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Academician recognised for work in neurotechnology

ASSOC Prof Dr Tang Tong Boon from Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) has been awarded the Top Research Scientists Malaysia (TRSM) by Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM).

Dr Tang, who is currently Institute of Health and Analytics director at UTP, was one of 22 Malaysian research scientists recognised by ASM this year.

The winners were announced by Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba at the 2021 Top Research Scientists Malaysia ceremony held virtually.

Dr Tang received the award for his contribution to the advancement and promotion of neurotechnology and its applications in mental healthcare, as well as his pioneering work on functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) in Malaysia.

“I am honoured to receive this award and appreciate the recognition from ASM.

“The award means a lot to me as it is a timely boost of confidence in pursuing excellence in research, especially under the current volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity where constant and ongoing change is the new normal.

“This recognition is a testament of UTP being one of the top research universities in Malaysia that is capable of producing leading research scientists that innovate, create value-added opportunities and translate their research into meaningful and impactful outcomes that can significantly contribute to the nation.

“I thank the collaborators, graduate students and UTP management for their support,” he added.

Dr Tang received a BEng (Hons) and PhD in electronics and electrical engineering from the School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, in 1999 and 2006, respectively.

He was with Lucent Technologies (Singapore) and University of Edinburgh between 1999 and 2012.

He joined UTP in 2012 as an associate professor in electrical and electronic engineering.

Here, he began to work on medical image analysis.

In 2013, he visited Hitachi Japan to transfer the fNIRS technology to Malaysia.

“In Japan, fNIRS has been accepted as a screening tool to differentiate between different mental disorders, namely depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“One of the major challenges in fNIRS is inter-subject variability in brain activation; how one brain response is quite different from another, which can lead to bias in data analysis,” said Dr Tang

“My research aims to address the issue by developing new computational techniques to minimise the variation in brain response so that we can estimate more accurately the actual brain activation.

“This in turn improves the effectiveness of our brain scans.

“For instance, we have applied the techniques to analyse the brain connectivity patterns of Alzheimer’s disease patients and to study the stress tolerance of nursing students.”

He added, “More recently, we developed a new neuro feedback system which aims to slow down the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

“This work is an on-going collaboration with Perak Dementia Society.”

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