Woman Scientist Does Country Proud

PHILADELPHIA: A Klang-born biotechnologist has made the country proud by being nominated as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in biotech.

Dr Mahaletchumy Arujanan (pic), 46, joins the likes of famous people including Bill and Melinda Gates, as well as actor Michael J. Fox, mentioned in a special report published by renowned scientific magazine Scientific American.

The list was launched at the Bio International Convention here. Fox is cited for his vast contribution for research on Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Mahaletchumy is part of the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (Biotech Corp) entourage to the convention.
“It is indeed rewarding to know that your efforts and contribution are appreciated and recognised globally,’’ said Dr Mahaletchumy who was born and raised in Kg Jawa, Klang.

Dr Mahaletchumy, the Malaysian Biotech­nology Information Centre (Mabic) executive director, said the turning point in her career came from a bad time in her life when her then employer told her to quit in 2002.

“I had worked for a local healthcare company and its sole proprietor wanted me to come back to work just two weeks after I had given birth.

“I did not do so. He became hostile and told me to leave soon after that,’’ she claimed.

Unfazed, the mother of two girls, who has a BSc in biochemistry and an MSc in biotechnology, went on to complete her PhD in Science Communication and moved on to seek greener pastures.

Her subsequent employer was an international non-government organisation and Dr Mahaletchumy said it was there that she found her true calling.

“My new employer allowed me to exploit my fullest potential and my contribution was appreciated,” said Dr Mahaletchumy, also the editor-in-chief of Mabic’s newspaper, Petri Dish.

Her other role is as a trainer with Biotech Corp in its Biotechnology Entrepreneurship Special Training Programme (Best), which is a career coaching module for university undergraduates.

“I visit all the private and public universities in Malaysia under this programme and train students on biotechnology development,’’ she said.

She said the programme was aimed at making Malaysia a biotechnology powerhouse.

Dr Mahaletchumy said Malaysia had added advantages in becoming a biotechnology powerhouse due to the country’s up-to-date infrastructure, natural biodiversity as well as the Government’s commitment.

When not busy with work, Dr Mahaletchumy enjoys spending time with her children – Komalah, 16, and Deepa, 15.

Her husband M. Selvamuthu is an agency group manager with an insurance company.

Of her future plans, Dr Mahaletchumy said she planned to “continue being in the international space in biotechnology and be a change agent in the way biotechnology is communicated”.