(File pix) Dr Juan Joon Ching striking a pose at the laboratory of Universiti Malaya’s Nanotechnology and Catalysis Research Centre. Pix by NSTP/Amirudin Sahib

UNIVERSITI Malaya Associate Professor Dr Juan Joon Ching’s excellence in research, teaching, academic service and administration has paid off as he was awarded the Promising Academician Award at the 12th National Academic Awards recently.

Juan, 38, whose expertise is in the field of chemistry, received the award from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He received RM50,000 plus a certificate and trophy.

Describing it as the highest recognition he has received as a lecturer, Juan said the award serves as a motivation for him to work harder.

The award is aimed at recognising an academician, 40 years old and below, who has exhibited prowess in teaching and learning, as well as research, dignity, leadership and conservation at the national and international levels.

Teaching, Juan said, opened up a new chapter in his life as an academician. He believes that besides publishing high-impact research, a lecturer should spark students’ interest, especially in the classroom. He said students are easily bored with old techniques, so teaching should be interactive.

“It’s a joy to share what you know with others. You should teach slowly to make them understand and deliver a good learning experience by giving real-life scenarios and applications.

You can organise field trips and engage the students.”

As a chemist, Juan, who is attached to UM’s Nanotechnology and Catalysis Research Centre, has always tried to solve global issues, such as energy, waste management and global warming.

“Try to find your interest and niche area. Then you can expand your research.”

(File pix) Associate Professor Dr Juan Joon Ching with some of his awards. Pix by NSTP/Amirudin Sahib

One of Juan’s researches on environment is photocatalytic and wastewater treatment where the sunlight is utilised to treat wastewater. Another is on sustainable energy where resources came from non-edible oil, and greenhouse gases were converted to petrol or diesel in vehicles and for various industries.

Born to a medium income family, Juan said his parents supported him fully to excel in education. Staying in the busy and multicultural neighbourhood at Malayan Mansion in Kuala Lumpur, his parents stressed the importance of education as one of the ways to improve the quality of life.

Juan said he wants to help his postgraduate students excel, just like how his lecturers had helped him.

“I will try my best to help them graduate with a good degree. I will encourage them to publish stellar research papers. I want to share and impart my experience and knowledge. This is something all lecturers should do.”

In terms of administration and community service, Juan said there is a need to give back and contribute to the society.

He is the honorary secretary of the Institute of Chemistry, fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry, chartered chemist and scientist of the Science Council, the United Kingdom, as well as committee member for the Scientific and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia.

His philosophy in life is based on the saying “wisdom creates possibilities, attitude creates potential”.

“We have to be positive. Take up new tasks. Be hardworking, responsible and enthusiastic. Most importantly, never give up.”

Juan is also a senior research fellow (adjunct) at Monash University. His area of expertise is catalysis and nanotechnology. He has published more than 100 publications and co-authored four book chapters.

As a strong believer in research-driven innovation, he has filed five patents. He has secured US$830,000 (RM3,500,000) in national, international and private industry grants.

Juan received his doctorate in 2007/2008 from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and got the best thesis award. He was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Malaysia Research Star Award in 2017, National Young Scientist Award (2016) and Asia Nano Forum’s Young Scientist Award (2014).

“The country’s academic field should be improved. Researches need not be many, but they must be of quality.”

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