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Inspired by Nobel Laureates

Inspired by Nobel Laureates

Conversations with Nobel Laureates and world leading scientists at the Science and Technology in Society forum are inspiring the career of TWAS Young Affiliate Thi Thi Soe

Basic science and ground-breaking technologies, sustainability and interdisciplinary research, innovation and policy, as well as the pros and cons of artificial intelligence were among the debated topics at the nineteenth edition of the Science and Technology in Society forum, held in Kyoto, Japan, from 2 to 4 October.

The event, which allowed in-presence attendance for the first time after the COVID-19 pandemic, hosted 1,000 participants from over 80 countries—including policymakers, business executives, scientists, researchers and the media. They gathered to address current global challenges, and share new ideas about future opportunities of development and growth through science and technology.

Thi Thi Soe, a lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Economics, at Yezin Agricultural University (YAU), in Myanmar, and a TWAS Young Affiliate (2021–2026) of TWAS East and South-East Asia and the Pacific Regional Partner (TWAS-SAPREP), was selected to participate in the prestigious event, in the frame of the "Young Leaders Programme", which offers productive discussions with Nobel Laureates in a friendly atmosphere.

"The forum gave me a fantastic opportunity to meet with eminent scientists and personalities, whom, otherwise, I would have hardly had the chance to be in contact with," she commented. "We had coffee together, and the resulting warm atmosphere laid the ground for potentially long-lasting contacts and collaborations. I am grateful to TWAS for this."

Every year, the Japan Science and Technology Agency requests TWAS collaboration in identifying 10 participants from developing countries to attend the forum. Soe was selected for her work commitment and for the several collaborations she has, as a member of her research team or as an individual consultant, with major entities, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation of Myanmar, the International Rice Research Institute, OXFAM International and the United Nations Environment Programme.

Soe's education developed between the Yezin Agricultural University and the Bern University of Applied Science, in Switzerland, where she obtained an MSc in value chain and rural development (2017–2019). At YAU, she is a co-supervisor of MSc courses on food consumption patterns.

Her scientific interests cover a wide range of topics, such as food insecurity and nutrition, livelihood and rural development, crop value chain, marketing and economic development and climate-smart agriculture.

At the Kyoto forum, she gave a short presentation about the production of edible oil, with a particular focus on Myanmar. Edible oil is, in fact, a staple in Myanmar. Because of the steady population growth in the country, consumption will likely increase accordingly in the near future. Edible oil import restrictions, however, raise concerns about the safety of local oil production.

"Several types of cooking oil are sold and bought in the markets, under different brands, and with various colours, flavours, quality and price," Soe observed. "Some of the edible oils are domestically produced, others are imported. Therefore, it would be important to obtain data about edible oil consumption and individual preferences, so as to assess the quantity required for the population. This would prevent the shortage and contain bad market dynamics."

The 2 October session of the forum, during which Soe spoke, was chaired by Chuan Poh Lim, Chair of the Singapore Food Agency, and focused on agriculture, and food and water security. "That session and some lectures given by Nobel Laureates prompted inspiring discussions on strategies to tackle food and water insecurity, which are tightly connected, and also on the best way to be successful and handle professional risks in research," she recalled.

Soe's nomination, last year, as a TWAS Young Affiliate was the result of a high number of international scientific publications that predict a brilliant career. During her five-year tenure, she is entitled to participate in the TWAS initiatives, including TWAS events, thus building connections with TWAS Fellows and other Young Affiliates. "I'm grateful to TWAS for this affiliation: it's a great opportunity to build my capacity and establish new connections worldwide," she said.

The Science and Technology in Society forum was established in November 2004 by Koji Omi, former Minister of Finance and former Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy of the Japanese Government. The annual meeting is held every October, in the same location. Its strength is the human capital: by convening brilliant minds from far and near, the forum goes beyond national boundaries standing as an example of connection for scientists of all ages.

Cristina Serra