptable. This study will illustrate the immunomodulatory interactions of the product with oral pathogens to maintain healthy oral condition. The developed product could be used as a food adjunct with health benefits for human consumption.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Dr. Ewe Joo Ann (SBS-TU)
1) Wan Himratul Aznita bt Wan Harun (UM)
2) Yap Wei Hsum (TU)
3) Chua Lin Lin (TU)
4) Liong Min Tze (USM)
5) Yeo Siok Koon (TU)
 
Liquid air as an energy storage medium for renewable energy
Project Description
The renewable energy is gaining popularity to replace fossil fuels as an energy source. However, renewable energy is intermittent in nature and often located far from where it is required, hence to harness this “wrong time”, “wrong place” energy, energy storage is required. The use of an energy storage system allows a way to store and transport energy to where and when it is required. Recently there has been a growing interest in the use of liquid air as an energy storage system. However, liquefaction systems are often large scale, and producing a small amount of liquid air using renewable energy for the use of localised communities have proven to be inefficient.

The 3-year research project aims to develop an efficient model to store renewable energy using liquid air, with the vision of developing small-scale liquefaction system and cryogenset for localised which then can be incorporated into Malaysia’s existing infrastructure. The first phase of the project would include simulation studies on liquefaction on the systems scale, and the heat transfer using process modelling and computational fluid dynamics respectively. The second phase would include building and testing a small scale model of this miniature liquefaction plant. The research will therefore address the Grand Challenges of Engineering in terms of making solar energy affordable, by storing and using these wrong-time energy; as well as restoring and improving urban infrastructure by utilising renewable energy and reducing the need to rely on fossil fuels.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Dr. Mushtak Al-Atabi (SOE-TU)
1) Edwin Chung Chin Yau (TU)
2) Richard Andrew Williams (University of Birmingham, UK)
3) Yong Liang Li (University of Birmingham, UK)
 
Deciphering the molecular mechanisms of Caricca papaya leaf polyphenol in inhibiting hemorrhage via proteolysis in humanized mice model of dengue virus
Project Description
Dengue fever (DF), a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, infecting up to 50-100 million people worldwide. In Malaysia an increase of 254% has reported corresponding to the previous year. Dengue virus enters the body and infects cells releasing of interferons(IFNs), causing proteolysis of the endothelial tissues resulting in hemorrhage and fluid loss from the blood vessels. Therapy which reduces the IFNs and inhibits proteolysis may greatly reduce the possibility of mortality. Our previous study on polyphenol rich fraction of Carica papaya Linn (Caricaceae)(CPP) on immuno-compromised rats showed its inhibitory effect on IFNs by preventing proteolysis through Adenosine Trihydrogenase Pathway. Carica papaya also has been reported as a promising candidate in pharmaceutical industry and used traditionally in curing DF; thus our current 3 year study concentrates on deciphering the molecular mechanism involved in inhibiting hemorrhage by CPP in humanized mice model of Dengue Virus(hu-NSG mice).

The mice will be treated with three dosage of CPP twice daily for 1 week, platelets to be measured daily, upon sacrifice cellular ATP levels, proteins from muscle tissues using specific kits, T and its sub population (CD4 and CD8), B, NK and Treg cells from spleen are to be assessed. Interferon regulatory pathway to be identified by measuring NFkb in addition to the proinflammatory cytokines such as IFN-γ,IL-2,IL-6,IL-18,TNF-α from the blood using cytomeric bead array assay. Mitogenic proliferation of spleenocytes will be done by thymidine incorporation assay. Visual evaluation of hemorrhagic parameter in tissues to be done by TUNEL assay and TEM for histopathological sections. Results obtained from this study will contribute new knowledge on CPP by establishing its molecular mechanisms on immune system thus will provide insight into new directions for DF therapy. This Project will support health ministry in the fight against dengue fever and training professionals to this field.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Kumarappan Chidambaram (SOP-TU)
1) Chee Hui Yee (UPM)
2) Dr. Toh Gaik Theng (TU)
3) Prof. Paraidathathu Thomas A/L P.G. Thomas (TU)
4) Cini Mathew John (UiTM)
5) Sharina Binti Hamzah (TU)
 
Characterization of the antifungal susceptibility patterns, molecular genetic profiles and biofilm architecture among clinical isolates of Candida rugosa.
Project Description
High morbidity and mortality are on the rise for Candida infections caused by many non-albicans Candida species. Such infections are seen greatly among immunocompromised or immunodeficient individuals. A very uncommon species, C. rugosa was reported in Malaysia causing candidiasis and candidaemia recently. Other reported cases from C. rugosa suggest that this species which is a common pathogen in cattles can be pathogenic to humans under certain circumstances.The focus on C. rugosa would definitely provide insights into their virulence factors which attributes to their pathogenicity.

The main objective of this 2-year research will be to investigate the main virulence factor which is their biofilm formation and its architecture. Coupled with this, their antifungal susceptibility profiles and genetic relatedness of the strains can be compared. Variation in biofilm adhesion and maturation between strains with different antifungal susceptibility profile can be assessed using the CFU and spectrometry methods at various time points. However, the XTT assay will show the growth kinetics of these biofilms. Strains showing XTT readings higher than the reference strain would be better biofilm-formers.

Values of mean biomass, average thickness, average diffusion distance, surface roughness and surface-to-volume ratio will reveal the biofilm architecture of C. rugosa using the CLSM-COMSTAT analysis. Strain specific characteristics will be demonstrated in the ultrastructural studies using SEM. The antifungal susceptibility profiles of C. rugosa can be correlated with its genetic variation along with their biofilm forming ability among the clinical strains. Early diagnosis and identification of the causative agent is required for appropriate treatment, preventing recurrences and reducing the rate of antifungal resistance. These findings from this study will contribute to better management of patients that will help in reducing length of stay (L.O.S.) in hospital and lessen hospital financial burden.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Priya A/P Madhavan (SOM-TU)
1) Dr. Lesie Than Thian Lung (UPM)
2) Assoc Prof. Dr. Mohd Nasir Mohd Desa (UPM)
3) Dr. Wong Eng Hwa (TU)
 
Gamification-inspired foundations and self-adaptive approach for traceability between test and code artifacts in software-intensive systems
Project Description
With the ever-increasing dependence of our civil and social infrastructures to the correct functioning of software systems, the need for approaches for engineering reliable software systems grows rapidly. Traceability is the ability to trace the influence of one software artifact on another by linking dependencies. Traceability, as a crucial undertaking, is demanded within software development process and maintenance, which underlies important software and systems engineering activities such as testing. Test-to-code traceability (relationships between tests and system code) plays a vital role in the production, verification, reliability and certification of highly dependable software-intensive systems that serve as the computational backbone for key human activities, as quality of source code is ultimately of utmost importance. Prior work on test-to-code traceability in contemporary software engineering environments and tools is not satisfactory and is very limited with respect to the need in regard to accuracy of results, lack of motivation, and high required effort by developers/testers.

In this pioneering theoretical 2 year research, we focus on extracting the learning and adaptation models based on the gamification concepts and build a unifying foundation that combines self-adaptive features and big data analytics. The expected outcome of this research is a unifying theory for gamified software traceability that can be used as a template for further enhancing software development processes and languages. The completion of this theory would also create opportunities to explore new ways of detecting traceability coverage/failure in safety-critical software systems such as aeronautics, medical devices, and railway communications to demonstrate if a rigorous process has been followed and to provide evidence that the system is safe for its intended use. The outcome and significance of this theoretical research would benefit researchers in software testing and in software reliability by providing novel approach to leverage on traceability benefits to analyze safety and rigorousness of software systems.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Azween Abdullah (SOCIT-TU)
1) Prof. Lee Sai Peck (UM)
2) Thulasyammal A/P Ramiah Pillai (TU)
 
Transcriptomics study of the methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) biosynthesis pathway in Impatiens balsamina L.
Project Description
The recent Malaysian Bioeconomy Transformation Programme (BTP) calls for increasing adoption of biotechnology practices to stregthen the development of our bioeconomy. Bioeconomy involves sustainable production of biological resources and conversion into value-added products, such as the production of quality natural products. Hence, an interesting study would be the methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway in a local medicinal herb Impatiens balsamina L. In plants, the MEP pathway is responsible for the essential biosynthesis of isoprenoids, and many isoprenoid-based compounds have demonstrated effective biological, nutritional or medical values. Impatiens balsamina L is known to be a rich source of bioactive compounds, and due to this presence of diverse secondary metabolites, many studies have reported that I. balsamina shows various antifungal, antibacterial, antitumor, antipruritic, antianaphylactic and anticancer activities.

However, limited genomic information is currently available for this species, and no sequence information about the MEP pathway exists in NCBI. This 3-year project proposes to explore and characterize the key genes and networks involved in the MEP pathway in five types of I. balsamina. A comparative transcriptomics sequencing study using Next Generation Sequencing (RNA-Sq) will be used to simultaneously reveal the MEP pathway genes that undergo significant changes in their expressions between different types and organs (floral buds and leaves) of I. balsamina, and possibly even uncover novel genes and unexpected regulatory mechanisms. Genomics research on this plant can lead to discovery and identification of key genes in the MEP pathway responsible for the biosynthesis of major natural compounds in I. balsamina. Novel genetics knowledge may then be used to potentially manipulate and increase production or composition of essential natural compounds in the plant.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Tam Sheh May (SBS-TU)
1) Prof. Lim Yang Mooi (UTAR)
2) Dr. Anthony Ho Siong Hock (TU)
 

2014 Internal Grants

Major Funding Scheme (MFS) (funded by Taylor’s University)
Design and development of hybrid solar thermal air-conditioning unit
Project Description
Rapid urbanization and the exponential growth of high dense commercial and residential areas have driven the demand for air conditioning to historical high. In the U.S., space heating and cooling accounted for 56% of the total annual energy consumption in 2012. The rise of energy fuel prices and the extreme global climate change have led the intensive development of clean solutions in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. Concurrent with one of the 14 grand chällenges identified by National Academy of Engineering, this 18-month research project ultimately aims to develop a novel solar thermal engine system, which is capable of harvesting the radiation heat from the sun to mechanically supplement power for a commercial air conditioning unit and reduce the electricity consumption.

This research project takes into account both technical and commercial aspects of the solar thermal engine system, aims to refining the design of the entire refrigerating system, including the Stirling engine, mechanical coupling and solar collectors. Both numerical and experimental methodologies will be applied to fine-tune the integration of the solar thermal system to a commercial air conditioning unit, in order to achieve the optimum cooling performance. The research also takes into account the ergonomics aspect in the system design, to ensure the compatibility of health & safety regulations and commercial viability.

The entire research scope will be carried out jointly with Sustainable & Renewable Energy System (SRES) research group at Northumbria University in UK which is renowned for its expertise in R & D of Stirling cycle machines. A postgraduate student from Taylor's University will be seconded to SRES for a 2 months knowledge transfer program, to carry out investigations on the refinement of solar thermal Stirling engine design. The outcomes generated from this research project will be compiled and used to prepare applications for other national and international research grants for the further advancement of R & D in the area of solar thermal air conditioning systems.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Lim Chin Hong (SOE-TU)
Lim Chee Woei (UPM)
 
Development and in-vitro and in-vivo evaluation of Supersaturated selfnanoemulsifying drug delivery systems to enhance bioavailability of poorly soluble drug Dutasteride
Project Description
Project Description The number of increasing poorly soluble new chemical entities (NCEs) emerging from drug discovery requires pharmaceutical scientists to break new ground in the field of drug delivery in order to increase solubility and bioavailability of compounds. The poor solubility of drug substances and their low dissolution rate in aqueous gastrointestinal fluid often leads to poor bioavailability with low therapeutic efficacy. To overcome this problem, various formulation strategies such as solid dispersion cyclodextrins-complexzation and self-emulsifying drug delivery were reported in the literature. Amongst strategies to improve the solubility and bioavailability, the selfnanoemulsifying drug delivery system (SNEDDS), are most promising delivery options that have attracted much attention in both academic and industry. Self-emulsifying drug delivery systems are composed of a mixture of oil, surfactants and co-surfactants and they are capable of forming oil-in-water emulsions with nanoscale particle size upon gentle agitation provided by the gastrointestinal motion. An additional advantage of SNEDDS over simple oils/lipid formulations is that they provide a large interfacial area for partitioning of the drug between oil and water. Precipitation inhibitors will be used to prevent drug precipitation from S-SNEDDS.

The main objective of this 18-month study is to develop and evaluate the supersaturated self-nanoemulsified drug delivery system to enhance the bioavailability of poorly soluble drug dutasteride. Supersaturated self-nanoemulsifying drug delivery (S-SNEDDS) formulations will be developed based on saturated solubility of drug in selected excipients using different ratio of mixture of oil, surfactant and co-surfactant. The prepared formulation will be evaluated for its physicochemical parameters (particle size, shape, zeta potential, in vitro dissolution rate, acceleratory stability, precipitation, and self-emulsifying time) in vivo bioavailability parameters (Cmax, Cmax, Tmax, AUC and relative bioavailability) in rat upon oral administration. SSNEDDS will be used as drug delivery platform technology for poorly soluble drug substances, new chemical entities (NCEs) and BCS class II drugs.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
P. S. Rajinikanth (SOP-TU)
Gwendoline Ee Cheng Lian (UPM)
 
Isolation and characterisation of immuno-modulatory properties of macluraxanthone
Project Description
Macrophages are innate immune cells that can be found in different polarisation states. They are most commonly subdivided into M1 and M2 subpopulations with pro- and anti-inflammatory properties, respectively. Over the years, macrophages and their inflammatory mediators have been reported to play a role in the development of pathology in various diseases, ranging from diseases with infectious aetiology to metabolic diseases. Due to their central role in inflammation and immunopathology, many studies have investigated ways to modulate the functions of | macrophages to obtain favourable clinical outcomes in disease states. Macluraxanthone is a compound that can be easily isolated from local plants in Malaysia and has been shown to have various bioactive properties. It can bind to receptors on immune cells, specifically the platelet activating factor receptor, and inhibit the downstream signalling processes. In addition, macluraxanthone was shown to exhibit antibacterial properties.

Interestingly, preliminary results from our co-researcher suggest that this compound may also have an anti-inflammatory function. In this study, we aim to further characterise the immuno-modulatory effects of macluraxanthone, specifically on macrophages. We will be treating different subpopulations of macrophages with macluraxanthone and characterising cytokine production by the macrophages upon stimulation with lipopolysaccharide. We will also treat freshly isolated monocytes with this compound over time and investigate if it can influence the direction of macrophage polarisation. This study will further elucidate the immuno-modulatory role of macluraxanthone on macrophage functions and enable us to determine if it can be used as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. In addition, it will also yield sufficient quantity of macluraxanthone that will enable us to elucidate its role in other inflammatory settings.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Chua Lin Lin (SBS-TU)
The Soek Sin (UPM)
 
Langkawi Google Glass Augmented Reality (AR): A feasibility study
Project Description
Langkawi is home to a diverse range of cultural backgrounds and its attraction to tourists is strongly focused on the natural resources occurring on the islands. So far, the local promotional efforts and information have primarily been concentrated on the Geopark Tourism Interpretive Information Centre within the Oriental Village. Although detailed, in depth and comprehensive information is presented, the experience is currently static in nature posing an opportunity for significant visitor experience enhancement.

The aim of the 1 year project is to promote the Langkawi Geopark to become an internationally renowned UNESCO Geopark destination for eco-tourism and extend the seasonality before and after the main season to increase total visitor throughput without causing an increase in peak demand. The interpretative centre is used as a case study to utilise the existing exhibits and information and increase the learning experience for visitors by creating an interactive learning experience enhancing the visitors’ geological heritage experience in the context of nature-based eco-tourism in Langkawi Island.

These objectives will be achieved by utilising the QFD framework for learning experience as the foundation of this study, adapting the variables to the idiosyncrasies to the Langkawi Geopark and its visitors through in-depth face to face interviews with local stakeholders and tourists, and the testing of the model through a field test. Google Glass as a wearable interactive device will be used to enable visitors to experience augmented reality during their visit to the Geopark employing the adapted QFD model to test the hypothesis.

Expected outcomes are the creation of a Google Glass AR eco-tourism model for Langkawi potentially creating the first Asian/global model of such nature. Furthermore, data generated through this project will be used to generate at least two publications based on Malaysian eco-tourism and learning experiences enhancing the international exposure of Malaysian efforts in ecological conservation and research. Finally, a business model and path for commercialisation of augmented reality could arise from the findings enabling the Langkawi Geopark to implement a self-financing AR application, enhancing the visitor experience and raining the international profile of Malaysian tourist experiences.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Neethiahnanthan Ari Ragavan (TCHT-TU)
1) Timothy Jong (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
2) Claudie Leue (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
3) Vikneswaran Nair (TU)
4) Sarjit Singh Sekhon (TU)
 
Violence among generation Y movie-goers living in selected urban peripherals in West Malaysia: A framework for crime reduction
Project Description
Reduction in crime rate has been identified as one of the National Key Results Areas (NKRAs) in achieving the objectives of the Government Transformation Program (GTP), to the quality of life for all Malaysians. The target set is to achieve a reduction of 5%, to the very least; in overall index crime for every year comes the next three years. One of the hotly debated issue is the influence of films which depicts violence as one of the prime movers of criminals. Though it is a hotly debated issue, it has received little attention and remains largely neglected by the crime literature. The body of knowledge of crime is originally proposed by Becker (1968) and Ehrlich (1973). In order to achieve the objective, an in-depth knowledge on the impact of films on violent behaviour in Malaysia is indeed vital. We need to understand about the impact of criminal behaviour induced by the scenes in films.

The 18 months’ study attempts to develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between violence in movies patronized by Malaysian youth and violence among Malaysian youth. Discussions on film content, violence among youths and related policies on censorship ought to take into account, therefore, the socio-cultural, political and economic aspects of the nation. Thus, the main motivation of the study is to have a better understanding of crime resulting from films, finding and suggesting alternative way of approaching it. This research will attempt to unearth the spill-over effect of criminal activities induced by violent scenes in films shown in Malaysia in order to reduce violent crime among Malaysian youths. This study would employ mixed method research to accommodate qualitative and quantitative approaches. Finally this research will produce 5 articles in high impact journals, graduate one master student and above all produce a framework for crime reduction among youths.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Ramachandran Ponnan (SOC-TU)
1) Baharom Abdul Hamid (TU)
2) Antoon Gewijde Herwig De Rycker (TU)
3) Amira Sariyati bt Firdaus (UM)
4) Nicole Yang Lai Fong (TU)
 
How to resolve the problem of immunity issues while dealing with sovereign wealth funds in investment agreements: Malaysia perspective
Project Description
The Involvement of a state entity in an investment agreement and Sovereign Wealth Funds are relatively a new phenomenon in the field of international trade and business law. Sovereign wealth Funds sometimes come under the banner of the Central Bank while involved in commercial activities. The alarming problem in this area is whether the investment activities of Sovereign wealth funds will enjoy absolute immunity in the investment agreement with foreign investor. A crucial area of research which needs to be done as to whether their activities should be considered as public or private?

The objective of this 18 month study research is to conduct an in depth research in this area to establish a bridge between public and private international law governing the commercial activities of state entities, Sovereign Wealth Funds and Central Banks. The research would principally be a doctrinal and conceptual analysis of the law. The research would mainly be library-based and would employ the qualitative methodology of textual and critical analysis of primary sources such as relevant legislations, as well as secondary sources such as textbooks, case reports, journal articles and online databases. In order to validate findings the researchers will carry out field work and interviews with relevant industrial stakeholders.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Assaduzzaman (TLS-TU)
Abdul Haseeb Ansari (IIUM)
 
Evaluations of the biological activities and chemical constituents of mangrove species of the Philippines
Project Description
This 18-month project is a research collaboration between two universities i.e. Taylor's University (TU) and Far Eastern University (FEU), Philippines, as part of the fulfilment in the MOU signed by both parties on 29" October 2013 effective for a period of 3 years.

Mangrove ecosystems have become one the world’s most threatened biomes in the past half-century, in which a 35% reduction of the global mangrove areal extent in recent decades, has been recorded (Long et al., 2014). The Philippines is home to about half the world's mangrove species, accounting for 1.9% of the world’s total mangrove area (Long et al., 2014). Two basic factors justify the study of the bioactivities and chemical constituents of mangrove plants. Firstly, due to extremely harsh environment of high salinity, high and low tides of water, high temperature and moisture, strong winds and muddy anaerobic soil, in which mangroves thrive, such a stressed environment have imposed modifications to the metabolites within these plants which enable protection against destructive elements, resulting in a phytochemical composition unique to mangrove species. The second reason is that numerous mangrove plants are used in folklore medicine and extracts from mangroves have proven activity against human, animal and plant pathogens with some reported novel bioactivities (Bandaranayake, 1998, Simlai and Roi, 2013). Nevertheless, investigations on the metabolites responsible for their bioactivies, are still at infant stage. The research project aims to investigate the biological and chemical activities of the different Philippine mangrove species. Specifically, it will explore 1) antibacterial properties 2) antioxidant activities; 3) lipase inhibition activities 4) tyrosinase inhibition activities. Briefly, the methods encompass preparation of mangrove extracts, evaluation of antibacterial, antioxidant, lipase inhibition and tyrosinase inhibition assays, identification of chemical constituents from selected bioactive mangrove species, using phytochemical tests and HPLC analyses.

The expected outcomes of this project are identification of potential mangrove species with specific bioactivites for further evaluations and providing scientific justifications to the medicinal uses of mangroves. This project is also expected to generate preliminary evidences prior to application of external funds for the conservation and further research works on specific mangrove species with reported potential bioactivities.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Lai How Yee (SBS-TU)
1) Jee Jap Meng (TU)
2) Phelim Yong Voon Chen (TU)
 
OntoClean - Cleaning heterogeneous data from real world domain
Project Description
Recent advancement in Internet Technologies had made web browsing increasingly easy and user friendly. From the traditional method of desktop web browsing and the birth of dial-up modem connection, users nowadays are able to enjoy a fast and reliable web browsing via high speed wireless Internet connection and portable mobile devices. Browsing a web has become much easier with the state of the art search engines such as Google, which provide much functionalities which could make browsing easier such as improved crawler, easy to use search interface, web personalization, Web 3.0 support and integration and many more. In order to build a robust and reliable search engine, the developer needs to integrate all the data and present them in a meaningful format for user’s viewing convenience. Integrating these data is a non-trivial task as data usually occur in numerous format, and layout.

Furthermore, web developers usually present the data content in various languages of their choice, which made the processing of these data increasing difficult. There is also no standard convention to represent the data format and even a standardize rule to process this data has not been developed. To resolve this issue, researchers develop data extractor which could effectively extract data from web sources, tabulate them, and used it for further processing. However, not all data are correctly extracted, they may either missed certain valuable information or contain additional unnecessary information. In the case of unnecessary information, researchers use a cleaning method to remove them such that the data extracted are free of errors. Removing these data is important as unnecessary information may affect the accuracy of subsequent extractor tools, hence may eventually prevent the tool from performing its task efficiently. In this research proposal, we embark on a data cleaning tool to clean data using ontology tools.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Hong Jer Lang (SOCIT-TU)
1) Khong Kok Wei (TU)
2) Hiew Pang Leang (TU)
 
Novel technology for modeling sleep disorder features in Malaysia
Project Description
Sleep disorder, or somnipathy, is a medical disorder of the sleep patterns of a person or animal [1-4]. Some sleep disorders are serious enough to interfere with normal physical, mental and emotional functioning. Disruptions in sleep can be caused by a variety of issues and may show different characteristics in different regions. In this research project, the features and characteristics of a group of sleep disorders with the symptoms of trouble falling asleep or maintaining sleep in Malaysia will be modeled, which may cause an elevated sense of sleepiness during the day in Malaysia. Some sleep disorders are serious enough to interfere with daily duties.

The objective of this 18-month project is to study, model and understand the sleep disorder features in Malaysia through the mapping and collection of Electroencephalography (EEG) signals. A novel classification algorithm will be developed to analyse the characteristics of sleep disorders in Malaysia. The system would consist of monitoring technology to | accurately screen patients on an outpatient basis by monitoring physiologic variables capable of indicating whether or not there is a need for further, more costly, sleep disorder testing. This EEG mutichannel electrodes will be used to analyse the amplitude and content of the signal. The sensor is designed to detect respiratory rate, pulse shape, heartbeat, snoring and motion of diaphragm, chest wall and legs. Sensors are positioned on the neck, chest and abdominal areas. Additional assessments include a sleep quiz and attitude questionnaire about sleep problems. Data will be analyzed using the proposed method.

The significance outcome is to provide the essential analysis onto the data for diagnosis and treatment purposes. The results will benefit the medical doctors and biomedical research community.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Leong Wai Yie (SOE-TU)
1) Mohd Taghi Hajibeigy (TU)
2) Ihab Ali (Hospital Sg Buloh)
3) Danilo P. Mandic (Imperial College London, UK)
4) Loo Chun Pin (Hospital Sg Buloh)
 
The bilateral relationship between Malaysia and China: The role and impact of media
Project Description
It has long been recognized that the international news coverage by local media influences – either positively or negatively – the public perception of other nations, which, in its turn, may impact policy-making. In light of recent events surrounding missing flight MH370, the critical importance of studying media representations across different nations has become all the more prominent. As a global and regional power engaging in active (media) diplomacy, it is especially China that has become directly relevant to Malaysia’s economic and political aspirations. In order to gain more systematic insight into existing (mis)perceptions of each other, this 18 month study will examine the way on which Malaysia-China relations are framed by the mainstream Chinese, English and Malay newspapers in Malaysia, as well as the mainstream Chinese-language newspapers in China.

A second objective is to investigate the factors affecting the news framing of these relations. Thirdly, the research intends to find out to what extent the news coverage impacts policy-making and Malaysia-China relations, and what mechanisms are involved. To achieve these objectives, the study will employ a multi-method triangulated approach which consists in: the content analysis and critical discourse analysis of a corpus of newspaper articles in Malaysia and China; interviews with the Editors-in-Chief, the Malaysian ambassador to China and the Chinese ambassador to Malaysia. This original two-pronged approach will provide a holistic view of the process of frame building, frame setting and frame effects. The study will inform future research into the complex interactions among communication, international relations and diplomacy. Additionally, it may give an indication as to how diplomacy-related materials should be handled.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Nicole Yang Lai Fong (SOC-TU)
1) Prof. Md. Sidin Ahmad (UM)
2) Prof. Guo Zhen Zhi (Tsing Hua Uni)
3) AP.Dr. Ramachandran Ponnan (TU)
4) Dr. Mary Varghese (TU)
5) Tarosh Jacob (TU)
 
Eludation of metabolic profiles of Acinetobacter baumannii infection in mammalian lung cells
Project Description
Despite of A. baumannii emerging as a worldwide problem, relatively few virulence factors have been described (1-10). Similarly, very little is known about the metabolic profiles of A. baumannii especially during an infection period. To gain a better understanding of the infection mechanisms of A. baumannii, we propose to study the metabolic pathway of this pathogen during an infection period. This could lead to the detection of potential targets for the development of vaccine candidates in the near future. Briefly, in this study we propose to investigate the metabolic pathways that take place during an infection with clinical strains of A. baumannii. A total of 50 clinical strains of A. baumannii will be collected from a tertiary care centre in Klang Valley and will be subjected for standard laboratory identification. These strains will be screened for antimicrobial susceptibility. MDR and sensitive A. baumannii strain will be selected for further investigation. These strains will be used to infect human lung epithelial cells (A549) and subjected to proteomic analysis to study the metabolic profile of these pathogens before and after infection.

The results obtained would aid in:
a) new knowledge on the metabolic pathway and its mechanisms associated with A. baumannii infection.
b) suggestion on the potential target for future development of potential vaccine candidates for this deadly emerging pathogen.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Wong Eng Hwa (SOM-TU)
1) Prof. Dr. N. Parasakthi (Monash)
2) AP.Dr. Mohd Nasir Mohd Desa (UPM)
3) Dr. Navindra Kumari
4) Dr. Priya Madhavan (TU)
5) Dr. Phelim Yong Voon Chen (TU)
 

Emerging Research Funding Scheme (ERFS) (funded by Taylor’s University)
Issues and Challenges of Facebook Commerce Among SMEs in Malaysia
Project Description
The purpose of this 1-year study is to investigate the issues and challenges of SMEs in adopting online business through Facebook (F-Commerce). Digital technology has changed our lifestyle remarkably. As the world changes, the business world is also changing their operations from a traditional method of business into online business. Recent years, social networks have gained an eminence in the business world. This study identifies 60 SMEs in Selangor which do not have Facebook for business. The Modified TAM Model by Venkatesh & Davis (2000) will be used in this study. The factors that prevent businesses to adopt online business through Facebook are a lack of human resources (IT professsionals), cost, lack of knowledge of doing online business, and security. Since Facebook commerce is a new platform for business, there are very few academic studies (literatures) that have been conducted. Therefore, this study contributes significant new knowledge about online business through Facebook.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Caroline Sumathi Selvarajah (TBS-TU)
Manimekalai Jambulingam (TU)
 
Using the Islamic Concept of Wakalah to Improve Legal Certainty of International Agency Contracts
Project Description
This research idea derives from the existence of two phenomena with regards to the international agency contract: the international regulation including laws that regulate partially commercial conduct of the parties and Islamic concept of Wakalah in the Islamic Law.

This 1-year research is an innovative proposal as no literature discusses those two problems in one piece of research and writing. It also creates the opportunity for commercialization as the outcome would provide useful and concise information for the parties willing to do cross-border business and guarantee Sharia — compliant regulation of their conduct.

This research aims at adding value by suggesting possible legal solutions international businesses may adopt when there is a need for a reference point for their international agency contracts.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Marcin Rogowski (TLS-TU)
Gobindran Raj Rajagopal (TU)
 
Traceability in Modern Software Test Engineering: Evaluation of State-of-the-art Technologies and New Research Directions and Solutions
Project Description
Traceability is the ability to describe and follow the life of software artifacts and has been used as a quality attribute for recent years. Traceability is demanded, as a crucial undertaking, within software development process and maintenance, which underlies important software and systems engineering activities such as testing. Test-to-code traceability (relationships between tests and the code under test) is useful and of interest to software engineers due to its important benefits. Despite its importance, support for identifying and maintaining traceability links between unit tests and tested classes in contemporary software engineering environments and tools is not satisfactory. There are a number of research studies reported in literature that targets on traceability in relation to testing activities. These studies encompass a variety of contributions associated with different testing techniques and activities. However, as opposed to traceability idea, these research studies are scattered over the literature for which there is no currently an ermpirical work to evaluate and discuss the state of the art in this field from the perspective of software system testing.

This 1-year project will present a comprehensive controlled experiment that compares and evaluates the underlying techniques of existing test-to-code traceability approaches with regard to their accuracy and effort from the viewpoint of users approach. The experiment will involve large groups of subjects forming from software engineering students and professional from the University of Malaya and the Taylor's University. The expected outcome of this research can be viewed as a unifying basis for guiding testing researchers and practitioners to see whether the advantages of traceability support will result in a higher efficiency and effectiveness of testing activities at runtime (not during development time), and finally contribute to the body of knowledge in this field. Moreover, the completion of this work would also create opportunities to explore new avenues of research concerning future enhancements and extension by providing a platform to propose new approaches to trace test-to-code analysis fitting modern and large-scale software development and maintenance processes. We plan to apply for ERGS after the completion of this research.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Reza Meimandi Parizi (SOCIT-TU)
Azween Abdullah (TU)
 
Cytotoxic and apoptosis-inducing effects of Clinacanthus nutans on cancer cell lines
Project Description
Natural products, especially traditional medicinal plants, have been used around the world to treat numerous diseases. The use of plant extracts or compounds as an alternative or complementary treatment of cancer is considered to be more effective, because of lesser side effects and lower toxicity to normal cells. Besides, many plant extracts or compounds have been known to induce apoptotic cell death in cancer cells. In this study, Clinacanthus nutans was selected for the study of apoptosis-inducing effects. The plant sample will be supplied by a herbal company and plantation in Malaysia. Based on testimonies, it is a medicinal plant that combats many kinds of ailments and cancer is one of them. It is commonly consumed as herbal tea manufactured by the company. However, there is no scientific evidence in the literature showing the anticancer effects of Clinacanthus nutans. It is only until recent years, Clinacanthus nutans have found to induce anti-proliferative effects on cancers cell lines but not on normal cell lines.

Therefore, the main objective of this 1-year research is to investigate the apoptosis-inducing effects of Clinacanthus nutans in cancer cell lines. The leaves of Clinacanthus nutans will be extracted using ethanol and further fractionated using hexane, ethyl acetate and water. The cytotoxic and anti-proliferative effects of the crude extract and fractions of Clinacanthus nutans will be evaluated by MTT and neutral red assay. Next, the most potent fraction will be investigated its apoptosis-inducing effects. Several apoptotic events will be examined, including cell cycle alterations, morphology aberrations, DNA fragmentation and plasma membrane alteration. This study will be providing the scientific explanation for the ethno-medicinal use of Clinacanthus nutans in the treatment of cancer and may pave the way for future studies such as bioassay guided isolation of bioactive compound and molecular mechanism of apoptosis.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Wong Yau Hsiung (SLAS-TU)
 
Design and development of novel polymeric nanoparticles of Metformin Hydrochloride
Project Description
Nanoparticles are solid, colloidal particles consisting of macromolecular substances that vary in size from 10 nm to 1000 mm. The drug of interest is dissolved, entrapped, adsorbed, attached or encapsulated into the nanoparticle matrix. Depending on the method of preparation, nanoparticles, nanospheres or nanocapsules can be obtained with different properties and release characteristics for the encapsulated therapeutic agent. Employing nanotechnology, polymeric delivery systems of a nanoscale referred to nanopolymeric particulate system have the ability to allow superior drug absorption, sustained-release and reduced side-effects and enhancing the therapeutic effectiveness of existing drug delivery systems. Nanopharmaceuticals provide intelligent and smart drug delivery systems which are expected to emerge as most important and powerful tool alternate to conventional dosage form.

The current 1-year investigation is envisaged with an objective to design and formulate a stable, optimized sustained-release antidiabetic nanopolymeric particulate system. Metformin HCl (Antidiabetic drug) is a BCS-III drug, having only 50-60% bioavailability with per oral administration of higher dose of 500 mg to 3000 mg (3 g) daily, in divided doses. Antidiabetic nanoparticulate systems can be achieved using biodegradable polymers employing with various physicochemical approaches like nanoprecipitation method and solvent evaporation method. These physicochemical approaches of making Nanoparticulate system, are not only simple, convenient in nanoscaling the pharmaceuticals but also more reproducible and reliable in production of nanoparticle drug delivery system, which has greater potential in pharmaceutical research.

Adopting such simple techniques of nanotechnology, proposed design and development of antidiabetic nanopolymeric particulate system of Metformin HCl have the greater ability to allow superior drug absorption, sustained-release and reduced side-effects and enhancing the therapeutic effectiveness with low therapeutic dose. Simple approach of nanotechnology combine with common excipients employed in the development of antidiabetic nanoparticulate system can be pharmaceutically scaled up for commercialization and exploited in diabetic therapy management.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Bibhu Prasad Panda (SOP-TU)
Habsah Abdul Kadir (UM)
 
Investigation for the organ specific toxicity from the therapeutic of Coptis chinensis
Project Description
Prebiotics are food ingredients that are selectively used as a substrate for beneficial bacteria in the colon. On the other hand, probiotics is defined as live microorganism which when administered in adequate amount may confer health beneficial effect to the host'. To date, dairy-based products such as cheese, milk and yogurt ap; Dr to be the main carriers of probiotics and these products usually possess limited shelf-life. Increasing demand for new flavor and taste has initiated a trend in incorporating probiotics and/or prebiotics into food products other than the conventional carrier of probiotics, Biscuit is a food product that can meets consumers demand for satiety, convenience and prolonged storage life. It is important to note that the demand of current consumer has extended beyond satiety to include demand for nutrition and additional health beneficial properties. The consumption of biscuit has been limited by the palatability and bland taste while those biscuit with filling are deemed unhealthy due to high sugar or fat contents.

Thus, incorporation of probiotics and prebiotic in biscuit with yogurt coating may increase the functional properties of biscuit, subsequently increase the acceptability of biscuit. In addition, probiotic-yogurt coating may serve as a healthier alternative to alter the palatability and sensorial properties of biscuit. Thus, the aim of this 1-year study is to develop an enhanced health-beneficial properties biscuit and evaluate the effect of co-encapsulation of probiotics and prebiotics on the physicochemical properties of yogurt coating and the overall quality of biscuit. The stability of probiotic-prebiotic microcapsules and its effect on the functionality of yogurt coating will be evaluated. Proximate analyses, textural analysis and sensorial analyses will also be conducted for the end product (biscuit with probiotic-yogurt coating) and throughout the storage period of 8 weeks. This study could lead to the development of a new functional shelf-stable food product.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Kumarappan Chindambaram (SOP-TU)
Lai How Yee (TU)
 
Development and characterisation of biscuit coated with yogurt containing probiotic and prebiotic.
Project Description
Traditional Chinese Medicine plays a complementary role in Malaysian health care system; however many concerns have been expressed by health practitioners of Malaysia on the need to address the issues related to herbal medicine safety and adverse reactions. Ensuring the safety of Malay, Traditional Chinese Medicine (To J and other herbal medicines products is a core objective of National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau and WHO towards recognizing the role of TCM in current health care system. Coptidis Rhizoma (Huanglian) is a most widely used traditional Chines medicines mainly for heat clearing and detoxifying agent for 2000 years. Extensive studies showed C. Rhizoma has many pharmacological actions with strong clinical applications including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antihepatotoxic, antidiabetic, antihyperlipidiemic and anticancer. C. Rhizoma yields six major isoquinoline alkaloids (includes berberine, Coptisine etc.,), lignans (woorenol) and polyphenols.

Though C. Rhizoma has diversified pharmacological activities, under no circumstance should the safety issues of this herbal medicine be neglected. C. Rhizoma is relatively safe in normal dosage; however it can cause some serious organ specific toxic effects such as cardiac arrhythmias, hematological changes, liver injury, respiratory failure, toxicoderma, diarrhea, and even lead to death in some patients in clinic in China (Li etal 2008).

The main objective of this 1-year investigation is to study the both invitro (Cytotoxicity and cell death) and invivo toxicity experiments (acute oral and subchronic toxicity) using standard OECD (The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) methods for the safety and adverse effects of aqueous extract of C. Rhizoma through confirming organ specific biomarkers analysis and underlying pathological changes of key targeted organs (liver, cardiac, respiratory, blood and renal). Therefore, it is necessary to ascertain the organ specific toxicity of C. Rhizoma at first to acquisition of its toxic nature to guide further long-term study as well as to promote the clinical application in chronic illness.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Yeo Siok Koon (SBS-TU)
Rajinikanth Siddihalingam (TU)
 
Financial conditions and the economy's impact on the citizen's well-being
Project Description
It is the duty of Governments of countries all over the world to implement policies that will uplift the quality of life of their citizens. The standard of living or quality of life was initially measured by the GDP per capita in each country. However, this measurement has been found to be riddled with many limitations. There has been progress in the literature of measuring standard of living or well-being with new research being carried out on happiness or life satisfaction. Research on the economics of well-being originally proposed by Easterlin (1974) has received little attention and remains largely neglected. It is therefore the objective of this study to investigate the economic determinants of life satisfaction or well-being in several countries across the world.

This 12 month study is a comparative study that involves an indepth investigation into the macroeconomic and financial determinants of the well-being of people. Well being refers to the extent in which people experience happiness and satisfaction and are therefore able to function well. It is in the interest of govenrments across the world to understand and acknowledge the causes and impact of national well-being as the progress of society and the success of public policies is measured by extent to which the nation’s well being is improved and sustained. Thus, the main motivation of the study is to have a better understanding of well-being, finding and suggesting alternative ways of approaching well-being. This research will attempt to unearth the theories of well-being or happiness. Extensive literatures (Di Tella, Mac Culloch and Oswald, 2003; Ho, 2011; Blanchflower and Oswald, 2011; Frey and Stutzer, 2010; Stevenson and Wolfers, 2008 and Clark and Senik, 2011) and theories of happiness would be visited and studied.

On top of that, rigorous analysis would be conducted to investigate how financial conditions and the economy in general impact well-being. In particular, this empirical study will contribute to the existing literature by providing further evidence of the relationship between well-being and the factors affecting financial conditions and the economy. The regressors or explanatory variables for this study comprises of various financial variables such as financial freedom, quality of financial institutions, financial development, interest rates and various other financial variables; and the various factors affecting the economy such as Gross Domestic Product, unemployment rate; inflation rate, income inequality, health expenditure, fertility rate among others.The study will also illustrate the impact well-being on economic growth. This study is expected to provide a clear understanding of the theories of well-being or happiness; and to investigate whether the impact of financial conditions and the economy on well-being, differ or are similar across countries around the world. The question that begs to be answered is whether or not the financial and economic drivers of well-being follow a similar predictable pattern or otherwise. This is an empirical question that has an answer which will be unveiled at the end of the study

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
R. Ratneswary V. Rasiah (TBS-TU)
1) Prof. Dr. Muzafar Shah Habibullah (UPM)
2) Assoc. Prof. Dr. Baharom Abdul Hamid (TU)
3) Dr. Badariah Haji Din (UUM)
 
Fertility and economy growth nexus in Malaysia
Project Description
The process of demographic transition receives attention and influence factors of fertility changes are highlighted. The change in the fertility and mortality rate has been a concern as pre-determination function in economic growth (Bloom & Canning, 2004; Bloom et. al. 2001, 2006 & 2008). It has been reported by United Nation (UN) (2013) that the world have vast decline in fertility change from 4.4 children per woman in 1970-1975 to 2.5 children per woman in 2005-2010. In 2012, Malaysia’s total fertility rate reached the “replacement level” of 2.1 which means an average of 2.1 children per woman. This figure also explained ‘two’ to replace the woman and her partner with addition of a little extra fertility to make up for children who do not live to the productive age. By states, Penang, Sabah, Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan are below the replacement level. In terms of ethnicity, the Malays, Chinese and Indians communities recorded total fertility rates of 2.5, 1.5 and 1.7 respectively.

This situation is serious and if fertility level is maintained, population growth in some states and these ethnic origins will slow down and decline in the near future. Population decline reduces both domestic markets and domestic demand and impacted negatively on economic growth. The objective of this study is to examine fertility convergence between states and ethnicity in Malaysia – a topic is yet to be explored but the major policy importance given relevance to public and fiscal policies regarding aging population, immigrations, racial unity, financing public pension and healthcare system and economic growth. In order to determine convergence or divergence in fertility rates between states or ethic, we employ the unit root and co-integration approach to test for stochastic convergence using time series data for period 1960 to 2012. It is expected that there exist club convergence in fertility rates between states and ethnicity in Malaysia. This would requires different strategies and separate policies to encounter declining fertility and population growth issues in Malaysia.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Muhd. Iqbal Makmur (TBS-TU)
1) Assoc. Prof. Dr. Baharom Abdul Hamid (TU)
2) Prof. Dr. Muzafar Shah Habibullah (UPM)
3) Dr. Badariah Haji Din (UUM)
 
Synthesis and characterization of rice hush-derived biochar for fuel cell applications
Project Description
Direct carbon fuel cells (DCFCs) are emerging fuel cell technologies that utilise carbon as fuel with 100% theoretical thermodynamic efficiency to generate electricity. DCFCs have the advantages over the coal-fired generator and other conventional fuel cell technologies on the aspect of its ease in carbon capture and storage. At the early stage of development, researchers have paid much focus on performing electrochemical testing using the existing carbonaceous materials such as coal, coke or graphite. Limited studies were found on using biomass as derived-carbon fuel (or biochar) for DCFCs despite its huge potential as being a carbon-negative fuel source. This project aims at investigating the potential of rice husk that is found abundant in Malaysia, as the biomass derived biochar for DCFCs.

This biomass with high lignin content could sheds some light as the renewable carbon fuel. Heat treatment (biomass oxidation) and chemical treatments (acid and alkaline treatments) processes will be performed in sequence on the rice husk in order to achieve the desired physical and chemical characteristics of carbon fuel (or biochar). The pre- and post-treated biochar will be characterised on the aspects of carbon content, particle size and active surface area, ash and volatile content, morphology and crystallanity structure. The as produced biochar will be electrochemical characterised using DCFC single stack to study on its performance in term of power, current density and electrochemical impedance properties. It is expected that the rice husk-derived biochar will have potential usage as alternative carbon fuel source for DCFC applications.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Wong Wai Yin (SOE-TU)
1) Dr. Veena Doshi (TU)
2) Dr. Estee Yong (Monash Uni)
 
Immediate historicity: Theorising spatiotemporal historiography through community projects and spatial design education
Project Description
Architecture itself stands for a notion of representation and therefore is characterised with complexity across theoretical and pragmatic levels and disciplines. This research attempts to unfold this complexity through a cross examination integrating theories and practices into a transdisciplinary schema within the humanities in Asia. In so doing, the study targets at Asia’s problematic social and cultural identity issue, and Sungai Pinang Kecil in Pangkor Island, Malaysia, has been strategically selected as a case. A good number of research shows that the anxiety about identity has been noticed by the public in Asia, and it is believed to be caused by Asia’s unique past and current historicity in the world. Amongst all, Malaysia can be regarded as a representative case. Recent research also shows that the attempt to conquer this crisis needs to establish Asia’s own discourse out of Western intellectualism. This discourse is believed that it should be transdisciplinary and boundary removed due to the complexity mentioned above. Community Development, amongst many, is one remarkable voice.

Notwithstanding, current attention of community development has mainly paid to how identity can be established through cultural and economic revitalisation and therefore the influence is usually immediate yet temporary. This 12 month study argues that for a sustainable outlook, it should be further theorised and the presence of the past need to be considered. This research aims to interrelate the community in Sungai Pinang Kecil with research and teaching activities such as cultural mapping and participatory design, and most importantly through these activities, theorisation that takes place thereafter is intended to schematise a way of historiography with transdisciplinarity. The study not only provides an alternative against identity crisis in Asian society but also contributes to the current scholarship and discourse that pay less attention to the humanities. Methodologically, the study commences from a contextual analysis to a series of field studies; it then integrates with theory-oriented literature studies and is transcribed into theorisation. As designed activities within the theorisation, a series of exhibitions, academic publications will be presented as not only significant output from the research but also a milestone reference of writing Malaysian history through space, community involvement and education.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Lin Chia-Hui (SABD-TU)
Foo Cherch Kang (TU)
 
Survey research for increasing the potential of Port Dickson as a leading beach resort tourism destination
Project Description
The main goals of tourism governance and development are generally predicated on beliefs that tourism increases economic benefits, improves community infrastructure and superstructure systems, and enhances the community quality of life (Lee, 2013). To ensure that these benefits occur and are sustainable requires planning that is sensitive to stakeholders’ needs and attitudes towards tourism development at any destination (Gursoy, Chi, & Dyer, 2010; Fredline & Faulkner, 2000). Understanding the stakeholders’ perspective can facilitate policies which minimize the potential negative impacts of tourism development and maximize its benefits, leading to community development and greater support for tourism (Prayag, Hosany, Nunkoo, & Alders, 2013). Moreover, it is also an integral to understand the views of residents who are mostly influenced by local tourism development (Del Chiappa, 2012).

Considering these arguments, this 12 month study will highlight the factors that influence the behavior of the stakeholders and residents towards tourism development and will discuss the differing attitudes and characteristics of the groups identified. Moreover, this study will also draw on the triple bottom line approach of perceived impacts (economic, socio-cultural and environmental) of tourism development at Port Dickson, Malaysia and investigate if residents’ image of destination influence their perceptions of the economic, socio-cultural and environmental impacts of tourism, and support for further tourism development. In order to conduct this study, mixed method approach will be adopted by employing one (1) qualitative study (interviews with stakeholders and local residents) and two (2) quantitative studies (survey questionnaires from stakeholders and local residents) to collect data and gather stakeholders and residents’ views regarding image of Port Dickson, role of their engagement in developing tourism at the destination and its impacts. Data Analysis techniques such as content analysis, thematic analysis, descriptive statistics and structural equation modelling will be used to analyze the data. The results of this study will provide a more in-depth critique of the tourism competitiveness and attractiveness of Port Dickson as a domestic and international destination, its stakeholders & residents and impacts of tourism development. Therefore the results will be useful for tourism policy makers, planning managers and practitioners in the region and abroad.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Pradeep Nair (TCHT -TU)
1) Dr. Kashif Hussain (TU)
2) Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vikneswaran Nair (TU)
3) Neethiahnathan Ari Ragavan (TU)
4) Dato' Sarjit Singh Sekhon (TU)
 


Ongoing Grant Projects 2015

2015 External Grants

Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS) (funded by MOHE)
Design, synthesis, biological evaluation and molecular docking of Xanthone analogues as anti-cholinesterase and anti-inflammatory agents
Project Description
Xanthone is a fundamentally structural framework of bioactive secondary metabolites found in many higher plants and microorganism. It possesses diverse biological profiles such as antioxidative, antiviral and anticancer activities, depending on various substituents attach to its interesting structural scaffold of a planar tricyclic skeleton. Previous works on the biological activities of xanthones isolated from natural products led to our rational design and synthesis of new xanthone analogues. The series of alkylated, allylated, pyranated, carboxylated and aminated xanthone anologues will be designed and synthesized. Chromatographic and spectroscopic methods such as NMR, X-ray crystallography, MS, HPLC and FT-IR will be applied for the purification and structural elucidation of the analogues. The developed synthetic process is feasible and very useful for a future chemical biology research to reveal xanthone’s drug target and its biological significance.

To date, there is limited information on the anti-cholinesterase and anti-inflammatory activities. Cholinesterase (ChE) inhibitors are the investigated compounds in the search for an effective treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD), senile dementia, Parkinson’s disease and ataxia. Besides, Alzheimer’s Disease Anti-Inflammatory Prevention Trial (ADAPT) was designed to address the prevention or onset delay of AD by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which is used for the treatment of rheumatic diseases. Thus, part of this 2.5 year study is aimed to evaluate the in vitro anti-cholinesterase and anti-inflammatory activities of synthesized analogues and obtain better insight into mechanism of action through molecular docking studies. Ellman’s method (ChE) and cyclooxygenase (COX) assay will be performed and potent analogues will be subjected for molecular docking to investigate their binding modalities against the target drugs by using AutoDock tools, ChemBio3D and PyMOL. The new xanthone derivatives are likely to show potent bioactivities and hence the pharmacophore models discovered should serve as the lead compounds for further development into highly effective anticholinesterase and anti-inflammatory agents.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Mah Siau Hui (SOM-TU)
1) Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zuraini Ahmad (UPM)
2) Dr. Lam Kok Wai (UKM)
3) Prof. Gwendoline Ee Cheng
4) Lian (UPM)
5) Assoc. Prof. Dr. Anthony Ho (TU)
 
Evaluating the mechanism of maslinic acid in monocyte recruitment and foam cell macrophage formation: Regulatory effect of NF-κB and Nrf2
Project Description
Evidence showed that lipid-lowering drugs are not effective in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis cardiovascular events because of their inability to control local inflammation. Atherosclerosis is increasingly being recognized as a chronic inflammatory disorder and there have been a great deal of research on macrophage foam cell targeting anti-inflammatory therapies being investigated. Maslinic acid is a novel natural and safe compound with cardioprotective and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown to improve serum lipid profile in rats fed with high cholesterol diet. Our previous studies showed that maslinic acid regulates NF-κB proinflammatory signaling and Nrf2-regulated HO-1/NQO1 cytoprotective protein expression. The question of whether maslinic acid regulates macrophage foam cell formation and inflammation through targeting NF-κB and Nrf2 pathway remains unknown.

This 3 year study will first evaluate the effect of maslinic acid in reducing monocyte recruitment to endothelial cells and investigates the effect of NF-κB and Nrf2 activation in mediating expression of MCP-1 and VCAM-1 adhesion molecules. Next, maslinic acid will be determined for its ability to reduce uptake of oxidized-LDL which leads to formation of foam cells. Maslinic acid will be investigated for its effect in suppressing lipid uptake via inhibition of SR-A and CD36 receptors expression and Nrf2 activation. In addition, whether maslinic acid increases ABC transporter expression for cholesterol efflux through inhibition of NF-κB will be determined. The potential of maslinic acid in regulating the cross-talk between Nrf2 and NF-κB signaling will be determined by investigating ROS production and NF-κB activation in maslinic acid-treated Nrf2+/+ and Nrf2-/- cells. This study elucidates the regulatory effect of maslinic acid in monocyte recruitment, macrophage lipid accumulation, cholesterol efflux and ROS regulation via NF-κB and Nrf2. The findings provide novel contributions of maslinic acid as a potential antiatherogenic agent that targets lipid metabolism and inflammatory response via regulating both NF-κB and Nrf2 pathways.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Yap Wei Hsum (SBS-TU)
1) Dr. Nafees Ahemad Mohammed Yunus (Monash University)
2) Prof. Lim Yang Mooi (UTAR)
3) Dr. Phelim Yong Voon Chen (TU)
 
Unraveling the role of complement receptor 3 (CR3) in the clearance of malaria-infected erythrocytes
Project Description
The innate immune responses against malaria infection are particularly crucial in non-immune individuals, but our fundamental knowledge on this aspect is far from complete. Non-opsonic phagocytosis is an important innate immune protection mechanism in various infectious diseases, but its involvement during malaria infection is not well understood. In this study, we attempt to investigate if complement receptor 3 is a potential receptor involved in the non-opsonic phagocytosis of malaria parasites.

The objectives of this 2 year study are to determine if stimulation of human macrophages with malaria parasites can change their level of complement receptor 3 expression, and to elucidate the role of complement receptor 3 in the non-opsonic phagocytosis of malaria parasites by macrophages. We will first evaluate if stimulation of macrophages with malaria parasites will induce or down-regulate their expression of complement 3 receptors. Subsequently, we will use blocking antibodies against complement receptor 3 and quantify the phagocytosis and cytokine levels in the absence or presence of these antibodies. Any difference in phagocytosis or cytokine levels will indicate that complement receptor 3 has an important immune role in malaria infection.

From this study, we will enhance the fundamental understanding of the role of complement receptor 3 in the clearance of malaria parasites and malaria-infected erythrocytes. The findings from this study will contribute significantly to our understanding of one main aspect of innate immune clearance in malaria infection. In addition, this will serve as a fundamental knowledge that can aid the design of adjunct therapies for the treatment of malaria in immunologically naïve individuals.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Chua Lin Lin (SBS-TU)
1) Dr. Yap Wei Hsum (TU)
2) Post-Doc. Fello Dr. Khaw Loke Tim (UM)
 
Purification and characterization of charantin from Momordica charantia L. and its antidiabetic effects on alloxan-induced diabetic rats
Project Description
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is now the leading public health concern in Malaysia. According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2011, the prevalence of diabetes among Malaysia adults aged 18 years and above has increased remarkably by 31.0% in the space of 5 years, from 2006 to 2011. Based on the current figure, the number of diabetic adults in Malaysia is projected to rise to 4.5 million by the year 2020. Momordica charantia L. (MC) a climber belonging to family Cucurbitaceae, also commonly known as bitter gourd or bitter melon, is a popular plant to be used for treating the diabetes-related conditions. To the best of our knowledge, most of the earlier studies related to the hypoglycemic properties of MC mainly utilized the crude extract, which contains a mixture of bioactives. However, some studies reported that charantin is the major compound that contribute to the hypoglycemic effect of MC.

These studies are mainly focused on the extraction of charantin from MC but not on their antidiabetic effect. Besides, the other underutilized parts of MC such as leaves and stems are excellent sources of charantin. It is of interest to this research team to purify the charantin from fruits and leaves of MC using LCMS to study its antidiabetic effect in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. The physicochemical, structural and functional properties of purified charantin will be studied as well using NMR, FTIR and antioxidant analyses. Furthermore, clear mechanism of action of purified charantin in controlling the blood glucose are yet to be found out. Thus, gene expression analysis will be a potential tool to predict the exact mechanism of action. It is expected that a purified charantin will be obtained from MC, which can be used as a natural pharmaceutical to control the blood pressure among diabetic patients.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Chan Sook Wah (SBS-TU)
1) Dr. Lim Pek Kui (TU)
2) Dr. Sharina Binti Hamzah (TU)
3) Prof. Tan Chin Ping (UPM)
 
Towards a model of concerted and participative food heritage touristic valorization process: Kelabit indigenous community, Sarawak
Project Description
In the recent years, initiatives promoting Kelabit’s food heritage have been set-up in the tourism sector in Bario (district of Baram, Sarawak) as well as widely in Malaysia, demonstrating cultural pride about local food model. However, it has been argued by the Centre of Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment, little is known of the impact on local food system, the nutritional and health status of the local population and its contribution to the global sustainability of the food system. The overall objective of this 2 year research is to lay out the socio-cultural model through a concerted and participative valorization process towards a sustainable local food heritage in relation to the nutritional and health status of the population.

This study involves meetings with local indigenous community of Bario, observations and interviews with local and global actors on food production, transformation and valorization, assessment of food habits and nutritional status of the population by face–to-face questionnaire and individual and group interviews with tourists on-site. This study is expected to analyze the Kelabit’s eating habits and food heritage, conceptualize the participative building process as food as an heritage through tourism as well as an insight on the nutritional well-being of the local population. It is envisaged that this study will not only build the cultural pride of the Kelabits but will promote their indigenous food models to improve their economic, nutritional and health status. This project hopes to capture the attention of Malaysians and leaders at local and national levels of government and related agencies towards the richness of Malaysian indigenous food cultures towards a global sustainable food models.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Elise Line Mognard (TCHT-TU)
1) Prof. Vikneswaran Nair Sehkaran (TU)
2) Mohamed Ismail Bin Mohamed Noor (TU)
3) Prof. Jean Pierre Poulain (TU)
4) Assoc. Prof. Tibere Poulain (TU)
 

Funded by Far Eastern University, Phillipines
A study on the biological and chemical activities of the different mangrove species in the Philippines
Project Description
The world is beset with health problems because of emerging, re-emerging diseases and the rise and spread of antibiotic resistance. There is also a growing concern among clinicians and health practitioners with the increase number of obese individuals around the globe. With this, it led to the continuous discovery of drugs coming from all sources of plant materials to combat these health issues. The Philippines is very rich in plant biodiversity and many terrestrial and marine plants have been explored for drug studies. However, the Philippine mangrove species with its potential health benefits is not well studied. There are 40 species in the country belonging to 14 families of the 54 true mangrove species recorded worldwide. These species are located at tidal flats adjoining coastal areas and beside river mouths of brackish water. These species are remarkably known to be the source of tan bark for the tannin extract industry, fuel source and charcoal-making and good sources of roofing in coastal areas.

The conventional use of mangrove plants (bush or folkloric medicine) have been applied worldwide by local medical practitioners like India, Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and Australia. It has been noted that the presence of tannin in mangrove species made in conducive for the treatment of pharyngitis, haemorrhoids, tonsillitis, burns and a good antidote for metallic, alkaloidal, and sylycosidic poisons. In the Philippines, a community in the province of Pangansinan is using the decocted leaves and barks to treat intestinal diarrhea. Despite these claims, the medical uses of mangrove plants have very limited records and the biological activities and its chemical components have not been thoroughly investigated. With this, there is a need to explore a deeper knowledge on the therapeutic agent. Likewise, further investigation may give a factual value to those who are using it traditionally. This 12 month research project aims to investigate the biological and chemical activities of the different Philippines mangrove species. Specifically, it will explore these areas of activities; 1) lipase inhibiting and tyrosine inhibiting activities; 2) antioxidant activities; 3) antimicrobial properties; and anti-quorum sensing activities.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Dr. Lai How Yee (SBS-TU)
1) Dr. Phelim (TU)
2) Dr. Jee Jap Meng (TU)
 

Funded by Blackmores
Exploring the interface between complimentary medicine and community pharmacy in Malaysia
Project Description
A survey will be undertaken by Taylor University School of Pharmacy of Malaysian community pharmacists. This survey will be based on a similar project conducted in Australia at Griffith University [1]. The Australian questionnaire was developed from the literature and after consultation with an advisory group. It was tested by a convenience sample of pharmacists to ensure validity.

It is expected that minor modifications reflecting local differences in pharmacy practice and translated into the local language will be necessary. It is possible that additional questions may be added as well by Taylor University researchers and Blackmores Malaysia.

The survey would be undertaken via web and possibly app-based SurveyMonkey survey tool. A small validation trial of the modified survey should be undertaken prior to the national survey being undertaken.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Wong Pei Nee (SOP-TU)
 

Funded by Pfizer
Research on big data on health related data
Project Description
The project aims to organize and hold a forum on big data entitles “Big Data: Are We Ready for the Era?” The forum’s objectives are as follows:
  • To facilitate development and implementation of policies on the basis of data
  • To educate and create awareness of the importance of big data
Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
PT Thomas (SOP-TU)

Duration:
12 months
 

2015 Internal Grants

Emerging Research Grant Scheme (ERFS)
Determinants of smartphone repeat purchase intention among Malaysians: Moderation roles of self-congruence and social influence and a mediating effect of consumer satisfaction
Project Description
In today’s world of highly competitive market, it is crucial for companies to encourage customers’ repurchase behavior in order to develop high customer retention. This quantitative study intends to investigate a set of factors that influence repeat purchase intention of smartphone among Malaysian consumers. A total of six constructs are drawn from literatures to form the proposed model, including consumer inertia, luxury valve, product attribute, consumer satisfaction, social influence, and repeat purchase intention.

This 12 month study aims to analyze a sample of 600 smartphone users to examine the associated influence for each of the above determinant on Malaysian consumers’ intention of repeat purchase of smartphone. It is expected that consumer satisfaction have a mediating effect towards repeat purchase intension from product attribute and luxury value respectively. Self-congruence between consumers’ self-image and perceived image of their phone play important roles in determining the strength and direction between perceived luxury value and consumer satisfaction. Greater congruity between consumers’ self-concept and their image of smartphone has a positive impact on the relation between luxury value and satisfaction; and a large discrepancy between consumer self-concept and perceived image of their smartphone has a weak impact on the relation between luxury value and satisfaction.

Social influence also plays a moderator role in impacting the relationship between consumer inertia and repeat purchase intention. This study employs the survey strategy and it acts as the main method in this primary data collection study and will be carried out within a period of two months. Data analysis is conducted by using structural equation modeling (AMOS 21), and two-step analysis approach as suggested by Anderson and Gerbinn (1988). The significance level of indicators and path coefficient are assessed by using bootstrapping procedures and model comparison. The findings of this research may provide a better perspective for marketers to enhance their marketing and sales strategies specifically within the context of smartphone industry.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Goh See Kwong (TBS-TU)
1. Dr Nan Jiang (TU)
2. Tee Pei Leng (TU)
 
Hyaluronic acid biosynthesis using Streptococcus zooepidemicus
Project Description
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a high molecular mass, unsulfated polysaccharide, with an average molecular weight ranging from 104 to 107 Dalton, depending on its source. HA is presents in many body tissues and fluids of higher organisms like synovial fluid, umbilical cord, and is one of the main components of the extracellular matrix especially in connective tissues. With its biological functions and unique physiochemical properties (eg. high water holding capacity, good viscoelasticity), HA has been widely used in the areas of drug delivery, ophthalmology, and tissue engineering. Due to the risk of cross species viral infection, microbial fermentation is gradually replacing animal-derived sources of HA. Non-ionic surfactant, for example Tween 80 has been used for enhancing the production of microbial extracellular metabolites including exopolysaccharides and enzymes in some bacteria and fungi. To date, however very little attention has been paid to produce high molecular weight of HA using fermentative route.

The objective of this 12-month study is to increase hyaluronic acid yield and molecular weight produced by Streptococcus zooepidemicus ATCC 39920 which is a model organism widely used in industrial biotechnology. 3 different non-ionic surfactants viz Triton X-100, Tween 80 and Tween 40 will be tested in shake flask culture. The surfactant which is able to produce highest HA yield will be used in stirred tank bioreactor and tested with different concentrations. The cell growth of S. zooepidemicus, glucose consumption and HA concentration and molecular weight will be analyzed and kinetic parameter will be developed. Expected outcomes of this study are 1) the cell growth of the wild type S. zooepidemicus strain will be optimized with non-ionic surfactant, and 2) the HA yield and molecular weight will be quantified using stirred tank bioreactor.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Lai Zee Wei (SBS-TU)
 
Application of red pitaya (Hylocereus polyrhizus) powder as a natural functional colorant in the food model system
Project Description
Dragon fruit or pitaya is an exotic fruit which drawn attention due to its health beneficial claims and the vivid red-purple color of the red pitaya can be used as natural colorant with functional properties. Betacyanin in red pitaya is widely used in the food industry as an alternative to synthetic colorants such as Allure red (FD & C Red No. 40). In addition, betacyanin pigments are water soluble, which facilitates their incorporation into numerous aqueous food systems. Spray drying of fruit juice has been extensively used in food industry due to its simplicity, low production cost and easiness in scaling up. Spray-dried powders are generally shelf stable and low in moisture content.

This 12-month research is thus aimed to produce the red pitaya powder as natural functional colorant using spray drying technique followed by the comparison study of the spray-dried red pitaya powder with freeze-dried red pitaya powder in term of physicochemical (yield, color intensity, moisture content, water activity and particle size) and functional properties (betacyanin content and antioxidant activities). The stability of betacyanin and antioxidant activities of red pitaya powder in different food model systems (jelly, candy, milk and yogurt) will then be examined. Lastly, the sensory evaluation on the food products incorporated with red pitaya powder as natural functional colorant will be conducted. The expected outcome of this research is to increase the commercial value of red pitaya fruits by producing high stability red pitaya as natural functional colorant for food applications to replace synthetic colorant that associated with various negative health issues.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Chan Sook Wah (SBS-TU)
1. Dr Lim Pek Kui (TU)
2. Prof Dr Tan Chin Ping (UPM)
 
Isolation, identification and antioxidant activities of bound phenolic compounds in lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) mushroom
Project Description
Phenolic compounds present in both free and bound forms in plants. Free phenolic compounds are solvent extractable but bound phenolics that are covalently bound to the plant matrix generally require further processes in order to be released. As a result, the actual content of the phenolic compounds is usually underestimated due to the omission of the analysis of bound phenolics despite the scientific community recognized their significance in plants and foods. Hericium erinaceus, also known as lion’s mane mushroom (Chinese) or Yamabushitake (Japanese) is one of the mostly consumed edible mushrooms in Asia. Li et al. (2012) proposed that methanol extracts of H. erinaceus were rich in phenolic content and exhibited potent radical scavenging properties.

Hence, the objective of this 12-month research is to extract and identify the bound phenolic compounds of H. erinaceus mushroom. The phenolic compounds will be extracted as soluble free, esterified and insoluble bound forms that provide a complete account of the different types of phenolics exist in H. erinaceus mushroom. The results obtained will serve as information associated to the phenolic profile of H. erinaceus as functional food/ingredients.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Neo Yun Ping (SBS-TU)
1. Chew Lye Yee (TU)
2. Prof Dr Vikineswary Sabaratnam (UM)
 
An empirical study of mobile gaming in-app purchase intention among Malaysian youth: a mediator effect of addiction and moderators roles of gender and play intensity
Project Description
The internet and mobile technologies have penetrated all spheres of our daily activities and significantly changed people’s lives and behavior. This research proposes a new model that can be specifically applied to investigating the consumers’ intention to in-app purchase intention among Malaysian youth. Several factors are identified and used to examine the online gaming addiction and also indicate some critical factors to further understanding youth’s addictive behavior of social mobile gaming leading to in- app purchases. The critical determinates include self-control, flow, network externality, enjoyment, flexibility and addiction. Player’s in-app purchasing intention may be influenced by its own addictive behaviour. Hence, this study suggests that addiction should be considered as a mediator that may mediate the effect of others factors (e.g. enjoyment, flow experience, and network externality) towards in-app purchase. Gender may have impact on the relationship between self-control and in-app purchasing intention; while the effect of play intensity may also influence the relation between flexibility and player addiction towards mobile gaming.

The proposed model may help gaming or service providers design their games to satisfy players more effectively, and to provide clues to further understand youth’s addictive behavior and most importantly leading to higher likelihood of in-app purchase. The results of this study may have practical implication for online service or game providers in terms of marketing strategies and initiatives. This quantitative study adopts deduction approach, aiming to survey a number of 500 youth in Klang Valley, Malaysia. Data analysis is conducted by structural equation modeling (AMOS 21), and two-step analysis approach as suggested by Anderson and Gerbinn (1988). The significance level of indicators and path coefficient are assessed by using bootstrapping procedures and model comparison.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Nan Jiang (TBS-TU)
1. Muttaqin Mohd Adnan (TU)
2. Manmeet Kaur (TU)
 
Development of hydroxyapatite-forsterite nanocomposite with improved mechanical properties
Project Description
Hydroxyapatite (HA) bioceramic has attracted a great deal of attention in the past two decades due to its similarity in terms of chemical structure to that of hard tissues. However, a major drawback of HA is the low fracture toughness (below 1 MPam1/2) exhibited by the ceramic. Therefore, the need for improvement for the toughness HA is required which lead to various studies on finding new biomaterials well-matched with the natural bone from the mechanical properties perspective. Few of the materials which play crucial roles in human are magnesium and silicon element. To tackle the downside of hydroxyapatite, it is needed to add other ceramics with better mechanical properties. Forsterite (Mg2 SiO4) could be a material of interest because of the better mechanical properties and biocompatible and has recently been reported in the literature as a suitable biomaterial.

Thus, the ultimate goal of this 12-month research is to engineer a HA-forsterite nanocomposite body that is biocompatible yet exhibit enhanced mechanical characteristics without sacrificing the HA phase stability. Both the ceramics can be produced as nano powders using mechanical ball milling route and exhibited polycrystalline grain structure.The mixing of hydroxyapatite with forsterite composition range from 10wt% to 50wt% will be sintered at 1000°C, 1100°C, 1200°C and 1300°C with ramp rate of 10°C/minute and holding time of 2 hours.Microstructural evaluation (XRD, SEM) and other mechanical testings (vicker’s hardness, density, fracture toughness, Young’s modulus) will be carried out on the sintered, grinded and polished samples for data analysing purposes. Moreover, it is expected that addition of these ceramics with reduced grain size lower than 100 nm improves the mechanical properties of the nanocomposite, bioactivity and promote the stimulation for apatite formation which could be a suitable candidate for hard tissue engineering in load bearing applications.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Chin Kong Leong, Jeffrey (SOE-TU)
1. Yong Leng Chuan (TU)
2. Kelvin Chew Tai Jin (TU)
3. Sivakumar Sivanesan (TU)
4. Prof Ir Dr Ramesh Singh (UM)
 
Design and Development of a Novel Antiwindup PI Controller
Project Description
There were 0.3 billion industrial electric motors installed worldwide, with approximately 50% in China, United States and the European Union. In line with the rapid evolution in the control system and urbanisation, the figure will increase by 10% each year. This explains why electric motor constitutes 45% of the global electricity usage and increasing 10% every year. It should be noted that 90% of these motors are working in the speed control application, and results in the increasing demand for the energy-efficient motor control system.

In 2014, the leading power and automation technology group, ABB has even opened a next generation drive factory in Malaysia as a countermeasure for increasing demand in South Asia and Oceania industrial sectors. In addition, a motor will suffer from windup challenge whenever the current command exceeds the allowable current limit, which causes severe performance degradation and might even damage the motor. Knowing the need for energy-efficient motor control, windup and the complication in tuning of the parameters in the conventional proportional-integral controller, the idea of decoupling tuning gains and a control template were developed in previous work.

In the previous work, it was found that this control template can be used as a generalising equation in designing a controller. A Steady-state Integral Proportional-Integral Controller with decoupling effect was developed and was tested to be working for speed control under no load and loading condition. It is believed that by knowing the condition and designing the generic form of the equation, different design of controller can be developed from this template. The proposed project is a continuation of the previous work by investigating the effectiveness in designing more new antiwindup controllers with the control template.

This 12-month research project ultimately aims to develop another novel new antiwindup proportional-integral controller through a thorough study and analytical design work on the control template. Considering the template is new, there is more to explore from the template. This allows the finding of other new template(s) and the development of an improved controller from the associated template that could cater a vast windup concerned applications other than electric motor. The performance of the new controller will be evaluated through analytical, simulation using Scilab/Scicoslab 4.4.1 and experimental methods on a motor speed and position control applications. The stability of the control system will be studied using conventional analytical tools to ensure its reliability in the motor industrial application. It is expected that the control template will be a useful tool for a researcher in designing controller by manipulating its characterising terms that attribute to the dynamical performance of a control system. The control template will open another research path in the field of control and allow for more efficient motor control system design. This work will also address the “engineer the tools for scientific discovery” in the 14 grand challenges.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Hoo Choon Lih (SOE-TU)
1. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Edwin Chung Chin Yau (TU)
2. Tan Chin Luh (Trity Technologies Sdn. Bhd)
 
Factors influencing the adoption of mobile payment among retailers
Project Description
The study seeks to investigate retailers’ attitude towards mobile payment (m-payment). Mobile technology has changed our lifestyle remarkably. As the world’s technology trend changes, the business world follows suit by moving operations from traditional payment methods to ones which are more mobile-centric. Hence, there are many corporations that now offer mobile payment services and solutions for retailers to help them manage their transaction costs and speed up services. M-payment allows customers easier access to payment services at anywhere and anytime of the day. In Malaysia, the concept of m-payment was introduced in 2009. However, the adoption of m-payment is still at an infancy stage.

Therefore, this 12-month study seeks to investigate the retailers’ attitude towards the adoption of m-payment services through the application of institutional theory and a combination of Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and Diffusion of Innovation model(DOI) in terms of relative advantage, compatibility, trialbility, observability and perceived risk. The data will be collected through survey method and analyzed using Structural Equation Modelling. The result will help m-payment service providers to understand retailers’ attitude towards m-payment and the factors that affect the adoption of m-payment in Malaysia.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Ong Fong Yew (TBS-TU)
Manimekalai Jambulingam (TU)
 
Application of edible coating for shelf life extension and quality retention of re-packaged fresh-cut mixed fruits for ready-to-blend fruit smoothie
Project Description
Consumer demands for fruit smoothies have grown rapidly in recent years. This is mainly pushed by growing health consciousness among consumers, convenience, on-the-go consumption and perceived fresh like taste offered by smoothies. Value addition by processing fruits into a ready-to-blend product is an attractive alternative. However, fruit peeling and cutting increase metabolic activities such as respiration rate and delocalization of enzymes and substrates leading to quality deterioration such as browning, softening, off-flavor and microbial growth, resulting in a short shelf life. Edible coatings are thin layers of edible material (protein, polysaccharide and lipid) which form directly on the surface of fresh-cut fruit. Edible coatings have the potential to provide a selective barrier to moisture, carbon dioxide and oxygen; improve mechanical and textural properties; prevent flavor loss; and act as a carrier for different food additives. No published data have been reported on application of edible coating for shelf life extension and quality retention of pre-packaged fresh-cut mixed fruits for ready-to-blend fruit smoothie.

Therefore, the objectives of this 12-month research project are: (1) to determine the effects of the selected edible coating on the physico-chemical and microbiological properties of pre-packaged fresh-cut mixed fruits during low temperature storage (2) to evaluate the effects of coated fresh-cut mixed fruits after storage on physico-chemical, and sensory properties of blended smoothie. The expected outcomes for this project would be significantly increased in the shelf life (up to 10-14 days) and maintained the quality and nutritional value of pre-packaged fresh-cut mixed fruits during low temperature storage as compared to the control (uncoated sample).

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Nima Azarakhsh (TCHT –TU)
1. Dr Benjamin Wong Tziak Ze (TU)
2. Dr Chong Li Choo (TU)
3. Dr Chan Sook Wah (TU)
 
Re-imagining public spaces in KL, Malaysia
Project Description
Today people increasingly encounter unequal political, economic, symbolic and cultural geographies which make spatial encounters cities involve greater challenges for developing a sense of place and belonging. In the growing diverse nature of cities there is a need for a renewed understanding of place engagement, sense of belonging and identity from a socio-spatial perspective. In this context, this 12-month research project has been developed as a part of an international collaborative project "MaPS. Mastering Public Space" a new, three-year term, international research project intended to investigate relevant cities and geographical contexts, all around the world.

This project is developed by City Space Architecture is a nonprofit organization, born in Bologna (Italy). In this research selected contemporary urban spaces in Kuala Lumpur will be investigated to understand the changing spatial practices in cities today and how it influences, defines and impacts the notion of place engagement in cities. The research will adopt a qualitative approach to study people’s place experiences in the selected case studies and will be investigated through an interdisciplinary lens to understand the emerging patterns of spatial behaviour. Data will be collected through interviews, observations and visual ethnography methods. The inferences form the research will be synthesised to develop design guidelines for urban design of public spaces in KL city. The research will also provide valuable insights towards understanding the emerging contemporary spatialities in Asian cities which will further open more trajectories for research on Asian Urbanism.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Lakshmi Priya Rajendran (SABD-TU)
Ms Norhayati Hussain (Mahsa University)
 
Quality of life of women diagnosed with breast cancer
Project Description
Breast cancer is the first most prevalent cancer among Malaysian women (Ministry of Health Malaysia, 2013) and this disease is a leading cause of women’s death (National Cancer Control Institute, 2011). Women diagnosed with breast cancer present an uncertainty which negatively influences their quality of life. The mechanism behind this influence is hardly known. This 12-month study aims to explain the mechanism of how uncertainty to illness leads to the quality of life of Malay women diagnosed with breast cancer congitively and psychologically. Accumulated evidence demonstrates uncertainty explained a noteworthy proportion of the variance in anxiety which in turn can threaten the quality of life. Therefore, anxiety can be an affective state that may potentially serve as such a mechanism.

This study suggests a view that the pathway via which uncertainty affects quality of life is through their connection with anxiety. Additionally, research results indicated that uncertainty variably have predicted the level of anxiety. God locus of health control belief can determine psychological factors especially anxiety. Although there is considerable evidence for a relationship between God locus of health control belief and anxiety, there is a paucity of research on the moderating role of God locus of control in the influence of uncertainty on anxiety. When anxiety is embedded in the mediation model, a moderated mediation model appears which needs to be investigated. This research proposes that the quality of life of Malay women diagnosed with breast cancer is influenced by uncertainty in illness and accelerated by anxiety and conditioned by women’s God locus of health control level. For this cross-sectional study, purposive sample of Malay women in the first months after diagnosis are recruited from the different hospitals and cancer support groups in Malaysia. The data are collected through questionnaire and the hypotheses are tested using structural equation modeling method.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Saeed Pahlevan Sharif (TBS-TU)
1. Dr Paola Mura (TU)
2. Dr Ken Yeoh Ken Kyid (TU)
3. Dr Ashrafsadat Ahadzadeh (UCSI)
4. Dr Alireza Mirzasadeghi (TU)
 
Factors affecting learners’ acceptance and use of massive open courses (MOOCs): Validating the extended unified theory of acceptance and use
Project Description
Although Malaysia is the first country in the world to implement the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) initiative for public universities (Bernama, 2014), there has been no comprehensive research studying the crucial factors affecting tertiary learners’ adoption of MOOCs. In Taylor’s University’s context, MOOC also has been identified as one of the Taylor’s University’s VC’s priorities in 2015. Hence, it gives relevance to the present study, which is to investigate crucial factors affecting learners’ adoption of MOOCs as learning and teaching method in institutions of higher learning. This 12-month study is a pioneer research that measures an individual’s extent of adoption to engage in MOOCs. The study is designed using causal research design in order to examine the cause-effect relationship between the study variables. Data is collected using a 5 points Likert scale covering UTAUT2’s factors (Venkatesh, Thong & Xu, 2012) and variables featuring MOOC’s acceptance and usage. UTAUT2 model reflects that an individual’s intention to use a technology is determined by seven factors, (i) performance expectancy; (ii) effort expectancy; (iii) facilitating conditions; (iv) social influence; (v) hedonic motivation; (vi) price value; and (vii) habit. Partial least squares based structural equation modeling will be used to analyse the data.

Online survey questionnaires will be developed based on the theoretical framework. Practically, the findings will help Taylor’s University to discover new understanding of learners’ extent of MOOC adoption. It also provides recommendation to policy makers to address learners’ specific needs when developing successful initiatives and reforms related to MOOCs. Also, this research sought to obtain empirical evidence of a validated model to measure the adoption of MOOCs, which may lead to the enhanced theoretical foundation of UTAUT model. The results provide a useful framework to the universities for the successful implementation of MOOCs to enhance learners’ learning experience.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Lim Chee Leong (ELA-TU)
Assoc Prof Dr Tang Siew Fun (TU)
 
Computer aided drug design, synthesis and in-vitro pharmacological evaluation of novel small molecule pyridine/ piperidine analogues as reversible acetylcholinesterase (AChE) enzyme inhibitors
Project Description
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the fourth leading cause of death in people over 65 years old in western industrialized countries1. In spite of the multifactorial nature of AD, most treatment strategies have been directed to two main targets: i) the β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide and ii) the cholinergic transmission. The predominantly used strategy in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients is aimed at the potentiation of acetylcholine in the brain by lowering its degradation rate.

This is achieved by administering potent inhibitors of AChE, such as tacrine, donezepil, galantamine, and rivastigmine. The most significant therapeutic effect is the stabilization or even improvement of the cognitive functions of the patient for at least one year. Since the use of AChE inhibitors is up to now the most effective therapeutic approach in Alzheimer’s disease treatment, the demand for novel acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors is high. Some literature have reported that pyridine/ piperidine analogues showed effective treatment on Alzheimer’s disease.

In this context, this 12-month project involves the design, synthesis and characterization of novel amide molecules containing pyridine/piperidine nucleus with good acetylcholinesterase enzyme inhibitory activity and good oral bioavailability. The active molecules after in-vivo studies could become lead molecules for the further development of acetylcholinesterase enzyme inhibitors for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Narenda Babu Shivanagere Nagojappa (SOP-TU)
 
Optimization of fan configuration by Box-Behnken method for maximum energy efficiency
Project Description
Fans produce air flow in ducts for ventilation and air conditioning applications. They are a source of high energy consumption in the HVAC systems and it is crucial to bring their energy efficiency within an optimum range. Researchers are implementing experimental, numerical and analytical approaches to understand how the fan, ducts and fittings configurations affect its power consumption and efficiency. The current 12-month study is aiming at maximizing energy efficiency through optimizing the fan configuration. System resistance coefficient for different operating conditions is generated and the fan efficiency curve is derived as a function of normalized system resistant coefficient. This coefficient is governed by two parameters; friction pressure losses and local pressure drops due to the available fittings in the ducts.

On the other hand the power consumption and energy saving of the fan is studied through experimental and analytical approaches. The Design of Experiment (DoE) software is linking the two tactics and an analytical model is established by using the Box-Behnken method. This will lead to forming models for fan power and efficiency based on the system parameters. Optimization will be run in the next stage by using these models to demonstrate the best arrangement of parameters that provide maximum energy efficiency. Such an arrangement will promote the minimum pressure loss in the ducts and offers a better energy saving. Outcomes will be communicated to the industrial collaborator of the project Pureaire Sdn. Bhd. to help them optimizing the fan efficiency for any Variable Air Volume (VAV) air conditioning system and improve the arrangement of fan systems in future applications.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Azadeh Ghadimi (SOE-TU)
1. Assoc Prof Ir Satesh (TU)
2. Assoc Prof Dr Mohammad Hosseini Fouladi (TU)
3. Ir TI Chen (Primetech Eng)
4. Ir Soong Peng Soon (Primetech Eng)
 
Synthesis of biopolymer-based packaging by cross-linking irradiated sodium alginate and fucoidan from Malaysian brown seaweeds
Project Description
Food preservation is a method that improves food safety and shelf-life of food by retardation of microorganism growth and prevention of oxidation of lipids. Additionally, food safety issue is becoming an important public health burden and food agencies are spending millions of dollar to deter cases of food-borne diseases. Over the years, there are growing interest on polysacccharides extracted from brown seaweeds such as sodium alginates and fucoidans. There are promising amount of publication on the potential of sodium alginates as thickening, gelling and stabilizing agents. Radiated polysaccharides have shown to improve their antioxidant activity by altering their chemical structure. Fucoidan has also been reported with potential antibacterial activity against food-borne pathogens. Hence, the potential of developing a biopolymer-based packaging with natural preservative properties lies in the abundant yet promising polysaccharides from brown seaweed.

This 12-month study aims to incorporate both the radiated polysaccharide sodium alginate and fucoidan seaweeds in the production of biopolymer-based packaging with preservative properties. To summarize the methodology, sodium alginate will be used as the gelling agent in production of biopolymer throughout this study. The polysaccharides will be exposed to UV-irradiation and subjected to antioxidant assays to access their electron sccavenging ability. The polysaccharides were also be tested against food-borne pathogens; Escherichia coli, Bacilus subtilis, and Staphylococcus epidermidis. The radiated polysaccharides will then be cross-linked to fucoidan through the use of citric acid as linkers. Thus, this project enables the search of a potential biopolymer that could exhibits natural preserative properties; both antioxidant and antibacterial to improve food quality, safety and shelf life.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Kok Mei Lin, Jamie (SBS-TU)
Wong Ching Lee (TU)
 

Major Funding Scheme (MFS)
Stability of Piper betel leave extract as natural sources of antioxidant and antimicrobial agents in healthcare products
Project Description
A tropical grown plant in Malaysia, Piper betel has been reported to possess high antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. The enriched phytochemicals in betel leaves, mainly hydroxychavicol (HC) and eugenol (EU) are the two key components that are believed to contribute to the bioactivities mentioned above. Recently, phytochemicals are commonly used in healthcare industries as raw ingredients into formation of functional products. However, phytochemicals concentration level can be easily degraded due to the temperature, pH, light effect during the storage period as well as the processing techniques applied in the production line. Therefore, it is important to establish an optimum storage condition for betel leave extract to maintain its high biological activities before subjected to the subsequent processing procedures. To the best of our knowledge, there is no stability study, antimicrobial and antioxidant capacity at various storage conditions available pertaining to crude extract of betel leave. Besides HC and EU, other phytochemicals that contribute to the antioxidant and antimicrobial capacity of the betel leave extract is yet to be discovered.

The objectives of this 18-month research are to determine the optimum storage condition of the crude betel leave extract for highest antimicrobial and antioxidant bioactivities; and to identify the phytochemicals in betel leave extract that shows high antioxidant and antimicrobial activity level. The research will be conducted in three main phases: extraction of betel leave will be conducted in the first phase; second phase consists of the 10 months storage period which the phytochemicals concentration, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities will be analysed; the last phase will be the elucidation of the phytochemicals structure from betel leave extract. This research will be providing new knowledge on the optimum storage condition for crude betel leave extract which leads to its highest antioxidant and antimicrobial capacity. In addition, minor phytochemicals in the betel leave extract that possess antioxidant and antimicrobial activities is anticipated to be yield from this research.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Lim Xiao Yien, Rebecca (SOE-TU)
1. Mah Siau Hui (TU)
2. Chong Chien Hwa (TU)
 
Empirical investigation of relationships between environment, adaptive strategies and market performance of Malaysian companies
Project Description
This 18-month study focuses on the response of firms following environmental conditions that were complex and discontinuous. The shifts in industry competition, deregulations, oil crisis, international competitions and labor crises varied across various key industries and this will offer the opportunity to study how organization respond strategically and their outcomes. Thus, this study is to test a theory-based model predicting the relationships between the environment, adaptive strategies and market performance of Malaysian Companies. The range of organizational response to the changing environment is explained by two perspectives i.e., natural selection and strategic choice. This combined approach is taken because the natural selection and strategic choice each focuses on an opposite end of a single, choice-determinism continuum representing the range of organizational adaptation (Hrebiniak and Joyce, 1985). Research works by Bourgeois (1984), Hrebiniak and Joyce (1985), Hrebiniak, Joyce and Snow (1988), Judge and Zeithaml (1992) and Oliver (1991) point to the complementarity of more than one theory in providing explanation of responses to environmental pressure. As explained by the broader open system perspective, the nature of a firm is determined by the type of environment to which the organization must relate to and since it is quite possible that organizations perceive their environment differently from each other, different organizational forms exist within the same objective environment.

Thus, although macro-organizational conditions may affect an industry as a whole, individual firm may take completely different approaches in selecting and/or making changes to their strategy. Since the objective is also to study the differences in performance within certain population of organizations, the abstraction of both the general “macro” environment and the more specific “task” environment will be necessary. Three analytical dimensions i.e., munificence, complexity and dynamism proposed by Dess and Beard (1984) are used in the study. Constituents of macro and task environment are incorporated in the conceptualization of the environment. Emery and Trist’s (1965) conception of turbulence is added into this analytical dimension as it has been frequently used in the study of environmental impact on organizations, to represent an environment that is simultaneously complex and dynamic (Ansoff and McDonnell, 1990; Hart and Banbury, 1994). A number of both conceptual and empirical research studies have advanced the concept of strategy types at the business level. Such types are often referred to as generic strategies, gestalts or strategic archetypes (Fahey and Christensen, 1986). The more common and often replicated one includes typologies advanced by Miles and Snow (1978), Porter (1980) and Venkatraman (1989). In keeping with the research objective to uncover the differences in the content of strategies being implemented by organizations, the adaptive strategies are included to represent organizational actions.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Lee Kim Lian (TBS-TU)
1. Ir Dr Low Guan Tui (Vesseltech Engineering)
2. Dr Sathyaprakash Balaji Makam (TU)
3. Prof Dr Murali (TU)
 
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of chemical constituents of Sida rhombifolia
Project Description
Plants serve as important sources of medicine for thousands of years. They are mainly used as popular folk medicines in traditional remedies. Most of these natural resources contain secondary metabolites, which possess biologically active properties. The interest in the development of natural products as alternative drugs is attributed to their reduced side effects if compared to synthetic drugs. Our previous study has revealed Sida rhombifolia as a potential medicinal plant to be studied. It is widely used as traditional herbs for the treatment of fever, diuretic, hypertension, diabetes and gout.

Up to date, there are limited studies available on the bioactive metabolites present in S. rhombifolia. Thus, this 18-month study is aimed to isolate and structural elucidate the bioactive phytochemicals from S. rhombifolia which are highly potential to be used as lead compounds of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Plant samples will be collected and extracted using soxhlet apparatus to obtain the maximum amount of bioactive extracts, as confirmed in our previous study. Extensive chromatographic techniques, such as TLC, column chromatography, preparative chromatography, centrifugal chromatography and HPLC will be employed to these extracts to obtain the pure bioactive constituents. Besides, recrystallization will be used as an alternative purification method. The structures of the pure compounds will be elucidated by various spectroscopic methods such as 1D and 2D NMR, GCMS, IR, UV and X-ray crystallography. The pure compounds isolated will be evaluated for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. The chemical mediators of inflammation which are responded to the pure compounds will be identified. Further structure modification and molecular work on these compounds will be carried out in due course. The results from this work will promote collaboration with the drug discovery group and lead to development of new antioxidant and anti-inflammatory drugs in the pharmaceutical industry.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Mah Siau Hui (SBS-TU)
1. Prof. Dr. Gwendoline Ee Cheng Lian (UPM)
2. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zuraini Ahmad (UPM)
 
In-vitro anti-metabolic syndrome properties of fucoxanthin-rich extract from Malaysian brown seaweed
Project Description
Seaweeds are macroalgae growing in coastal area or shallow water at the edge of the ocean. Seaweeds have been utilised not only as food source, but also for medicinal and fertilizing purposes. Various types of carotenoids were identified in different seaweed species such as fucoxanthin, zeaxanthin, β-carotene and lutein. Studies have shown that brown seaweeds have higher carotenoid and fucoxanthin content and antioxidant capacities compared to red and green seaweeds. Most of the local seaweed species are underutilised due to the lack of information on their functional properties and health benefits. There is also limited information on the carotenoid content, particularly fucoxanthin of local seaweed species.

This 18-month study embarks on the following objectives: 1) to separate and identify fucoxanthin from brown seaweed using solvent-partitioning tecnhiques; 2) to determine the effect of fucoxanthin on LDL oxidation, α-amylase inhibition, α-glucosidase and angiotensin converting enzyme inhibition assays. In order to achieve the objectives, the following methodology will be used: 1) solvent-partitioning technique to separate and isolate fucoxanthin; 2) LDL oxidation, α-amylase inhibition, α-glucosidase inhibition and angiotensin converting enzyme inhibition assays to determine anti-atherosclerotic, anti-diabetic and anti-hypertensive potential of fucoxanthin-rich extract. Fractionation of fucoxanthin is useful for isolation of fucoxanthin compound from brown seaweed. The isolated fucoxanthin is expected to be a potential natural anti-atherosclerotic and anti-cancer compound useful for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries. Apart from that, fucoxanthin could be utilised in the food industries as a natural colourant with antioxidant properties.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Yan See Wan (SBS-TU)
1. Chew Lye Yee (TU)
2. Kong Kin Weng (TU)
 
A novel solution of arthritis – full biopolymer based bio-inspired tissue engineering cartilage
Project Description
The treatment of cartilage injuries remains one of the most difficult challenges in medicine. Even though cartilage cells can be cloned and reproduced in the lab, the main challenge is to place those cells in a particular location, and gets them to function effectively in that area. Currently, there are possible solutions for patients with limited area of cartilage damage, especially those caused by sports or traumatic injuries. Nevertheless, cartilage replacement for arthritis patients which possess widespread damage at the joint area due to loss of cartilage remains a challenge. This research aims to design and develop a biomimicry tissue engineeried cartilage for cartilage replacement, printed by modified-desktop based 3D printer. This technique involves customize shaping of cartilage for different patient femur, which consists of various combined ratios of PLLA (poly-l-lactide acid) and PCL (polycaprolactone).

In this 18-month research, three methodologies will be used. First is to synthesize PLLA/PCL with various combination ratios to optimize the biocompatibility and mechanical strength of these materials. Secondly, we will determine the fabrication parameters of the tissue engineering cartilage with modified-desktop based 3D printer. Finally, mechanical characterization and cell culture studies will be performed to characterize the potential of the fabricated tissue engineering cartilage in vitro in order to assess their biocompatibility towards osteoprogenitor. This research will extend the potential of creating patient-customized biopolymer based Tissue-engineered cartilage which is able to support the weight of the body and adhere to the surface of the joint, hence providing a solution to the cartilage replacement therapy in arthritic patients. The combination of PLLA and PCL is a type ofnew biomaterial for cartilage replacement. With an average life expectancy of 81 years by 2050 in Malaysia, bioactive materials are increasingly relevant to enhance the quality of life for arthritic patients. This combination is novel, they allow robust design of mechanical properties and biocompatibility.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Yong Leng Chuan (SOE-TU)
1. Yap Wei Hsum (TU)
2. Angela Ng (UKM)
3. Nobuyuki Mase (Shizuoka Uni)
 
Development and characterization of human fibroblast-derived matrices-based human skin equivalent as a novel in-vitro psoriatic model for drug testing
Project Description
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease characterized by thickening and disorganization of the skin’s protective barrier. There is still no curative treatment for psoriasis. Although some in vitro and in vivo models of psoriasis have been reported to replicate some aspects of the disease, research into psoriasis and the subsequent development of therapeutic strategies have been hindered by the absence of more relevant models. Hence, the development of relevant, high-content in vitro models would greatly enhance the evaluation of novel therapeutic agents.

This 18-month study aims to develop and characterize a novel in vitro psoriasis human skin model for drug testing. The project will first focus on the construction of a fully developed human skin equilvalent (HSE). The human skin model will be generated on a primary human fibroblast-derived dermal matrix (FDM). The primary human FDM is based on the capacity of fibroblasts to create their own extracellular matrix after which keratinocytes will be seeded. Following this, the HSE will be cultured at the air-liquid interface to develop fully stratified epidermis. The constructed HSE will then be treated with a mixture of cytokines to allow controlled induction of psoriasis-associated features.

The characterization of the psoriasis substitutes will be performed by macroscopic, histological and immunohistochemical analyses and compared with to those constructed from healthy cells. Validation of the psoriasis skin equivalent model will be performed by testing the effect of all trans retinoic acid on the cytokine-induced psoriasis histological and immunohistochemical features. The findings of this research would contribute to the development of a novel psoriasis skin model to study the molecular pathology and pharmacological intervention in vitro.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Yap Wei Shum (SBS-TU)
1. Dr. Yong Leng Chuan (TU)
2. Prof Ruszymah Hj Idrus (UKM)
3. Angela Ng Min Hwei (UKM)
4. Shiplu Roy Chowdhury (UKM)
 
Association and gene-environment interaction effect of angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AGRT1) and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR-2) gene polymorphisms on metabolic risk factors of cardiovascular disease in Chinese Malaysian adults
Project Description
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains as the top chronic non-communicable disease in Malaysia contributing to high morbidity and mortality incidences. The common metabolic risk factors of CVD are overweight/obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hyperlipidemia/hypercholesterolemia. CVD is a polygenic disease attributed by several environmental factors including stress at workplace. However, the investigation of gene-environment interaction effects involving candidate genes related to cardiovascular system and work stress are minimally explored. Previously, our findings have identified two receptor gene polymorphisms: 1) angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AGTR1); and 2) vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR-2) with significant associations on blood lipids in Chinese Malaysian adults. The major role of both AGTR1 and VEGFR-2 in the cardiovascular system via blood pressure regulation has been well-established but significant associations were also obtained in both gene polymorphisms with depression, a mental disorder related to stress.

Hence, this 18-month study aims to determine the associations and gene-environment interaction effects between AGTR1 and VEGFR2 gene polymorphisms and work stress on metabolic risk factors of CVD in Chinese adults. A total of 200 subjects with met exclusion and inclusion criteria will be recruited. Metabolic parameters of CVD using anthropometric measurements and biomarkers together with DNA samples from buccal cells swabs will be collected. Information on work stress and mental health will be collected using validated questionnaires. Real-time PCR system will be applied for genotyping analyses involving AGTR1 and VEGFR-2 gene polymorphisms. Statistical analyses will be used to determine the individual associations and gene-environment interaction effects. This study will be able to confirm our previous findings on the genetic associations with extended sample size and provide additional literatures on the relationship between work stress and metabolic risk factors of CVD. Investigation on the gene environment interaction effects will identify the potential risks of CVD with the combined genotype and level of stress.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Yap Wai Kuan, Roseline (SBS-TU)
1. Yoshihiro Shidoji (Uni of Nagasaki, Japan)
2. Lin Mei Hua (Sunway Uni)
3. Yap Wai Sum (UCSI)
 


Ongoing Grant Projects 2016

2016 Internal Grants
Application of chia seed (Salvia hispanica) as fat replacer and source of soluble fiber in structured meat products
Project Description
In Malaysia, structured meat products (SMP) like burgers and hot dogs are highly consumed due to its convenience. However, due to its fat content and higher demand from consumers for healthier fast food, low fat version of SMP is much desired. Chia seed, which became popular recently due to its functional properties, is able to produce gel which might be used as fat replacer and source of fiber in SMP, and studies are required to develop the formulation. Chia constitutes a potential alternative raw material and ingredient in food industry applications due to its dietary fiber content. It contains gel which can be extracted from its dietary fiber fractions to be used as additive to control viscosity, stability, texture, and consistency in food systems. It was also shown to have good water absorption and water holding capacity which may retain the juiciness of the meat.

This 12-month study embarks on the following objectives: 1) to study the potential of chia seed gel as fat replacer and source of fiber in SMP; 2) to evaluate the textural, sensory, cooking, and chemical properties, as well as consumer acceptability of SMP manufactured with chia seed gel as fat replacer and source of fiber. In order to achieve the objectives, the following methodology will be used: 1) total dietary fiber assay to determine the total dietary fiber content; 2) proximate analyses of moisture, protein and fat content; 3) texture analysis to compare the texture of chia seed gel enriched SMP with the non-enriched one; 4) sensory evaluation to determine the consumer acceptability of chia seed gel enriched SMP; 5) cooking tests; 6) volatile/aroma compound profiling by SPME-GC-MS and E-Nose. It is expected to obtain the formulation and potential usage of chia seed gel as fat replacer and source of fiber in SMP. From this study, formulations for applications of chia seed gel as fat replacer and source of fiber, as well as egg replacer in various food products besides SMP are also envisaged in the future.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Adyati Putriekasari Handayani (SBS-TU)
Dr Sharifah Kharidah Syed Muhammad (UPM)
 
Properties of tax disclosure: An in-depth study of tax reconciliation
Project Description
This 12-month research aims to examine behaviour and dynamics of Malaysian firms’ tax reconciliation disclosure over time whilst considering firm- and industry-specific as its source. Analysing the properties of tax reconciliation disclosure over time provides input to a construction of a tax disclosure measurement. Firms are not only questioned on the amount of their tax contributions but also the reliability of their tax reporting to provide clear explanations of tax information to investors and shareholders (MASB, 2014). Previous studies on tax planning provide evidence of the individual components of differences between accounting and tax income using tax reconciliation disclosure (for example, Abdul Wahab & Holland, 2012; Graham, Raedy & Shackelford, 2012). Limited attention, however, has been given to analysing the behaviour and properties of tax reconciliation disclosure. An understanding of the properties of aggregated differences between book and tax income and then their individual reconciliation components will allow an assessment of the validity of the disclosure using single year estimate of differences to draw inferences about a firm’s tax position.

This research will use hand-collected tax reconciliation data drawn from a panel of Malaysian quoted firms from 2008 – 2014, i.e. 5,740 observations of 820 listed firms from Bursa Malaysia’s main board. Tax reconciliation disclosure will be collected from footnotes of financial statements of each firm. This hand-data collection process is necessary as the data is not in machine readable format. Firm attributes data will be collected from Thompson Financial Datastream. The data will be further analysed using dynamic panel-data estimation to examine the dynamics of the disclosure variation. By achieving the research objectives, this research project is expected to contribute to the literature and practice in the following ways. First, this research identifies the stability of tax disclosure based on tax reconciliation of Malaysian firms and provides insights into corporate tax planning behaviour to the authorities. Secondly, this research provides the first detailed descriptions of the tax reconciliation component disclosure. Thirdly, as the analysis covers seven years of firm-year data, this paper reflects the status of reconciliation components’ stability across years and this introduces trend analysis of reconciliation components as an approach to evaluate corporate tax planning activities and to develop tax reconciliation disclosure measurement for Malaysian listed firms.

The follow-up of this research is in terms of comparative studies of a cross-disciplinary research involving more specifically accounting and law and in particular relating to legal aspect of tax planning and corporate governance. This research proposal, therefore, is a feeder to a future larger scale of external grant application to investigating tax disclosure and corporate governance influences on after-tax return effect and valuation of tax planning across economic characteristics (for example, developed and developing countries) and across accounting models (for example, Anglo-American and Asian frameworks).

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Nor Shaipah binti Abdul Wahab (TBS-TU)
 
The factors that impact the diffusion of social media commerce among women entrepreneurs
Project Description
Despite of wide spread social media business purposes, women entrepreneurs are still skeptical about it. As the world changes, the business world is also changing their operations from traditional method of business into online business. Recent years, social media gained eminence in the business world. Women are uses traditionally in charge of social relationships in off- line and now they use social media such as Facebook, Twitter more than men. Women have to juggle challenging responsibility of caring for their children and family. Because of this, most women downplay their potential and they can’t reach out to achieve their dreams. Social media commerce business offers flexibility and it enables the women to have a balance of work life. Women have responsibility of taking care of families and common belief that women are home makers than office. Social media offers a strategic platform to women to conduct their business and they can also take care of their family. However, social media commerce among women entrepreneurs are still infant stage.

Previous studies were focused on traditional business and not focused on social media commerce among women entrepreneurs. This 12-month study investigates the relationship between organizational factors such as manpower, start of cost, trust and personal traits such as self-efficacy, passion, and knowledge to venture into social media commerce among women entrepreneurs. The study intends to use mixed method both qualitative and quantitative method to collect the data from the women entrepreneurs in Malaysia. The aim of the study is to fill up the gap by exploring impacting factors of social commerce, those women entrepreneurs in entering on social media commerce . The study examines application of discovery theory phenomenon in venturing into social media commerce and it contributes to information for new polices and strategies to deepen the mainstreaming of women in development.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Manimekalai Jambulingam (TBS-TU)
Caroline Sumathi Selvarajah (TU)
 
Effectiveness of peer mentorship program in private universities in Malaysia
Project Description
Entering to the new environment may cause students to be overwhelmed with various exposure to new changes for example the higher usage of social networks, expectation for academic achievement and responsible in managing their personal finance, all which will increase the anxiety level of the students which will result a pathway to depression. As result peer mentoring programs were introduced in many private and public universities two decades ago to their first year students to get familiarize with the universities procedures and enhance their performance. Literature reviews confirmed that peer mentorship at the universities and is nearly as old as higher education. Though, educational institutions were implemented formal peer mentorship programs, the effectiveness and evolutions of such programs were very limited especially in this region. Previous literature review confirmed that success of mentorship program largely assumed rather than established and no convincing evidence to advocate that mentorship programs add values to first year students. Moreover, the present generation’s perceptions on peer mentorship programs are yet to be investigated.

This 12-month study uses modified Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) of human behaviour to investigate on the attitudinal and behaviour effects of a formal peer mentorship programs in private universities. This study also explores the academic success of mentorship program in private universities of higher education in Malaysia. The findings may provide benefits, issues of mentorship program and perception of present mobile generation of the higher educational institutions on the decision of implementing peer mentor program effectively. The result of this study provides information to the universities that may positively impact several important outcomes to both students and universities.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Jayasutha Matiah (TBS-TU)
1) Gobindran Raj Rajagopal (TU)
2) Dr. Manimekalai Jambulingam (TU)
3) Malarvilly Ramayah (TU)
 
Development of torsional thrust stand using electrostatic calibration technique
Project Description
The quote of ‘the next big thing is small’ is not only applicable to electronic consumer products but also to space technology in which the new motto of ‘smaller, faster, cheaper and better’ is practicing. Miniaturized satellites, mostly nanosatellites (<10kg), carry no propulsion system due to its inherently smaller size and volume. Thus, research and development of micropropulsion system is currently a fertile research area. Forces produced by the micropropulsion systems are typically in the order of micronewton (µN). Existing thrust stands can only measure forces over 3 orders of magnitude from a few µN to 100s of µN, limited by the capacility of calibrator.

This 18-month project aims to develop a torsional thrust stand that is able to cover a measuring range up to 4 orders of magnitude, i.e. µN to mN. The project starts with the conceive, design and fabrication of the thrust stand. In the second phase, the improved electrostatic calibration technique based on commerical heat sinks will be implemented. This is followed by the elimination of external vibration in order to improve the resolution of the thrust stand to 1µN level. The project will end with characterization of the thrust stand to demonstrate its capability and performance in term of resolution, error budget and zero drift. Upon completion of the project, a torsional thrust stand that is able to measure forces produced by almost all micropropulsion systems will be developed. It will serve as an important diagnostic tool for the development of various micropropulsion systems in the future. It also has the potential to be used in measuring tiny forces produced by other actuator systems which cannot be measured accurately till now.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Cheah Kean How (SOE-TU)
1)Assoc Prof Dr Chin Jit Kai (Nottingham Univ)
2) Tengku Farah Wahida Ku Chik (Malaysia Space Agency)
 
Effects of microwave sintering on the properties of manganese oxide-doped Y-TZP ceramics
Project Description
Despite possessing key attributes of a biomaterial such as good mechanical properties, wear resistance, inertness and biocompatibility, the ageing or low temperature degradation (LTD) behaviour of yttria-stabilized tetragonal zirconia polycrystals (Y-TZP) ceramic remains a major obstacle to the application of Y-TZP ceramic for biomedical applications. Premature failures of zirconia femoral head component in hip prostheses had warranted an international recall of several batches of the biomedical implants and left a questionable future of zirconia as a biomaterial. The application of manganese oxide (MnO2) as sintering aid for Y-TZP ceramics was found to result in good densification and superior ageing resistance compared to undoped Y-TZP when sintered via conventional pressureless sintering. However, the relatively long soak time during the conventional sintering leads to significant grain growth and coarsening of grains that lowers the mechanical properties of the sintered ceramic. Mircowave sintering is an alternative sintering method that leads to volumetric heating and allows for full densification to be achieve in shorter durations and possibly at lower temperatures compared to conventional sintering.

The 18-month present research aims to investigate the effects of microwave sintering on the properties of MnO2-doped Y-TZP ceramics by via different thermal profiles and dopant contents. Sintered samples will be characterized for their mechanical properties, phase content and LTD resistance. Results of the research contribute to knowledge by elucidating the role of MnO2 as a sintering aid for microwave sintering of Y-TZP ceramics. The outcome of the research could pave way for the development of Y-TZP ceramic with enhanced mechanical properties and ageing resistance as biomedical implant material. The microwave sintering process reduces the product cycle time for manufacturing zirconia ceramic implants. These outcomes of the research potentially contribute to two entry point projects underscored by the healthcare National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) - EPP 8: Create Next Generation of Core SUD (Single-Use Devices) Products and EPP 9: Build Hub for High-Value Medical Device Contract Manufacturing.

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Kelvin Chew Wai Jin (SOE-TU)
1) Prof Dr Ramesh Singh Kuldip Singh (UM)
2) Jeffrey Chin Kong Leong (TU)
 
Submersion of a tube-shaped ultrafiltration unit coupled with a mesh ball in a cellulose hydrolysis reactor for simultaneous glucose removal and enzyme recovery
Project Description
Project Description The technology of producing fuel ethanol from cellulose-based biomass has been attracting an increasing interest in research and devolopment as it is a potential alternative to fossil fuel. Agricultural and forestry residues are a rich source of cellulose such as palm empty fruit bunches, rice/wheat straw, which undergo pretreatment, hydrolysis, fermentation and purification to get converted to fuel ethanol. However the practical realisation of this technology is challenged mainly in the one critical step which is enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose due to some limiting factors, i.e. high enzyme cost, product inhibtion and lack of an ideal reactor to handle hydrolysis reaction.

Studies has shown that batch reactors are unsuitable for conducting enzymatic hydrolysis due to its disadvantage of accumulating glucose inside the reactor causing product inhibtion on the enzymes, retardation the reaction and significant reduction in the reaction rate at all substrate level. The new strategy of simultaneously removing product and retaining enzymes inside by integrating the hydrolysis reactor with a membrane filtration unit is a new approach to improve the effectiveness of the hydrolysis process in term of product inhibition reduction, enzyme recovery under different configurations of the membrane reactor to be tested. However, the operational limitations such as cellulose concentration of lower than 10%, membrane fouling and low output glucose concentration are the disadvantages of the membrane reactor.

In this 18-month research, a significant modification on the current membrane reactor focuses on two changes, the first is a mesh ball to contain cellulose in suspension of the reaction media and second is a submerged membrane filtration device placed inside the reactor to remove glucose and recover enzymes. With the new configuration of the membrane reactor, this research is aimed at determination of enzyme retention capacity and glucose permeability of the membrane reactor, investigating the effect of fouling at high cellulose concentrations, and optimisation of the hydrolysis in this membrane reactor. The method of doing this reseach is to conduct the enzymatic hydrolysis at varying enzyme to substrate ratio, cellulose concentration, and flow rates of product removal with product analysis by Dinitrosalicylic (DNS) and High Perforance Liquid Chromatograph (HPLC) analsis. It is expected that the new configuration of the membrane reactor is more advantageous than the conventional batch reactor with better performance in term of higher conversion of cellulose, glucose output concentration and handling at high cellucose concentration (10% and higher).

Principal Investigator & Co-researcher(s):
Rajesh Rajasekaran (SOE-TU)
1)Dr Chong Chien Hwa (TU)
2) Prof Dr Duduku Krishnaiah (UMS)