The Jakarta Post
Indonesia's women scientists are on a mission to improve human lives. They are creating various innovations, from water purifiers and anti-viruses to alternative energy sources and standard methods for authenticating specialty Indonesian coffee.
Anawati from Sumbawa University of Technology (UTS) in West Nusa Tenggara is the creator of a portable water purifier to tackle water problems on Sumbawa Island.
She is concerned with the situation that forces local people to consume inappropriate water because of a limited access to clean water.
The low rainfall and long dry season in Sumbawa, coupled with indications that the groundwater is contaminated by heavy metals and acid as a result of extensive mining activities, have caused the clean water scarcity.
With her knowledge and skills, she jumps in to help solve the problem.
'For me, science is a way to solve problems. I used to work on similar research in Japan and I think I can apply that to solve Sumbawa's water issue,' said Anawati, who completed her doctorate degree at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
A stationary water purifier that was based on reverse osmosis could provide a solution to the problem, but such a method, she said, was too expensive.
Thus, she added, it was necessary to develop a portable water purifier with an affordable price.
'The portable purifier is the size of regular bottle of water and contains several layers of purifier: activated carbon, resin to eliminate the rancid smell and membranes with various pore sizes to filter the heavy metals and acidic chemicals,' Anawati said.
Currently, Anawati and her team are developing the membranes through the fabrication of ceramic anodic alumina oxide (AAO) using five-step chemical methods.
'People can just fill the bottle with any kind of fresh water and immediately drink it without having to boil it first,' she said.
In addition to the bottle purifier, Anawati has also developed a faucet aerator for households and buildings.
Anawati is one of the four recipients of L'Oreal Indonesia Fellowship for Women in Science 2015, which grants Rp 80 million (US$5,820) in research funds to each winner.
The annual fellowship comes out of a partnership between the cosmetic producer and the Indonesian Commission for UNESCO to recognize the excellence of exceptional women, encourage scientific careers and support the talent of tomorrow.
Since its inception in Indonesia in 2004, it has awarded 41 female Indonesian scientists, five of whom have received international recognition.
The fellowship program has also honored 77 laureates and awarded more than 1,600 fellowships worldwide.
Another of this year's fellows, Sastia Prama Putri, a lecturer at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and a specially appointed assistant professor at Japan's Osaka University, lends her skills to establishing a robust and systematic analytic method for coffee authenticity screening and quality evaluation in Indonesia's coffee industry.
Sastia focuses her research on the authentication system of kopi luwak, a type of Indonesian coffee that is made from coffee cherries that have been eaten by common palm civets.
'Despite its profitable prospect, there is no reliable and standardized method to determine the originality of kopi luwak. The limited availability of the authentic product and increasing demand may lead to adulteration by blending kopi luwak and regular coffee,' she said.
'That poses serious concerns among consumers over the authenticity and quality of the products and consequently hinders the production growth of kopi luwak in the country.'
Her work on establishing a testing method for coffee authenticity using metabolomics technology has also been recognized by the International Metabolomics Society.
Meanwhile, Aluicia Anita Artarini is interested in digging deeper into the potency of Indonesia's biodiversity to discover a new anti-influenza virus.
'This biodiversity includes small molecules or antiviral peptides coming from Indonesian bacterial isolates, as well as diverse Indonesian medicinal plants,' said the lecturer at the school of pharmacy in ITB.
Anita, who did her doctoral studies at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, said she was currently working on the research methodology and planned to complete it within a year.
'But it will still be a long way to go to find a new candidate for a new drug, but during that process, we can first produce the herbal medicines,' she said.
Each year, the number of female researchers in Indonesia steadily increases, as recorded by the directorate general of higher education. In 2015, there were 11,069 female researchers out of a total of 22,950 scientists across the archipelago, higher than last year's figure of 10,730 and of 10,111 in 2013.
'Being a researcher is a good choice of career to help build the nation. With the success of Indonesia's female researchers, we hope that will ignite their spirit to turn our nation into a great nation,' Education and Culture Minister Anies Baswedan said.
' Photos Courtesy of L'OrÃ©al Indonesia
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