Astronomy and related fields today are at the forefront of science and technology, answering fundamental question, driving innovation and contributing to technology, by constantly pushing for instruments, processes and software beyond our current capabilities. The fruits of scientific and technological development in astronomy, especially in areas such as optics and electronics, have become essential for day-to-day life, with applications such as personal computers, communication satellites, mobile phones, Global Positioning Systems, solar panels and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners. Astronomy today is also being transformed by vast quantities of observational data, models, and simulations at an ever accelerating rate, and astronomy has been an international pioneer of data enabled science. Overall Astronomy has become one of the few scientific fields that interacts directly with society, not only transcending borders, but actively promoting collaborations around the world.
As such, it is a given that stimulating astronomy education amongst a country’s youth will be of great value. In an innovative move to make this happen, Horizon Campus recently launched an Astronomy Society (HCAS) with the aim of establishing and maintaining an infrastructure that encourages learning and participation, both academically and professionally and provides an environment for their students to learn about the sun, moon, stars, planets, comets, galaxies, and other celestial bodies and develop an enthusiasm about astronomy.
The inaugural meeting of HCAS was held in early August. The ceremony was attended by the Higher Management of Horizon Campus, where office bearers were appointed followed by a guest lecture regarding cosmology.
Outlining the future plans of the society Dr. Mihira Wanninayake, Senior Lecturer and Course Director who will head the Horizon Campus Astronomy Society stated that it includes advocating and uplifting the skills of its members by offering opportunities backing up research’ work correlated with astronomy. We plan to host a wide range of astronomical events, such as Astro Night Camps, and Water Rocket Competitions. We intend to offer instruction in a wide variety of fields in Astronomy and conduct training programs for students to carry out astronomy related activities. We also aim to conduct research in the fields of Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Science and produce publications with special attention to indexed journal publications as well as organizing workshops and seminars in the field(s) of Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Science. Our ultimate aim is to produce youth who will drive innovation and research that facilitates the use of astronomy in addressing the challenges faced by our society in the future”.
With the changing landscape of Biotechnology presenting many challenges for both the industry and educators alike and the need of preparing today’s science undergraduates in the country for future industry opportunities in this sphere, Horizon Campus is currently on a quest of investing their capitol in equipping their lecture team, labs and facilities to help establish their campus as a powerhouse for Biotechnology education in the country.
Developing a complete ecosystem for research, education and innovation: Mr. Eranda Mandawala of the Department of Biotechnology, Faculty of Sciences at Horizon Campus, said “to prepare a knowledge-based talent pool in Biotechnology requires that we invest in competence, education and research. At the campus we are assuming a national responsibility to support the growth of specialist skills and knowledge in Biotechnology and cultivate a leading community of qualified graduates in life sciences. We will be making the campus a gathering place for creative researchers who are capable of linking academic disciplines in new ways to generate new knowledge and apply this for innovation and value creation in the field of Biotechnology.”
State-of-the-art research laboratories: With the driving mission to ensure the campus becomes one of the best resourced centre’s for Biotechnology research and education in the country, major investments have been made in state-of-the-art laboratories to conduct impact-driven molecular research that will provide researchers with insights into how to design new drug molecules to target complex health challenges such as Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease and antimicrobial resistance.
Mandawala explained “the biomedical challenges we face today include complex disorders associated with ageing, cancer, lifestyle and drug resistance. To develop new therapies for these diseases, we need to understand the biological activities of biomolecules in a cell. The area of molecular and cell biology therefore have a great deal to offer medicine in the future. It is at the forefront of scientific discovery, unlocking the innermost secrets of the cell and developing new ways to detect and attack disease , provide a new generation of diagnostic and therapeutic agents, and play a major role in the development of new vaccines and other approaches to the control of diseases. This also represents a platform for a new industry in Sri Lanka with new jobs, products and services in the health sector and our aim is to produce the required talent for this industry.
The lab at Horizon campus has been equipped to carry out PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing, a technique that identifies characterizations of viral, bacterial, parasitic and fungal agents. The lab is also geared to conduct molecular research using RFLP technique together with gel electrophoresis that provide information on genetic diseases and also perform testing to analyze RNA samples to measure and compare gene expression patterns.
All of these are closely aligned with undergraduate and post-graduate teaching facilities to help provide a seamless transition for students and give them many opportunities to conduct research projects in the specialized context of molecular biology.
Industry accredited affiliations: To ensure further optimization in facilitating research ,training and knowledge creation, the campus has also affiliated with the top ranked Nilai Univeristy in Malaysia to offer two key degrees comprising of The Diploma in Biotechnology and the Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Biotechnology, with both courses covering a comprehensive range of subjects encompassing the applications of biochemistry, molecular biology, genetic engineering, bioinformatics and cell culture techniques for the development of new products.
Connecting Learners: Mandawala expressed “recognizing the need to strengthen education in our country in the field of molecular biology , our program integrates the laboratory and lecture components through the use of an experimental approach to learning , uniquely combining practical, hands-on training with cutting-edge research and teaching.”
“We will continue building on the research we already have, develop new ones, attract outstanding talent and train new generations of scientists in the field of molecular biology to bring value to the Biotechnology industry in the country” concluded Mandawala.