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Researcher wins L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship

WK award article image

UNMC Researcher and academic Dr Ho Weang Kee wins the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship, which was announced at the award ceremony on 24 October. Dr Ho was awarded an RM30,000 grant for her research.

This annual philanthropy programme aims to honour women whose research contributes to advancement of society through science. This year three women won the award and Dr Ho is the first researcher from a private university to win this award for her outstanding contribution to breast cancer research.

“Breast cancer is largely a curable disease if caught earlier. One way to enable early detection is through mammography screening, but we cannot afford to screen every woman in the country. This was the motivation behind my research,” Dr Ho said. Dr Ho’s expertise as a statistician helped her to formulate breast cancer risk assessment tools which factors in DNA and lifestyle information to create a profile of women who may be at higher risk of getting the disease.

Her research is being conducted in collaboration with Cancer Research Malaysia, University Malaya, National University of Singapore, Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, USA and University of Cambridge. The project is funded by a Newton-Ungku Omar fund through the Medical Research Council, UK and Academy of Science Malaysia.

According to University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus Vice Provost (Research and Knowledge Exchange) Professor Claire O’Malley, “We are very proud of Weang Kee’s achievement, and of her pioneering spirit in research. The work she is carrying out in cancer research is highly relevant and significant to our society today in order to save the lives of many women.”

“We are a research-led University with some ground breaking interdisciplinary research. Weang Kee’s work is a great example of how mathematics can be applied to further our understanding in medicine,” Professor O’Malley added.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, 2016, breast cancer incidence in Malaysia is set to increase by 49 percent between 2012 and 2025, and the five-year survival rate in the country is one of the worst in the Asia-Pacific region. 

In her acceptance speech, Dr Ho said that her life changed when she become a mother. She started breastfeeding, which is a special milestone in most women’s lives. Initially she did not think that she was exposed to the risk of breast cancer as she led a healthy lifestyle and does not have a family history of breast cancer. However, when she studied the subject more closely she realised that women like her are still at risk of the disease and this motivated her to research more deeply in this area.

“I am really honoured to receive this prestigious award and would like to thank my family, my research collaborators and the colleagues at Cancer Research Malaysia, University of Malaya, National University of Singapore, University of Cambridge, Vanderbilt University Medical Centre and the University of Nottingham. I am humbled by this opportunity to contribute to the development of models that can impact the lives of women in Malaysia.” Dr Ho said.

The award ceremony was officiated by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department YB Datuk Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri. Also present were the French Ambassador to Malaysia HE Frédéric Laplanche and L’Oréal Malaysia Managing Director Malek Bekdache. Representing the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus was Vice Provost for Research and Knowledge Exchange Professor Claire O’Malley and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering Professor Andy Chan.

“Young researchers like Weang Kee are key contributors to the research in the Faculty. Her research is life saving and revolutionary on two accounts, one to address the needs of our society and the research is also a strategic cross disciplinary effort between science, medicine and engineering,” Professor Chan said.

“We constantly encourage and support our academics to be active researchers so that our students can also gain from research knowledge even at the undergraduate level as they build their professional credentials. I am proud of her achievements and I am confident that she will continue to achieve greater heights,” Professor Chan said.

(Article image caption: (from left to right): Professor Claire O’Malley, Dr Ho Weang Kee and Professor Andy Chan at the awards presentation ceremony)

(Thumbnail image caption: YB Datuk Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri, HE Frédéric Laplanche and Malek Bekdache with the award winners.

—Ends—

More information is available from Dr Ho Weang Kee  or Josephine Dionisappu, PR & Communications Manager at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus on josephine.dionisappu@nottingham.edu.my, +6 (03) 8924 8746 .

Notes to editor: The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the top one per cent in the world. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. 

Posted on 30th October 2017

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