The APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research, and Education (“ASPIRE”) is an annual award sponsored by Wiley and Elsevier that recognizes young scientists who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in scientific research and collaboration with scientists in the region. This year, ASPIRE received 15 nominees contributing to the ASPIRE theme of natural laboratories.


Nominee: Dr Nicholas Murray
Affiliation and title: Professor, Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences University of New South Wales
Field of Research: Conservation Science

Dr Murray is a conservation scientist who uses satellite remote sensing and machine learning to monitor changes in the ecosystem at continental and global scales, which has been instrumental in helping to conserve coastal ecosystems across the Asia-Pacific. His work has led to world-heritage site listing nominations, the identification of endangered coastal ecosystems, and the improved protection of species that move through the Asia-Pacific during annual migrations.  Dr Murray uses entire satellite image archives to monitor these changes of Earth’s natural ecosystems at high resolution and provide the data needed to know where and when to implement conservation actions. He has published in over 25 peer reviewed journal articles.


Nominee:  Dr Juliana Zaini
Affiliation and title: Faculty of Integrated Technologies (FIT), Universiti Brunei Darussalam
Field of Research: Solid/ Structural/ geotechnical Modeling; Biomass Biofuel; Microalgae; IOT in Agriculture; Renewable energies

Dr Zaini specializes in geotechnical engineering, addressing the engineering behavior of earth materials. She is working to establish an international research platform to leverage the biodiversity on the island of Borneo (largest island in Asia) to transform bioinspired technology, or the imitation of models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. Dr Zaini has published in over 17 peer reviewed journal articles.


Nominee: Dr Stephanie Green
Affiliation and title: Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
Field of Research: Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta

Dr Green’s research combines field, laboratory, and computer simulation experiments to discover when and where key fisheries species will shift across international boundaries as result of climate change and how coastal livelihoods and economies will be affected. Published in nearly 30 peer reviewed journal articles, she has used experimental and observational studies to isolate the trait basis of biotic interactions within ocean food webs involving commercially important fisheries species in temperate Pacific ecosystems.


Nominee: Dr Tamara Contador Mejias
Affiliation and title: Associate Faculty Researcher and Research Coordinator of the Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program, Universidad de Magallanes
Field of Research: Freshwater Ecology and Sub-Antarctic Ecosystems; Biocultural Conservation

Dr Contador is a biologist specializing in freshwater ecosystems. Her work has led to the identification and valuation of one of the most valuable Chilean natural laboratories: the Magellanic Sub-Antarctic ecoregion in the UNESCO Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve. Dr Contador’s research focuses on the adaptations of sub-Antarctic and Antarctic aquatic insects to global change in freshwater ecosystems through the study of their ecophysiology, life histories and distribution. Dr Contador has published in over 15 peer reviewed journals.


Nominee: Dr Yuhai Bi
Affiliation and title: Associate Professor, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academic of Sciences
Field of Research: Genetic evolution and pathogenesis of viruses

Dr Yuhai Bi’s research has focused on the genetic diversity and pathogenesis of avian influenza virus (AIV) and emerging or re-emerging viruses. He has published in over 100 peer reviewed journal articles. Dr Yuhai Bi has set up a surveillance and early-warning network for detection of AIVs in wild birds, and developed a cooperative network with Russia and Canada for AIVs and other novel viruses.


Nominee: Dr Yun Hau NG
Affiliation and title Associate Professor, City University of Hong Kong
Field of Research: Chemistry

Dr Ng specializes in using sunlight to split water into clean hydrogen, mimicking natural photosynthesis to generate renewable energy. He has published in over 124 peer reviewed papers and also concentrates in applications for solar batteries.


Nominee: Dr Ferry Efendi
Affiliation and title: PhD, Universitas Airlangga
Field of Research: Environmental science; medicine; earth and planetary sciences; nursing

Dr Efendi has published over 30 peer reviewed journal articles and focuses his research on environmental science, medicine, earth and planetary sciences and nursing. He has worked extensively on gendered issues within health systems, rural health care, and health care personnel resources.


Nominee: Dr Sang Woo Seo
Affiliation and title: Assistant Professor, School of Chemical and Biological, Seoul National University 
Field of Research: Systems biology and synthetic biology of microorganisms

Throughout his career Dr Seo has worked on photonic materials and biological integration, publishing more than 30 peer reviewed journal articles. Dr Seo’s work applies systems and synthetic biology approaches to explain complex biological regulatory networks. This work has led to the application of deep understanding of fundamental regulation of biological systems and the building of synthetic microorganisms with functionalities that can be used in various industries.


Nominee: Dr Ahmad Zaharin Aris
Affiliation and title: Professor, Universiti Putra Malaysia
Field of Research: Hydrochemistry, Environmental Forensics, Environmental Chemistry and Analysis

Dr Aris has published more than 150 journal articles on environmental chemistry, soil quality, and water contamination.  Dr Aris’ research focuses on environmental forensics including the development of innovative approaches to water purification and helping guide public water supply policy.  For example, he has discovered that crab shells and calcareous skeleton can be effectively used for elimination of copper and cadmium from contaminated waters.


Nominee: Dr Jose Bazo
Affiliation and title: PhD in Physics, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
Field of Research:

Astroparticle Physics

Dr Bazo works on astro- and atomic-particles, studying their relationship with one another and with the physical environment. His work has helped shape understanding of astrophysical sources and dark matter in the South Pole and outer space at the International Space Station. These results have helped uncover the nature of some astrophysical sources to be applied in the search for dark matter. He has published in 120 peer reviewed journal articles.


Nominee: Dr Mario Tan
Affiliation and title: Department of Chemistry, College of Science, University of Sto. Tomas
Field of Research: Drug development from natural products: organic chemistry

Dr Tan is a complete natural product chemist engaging in total synthesis of medicinal plant metabolites of biological importance. He analyzes the organic products of drugs, isolating individual components and studying their interactions. He has published in more than 15 different journals and has significantly studied the indigenous Pandanus plants to demonstrating the rich potential of this plant family as a source of therapeutics.


Nominee: Dr Lin Fang-Hsin
Affiliation and title: Researcher, Industrial Technology Research Institute
Field of Research: Ultra-trace analysis, nanoparticle synthesis, nanoparticle characterization, environmental remediation, biosensor

Dr Lin majors in nanoparticle synthesis and its application in the environmental and biomedical field. She is currently working on establishing analytical methods understanding particle pollutants in the environment for application with the semiconductor industry. Dr Lin has developed a technique that is used in particle analysis for specialty gases and has published in over 19 peer reviewed journals.


Nominee: Dr Noppol Kobmoo
Affiliation and title: National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
Field of Research: Ecology and Evolution

Dr Kobmoo researches mechanisms underlying the process of evolution, particularly diversification and adaptation. His work on ecology and evolution of entomopathogenic fungi (a fungus that can act as a parasite of insects and kills or seriously disables them) has contributed to account more diversity and better understand underlying mechanisms generating the diversity of this group of organisms which are well known as biological control agents and important sources of natural substances. He has published in over 10 peer reviewed journals.


Nominee: Dr David Seekell
Affiliation and title: Senior Researcher / Assistant Professor of Ecology,  Climate Impacts Research Centre, Umeå University          
Field of Research: Environmental Science

Dr Seekell’s research focuses on inland waters, exploring the relationship between the underlying structure of these marine ecosystems and the changes that these waters undergo. Published in over 40 peer reviewed journal articles, he has carried out specific projects on the relationship between food security, trade, and the environment as well as developing metrics to outline early warning signs of ecosystem tipping points.


Nominee: Dr Le Trung Thanh
Affiliation and title: Dean, Vietnam National University, Hanoi – International School
Field of Research: Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering

Dr Thanh is an expert in photonic signal processing, leveraging the physical science of light to apply to a range of solutions. His research interests include photonic integrated circuits, photonic signal processing and its applications in biosensors, high performance computing and all-optical interconnects. He has published in nine peer reviewed journal articles.