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Pine gum for medical research

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Robert Chang receives award for Best Oral Presentation from Keynote Speaker, Professor K. M. Gupta from India.

A Masters student of The University of the South Pacific (USP) has embarked on a research of what could possibly be one of the historic breakthroughs in the medical industry in future.

Robert Chang, who is undertaking Master of Science in Chemistry through USP’s Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) recently presented his research on “Miscibility of Poly(butylene succinate) and pine-gum blends” during the 7th International Conference in Advanced Material Research (ICAMR) in Hong Kong.

Robert’s presentation was about blending polymer or plastic based products with natural products to develop materials, and the natural product he chose was pine resin, commonly known as pine gum, which is a viscous substance secreted by pine trees as a natural defence mechanism.

According to Robert, pine trees are readily available in Pacific countries, and if all testing goes well, could become a possible revenue generator for these countries.

“Being able to utilise natural resources that we have available in the Pacific and market that internationally and being able to use it in a way that it is not traditionally used is what gave my presentation its innovative feature,” Robert said.

The 22-year-old Suva student believes that Pacific people should not seclude themselves to the region, but look internationally and understand what is happening in the global world and how they can contribute to the international community by giving what they have and what is unique to them.

The topic, which was relatively new for the facilitators and other participants, gauged a lot of interest as they said; such research can be used in the medical industry for biomaterials like skin or body implants.

This research is a base for such innovations and Robert is looking into how the two materials can actually be used to make biomaterials.

“I received a lot of positive feedback from the facilitators, in the sense that it was something that was untapped. As far as research in this field is concerned, pine resin has not been used in that way, so it is sort of a new way to make use of things that are available such as the pine resin in Pacific,” Robert said.

He added that the facilitators of the ICAMR Conference acknowledged how the initial stages of the project were well understood and developed.

As part of his presentation session, called “Materials and Synthetic Methods”, Robert was awarded the best oral presenter based on its originality, applicability of research and technical merit.

Robert said that the award boosted his determination to complete his research as well as giving him ideas to go further in this field.

While acknowledging his Masters supervisor, Dr David Rohindra, Robert said that taking such research ideas to the international community has opened up more opportunities for him.

“After getting exposure in this international community, when your research becomes recognised, and when you see the types of research coming from other countries, you see that the level of research done at USP is relevant internationally,” he added.

He thanked the polymer research team at USP, his Faculty and the University’s Research office for providing the necessary funding for him to take up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Robert’s message to students is to look out for any opportunities that the University presents apart from attending USP to complete their tertiary studies.

“As a student, a lot of opportunities at USP only show if you look for it. If you are a student here, then you should grab all the opportunities that the University has to offer, in terms of scholarships, overseas trips and attending regional/international conferences,” the Masters student highlighted.

Robert graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Physics in 2016, and hopes to complete his Masters by the end of this year.

This news item was published on 10 Feb 2017 01:31:40 pm. For more information or any High-Res Images, please contact us on email

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