The world is our oyster, research freedom is pearl.

I remember vividly the moment I was asked by then Deputy Vice Chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Professor Dato’ Dr. Rahmah Mohamed in a training workshop for young lecturers upon returning with my PhD from Australia, on what motivated me to serve UKM.

I answered her question with three points that demonstrated my motivation. First, the precious opportunity to be working under the same roof with some outstanding Malaysia’s star scientists. Secondly, as an alumnus, it was the golden opportunity to return the favour by providing services in training and teaching new talents enrolled in UKM. And thirdly, most importantly as a researcher, was the freedom given by the university for me to explore and delve into my favourite research niche, that was mangrove ecology. She smiled satisfactorily and shared my answers with fellow trainees of the workshop.

I believe, the freedom to carry out independent research in a desired field is the key factor that allows any scientist or researcher to excel. Regardless of the niche, theme or topic of academic research, a reasonable support by the university in terms of budget, space and time is needed for the expertise or specialisation to be developed and flourished.

The results of these support and a mature development in academic talent and expertise are reflected through knowledge contribution in various forms. It is natural for researchers to share their work and findings with peers through academic writing in journals and books, and to present their ideas and data in conferences, seminars and workshops.

As an academia, it is obligatory for lecturers to train and develop new talents through teaching and thesis supervision. In addition to that, the third role of being a researcher and an academia at a university is to contribute knowledge for community- and nation-building. This can be in the form of assisting in solving community issues or advising the government or the authorities to make well-informed decisions.

Individual passion in carrying out research is certainly the utmost important criterion, but the supports and the freedom given by the university are actually the catalysts that push the academic members to reach the stars, and eventually becoming one.

Working as an academia at a university like UKM opens up tremendous doors to the world. There is no limit that confines an academia from exploring new knowledge and ideas and there is no restriction for a researcher to collaborate constructively with colleagues from around the world.

The knowledge, teaching skills and experience, as well as the reputation developed through research and network open the doors wider for an academic to contribute to the global communities and to provide professional services at the international level, while at the same time carrying UKM’s and Malaysia’s names to be recognised in the global arena.

UKM turns 50 on 18 May 2020 and throughout her 50 years of existence, UKM has produced over 150000 graduates that have contributed and are still contributing and will continue to contribute to the sustainable development of the country in various fields. Throughout the five decades also, UKM has nurtured and built remarkable global reputation through the contributions of her outstanding academic members who had traversed the globe to lead agencies and organisations, sharing their knowledge and expertise for the greater good in policy-making, resource management and producing great inventions.

As UKM approaches the big five-zero this year, it is proud to note that she has led and ranked top among Malaysian universities under 50 years old for several consecutive years. Not at all bad an achievement for a young university that upholds the use of Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of academic communication, which signifies that UKM has stayed true to her principles since the establishment in 1970.

Stepping out from the under 50-year-old university league presents UKM with a more challenging futures. But as her tagline goes, UKM will continue to persist, with the outstanding performance of her members, to creating magnificent futures and nurturing endless possibilities for Malaysia and for the whole world. Happy 50th birthday UKM!

Dr. A. Aldrie Amir. 18.5.2020.