PANEL 1: Science of Today, Technology of Tomorrow

A review on the Cambrian explosion hypothesis: Causes and problems

Rasyiqah Azimah Binti Muhammad Nuraiziz

MSci Natural Sciences at University College London

Cambrian is a geological period succeeding the Ediacaran, where crown metazoans are believed to have rapidly diversified. A sudden abundance and disparity of major metazoan clades were also believed to have occurred in this period based on the well-preserved fossil records. This phenomenon is called the Cambrian explosion. It is still uncertain as to whether the Cambrian explosion is triggered by a single or multiple driver(s).


By reviewing published literatures on the possible drivers of the Cambrian explosion, it is found that the phenomenon was triggered by three main drivers from environmental, genetic and developmental, and ecological factors. These are the increase in atmospheric oxygen level in the Cambrian compared to the Ediacaran, duplication and change in regulation of homeobox and miRNA genes, and the advent of predation during the Cambrian. The latter was mainly involved in maintaining the high diversity in the Cambrian. This review has assessed the three aforementioned factors based on their time of incidence with the explosion and how they could cause the rise in diversity, disparity, and multicellular and behavioural complexity of animals as shown in the Cambrian fossil record. However, there are still a few uncertainties with regards to the three factors listed before in triggering the explosion as well as the fossil records of the explosion itself in general. This leads some to believe that the Cambrian explosion was simply a case of cryptic evolution.


Purification of recombinant human cytoglobin and truncated variants to determine the role of cytoglobin’s extended N-terminus on dimerization during analytical gel filtration

Nur Azyyati Haziqah Binti Hj. Mohamad

BSc Biochemistry at University of East Anglia


The physiologically relevant quaternary structure of cytoglobin has remained elusive with several studies reporting varying results of monomers, dimers, and even tetramers. This study believes the structure of cytoglobin to be monomeric because dimerization of cytoglobin is proposed to occur due to the extended N-terminus when the protein is studied using analytical gel filtration. Purification of recombinant human cytoglobin and its truncated forms were carried out using a Strep-Tactin column. Samples from each stages of purification were analysed by reducing SDS-PAGE and UV/vis spectroscopy to assess the purity and determine the concentration of recombinant cytoglobin. Further examination of the quaternary structure of cytoglobin was performed by using a Superdex-75 gel filtration column. The variant with only the truncated N-terminus was observed to behave as a monomer with elution time longer than of wild type, which corresponded to a smaller molecular weight. The other variants with either both truncated N- and C- terminus or just truncated C- terminus did not manage to enter the last stages of purification. As such, additional western blots were carried out on cell lysates of the variants to identify the cause of the problem. It was suggested that the Strep-II tag engineered into the variant cytoglobin was not expressed properly and thus purification using the Strep-Tactin column was unable to be carried out. Nonetheless, with one of the variant showing a positive result, a complete picture of the protein’s quaternary structure can be achieved with an improvement to the expression protocol of cytoglobin in future’s work.


Furthering understanding of allergy and immune tolerance following allergen-specific immunotherapy

Hajah Hanisah binti Awang Haji Sharif

PhD Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Imperial College London


Allergy is a worldwide problem and its prevalence is increasing. It affects quality of life due to sleep disturbance, work performance, school grades and therefore, is a socio-economic burden. In Brunei, house dust mite allergy is the most common, followed by food allergy to egg white and seafood. Studies have shown that airborne allergen is the major cause of allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma. Pharmacotherapy treatments are effective but there are a small proportion of patients who do not respond to treatment. Allergen immunotherapy is an alternative approach and currently, it is the only disease-modifying treatment. Long-term immune tolerance has been previously shown to be induced in individuals with hay fever, through the administration of high dose allergen either by monthly injections or tablets, although the mechanism has yet been elucidated. We hypothesised that the newly discovered subsets of T cells are dysregulated in patients with hay fever. In a cross-sectional study of allergen-specific immunotherapy, mononuclear cells were isolated from healthy controls, individuals with hay fever, immunotherapy-treated groups and were enumerated by flow cytometry. Here, we demonstrated that subsets of T cells were dysregulated in allergic individuals and were restored following immunotherapy. These findings provided insights on the mechanism of tolerance induction following allergen-specific immunotherapy in allergic individuals, hence improving their quality of life.




Am I breathing alright?

Yusma Hazim Yusof
PhD in Analytical Chemistry at Loughborough University

Cancer is the leading cause of deaths which accounted for 58.7% of total deaths that were from non-communicable disease in Brunei Darussalam (ICD-10, 2014). Lung cancer has one of the lowest survival outcomes of any cancer. Only 32.1% of patients in UK survived one year after diagnosis, and only 9.5% of patients survive for 5 years from the date of diagnosis. If the cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stage, for most cases surgery is the only chance of cure. At a later stage, treatment regimens can become less effective and the cancer can metastasize. This indicates the need of a rapid detection of different markers for respiratory diseases to support early diagnosis and enable early treatment.

Breathomics can be defined as the metabolomics study of exhaled breath. It is a strongly emerging metabolomics research field that mainly focuses on the analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Over 800 individual VOCs at picogram level have been reported and identified in exhaled breath. Acetone being the most abundant VOC in breath has a median concentration of 0.4 ppm, ppb in healthy non-starving humans. When starved, their metabolic response causes acetone concentration increase up to 5.8 ppm. These observable changes of VOCs can be linked to the person’s health status, giving breath analysis a great potential as a non-invasive diagnostic tool for diseases such as cancer.

The challenges faced in correlating any number of VOCs with different disease states are immense as the metabolic origin and mechanistic link to pathogenic states are not clarified yet.Breath analysis is non-invasive compared to the current in-clinical methodology. Patients do not suffer any pain or injury when providing breath samples and this is helpful for children and the elderly. Breath sampling collection is user-friendly and enables non-medical professional capable in collecting samples from patients. The talk demonstrates current workflows on archival breath analysis during a discovery phase as a diagnostic tool for potential biomarkers of diseases. Analysis are performed by thermal desorption – gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS), a gold standard technique. The eventual goal of the research is the delivery of a detection system potentially suitable for use in a screening programme in clinics which is in-line with one of Ministry of Health’s strategic priorities in which is to further strengthening the medicare system in the country.


Panel 2: Lessons behind literature studies


Distortations of the Quranic Exegesis: Understanding Qiwamah

Aseeya Hussin

BA Arabic and English at SOAS University of London

One of the conspicuous misconceptions in today’s community is the misinterpretations of Quranic verses. Surah An-Nisaa’ verse 34 has been misunderstood, misinterpreted and misused but is so often cited to justify the absolute superiority men have over women, and thus is the concept of qiwamah. Looking closely at the verse that invokes male authority, feminist analysis of this verse is now widely accepted, although some traditionalist might call upon this statement debatable. For BSRS 2018, I shall discuss the classic interpretation of the verse and the modernists response to this interpretation of this Qiwamah verse, concentrating on understanding the meaning of the verse. By presenting this, I hope to address the injustice within marital and gender relations, specifically the notion that women are placed under male authority as the Quraan, and Islam as a whole did not promote such notion.


“Selamat di rantau orang”: mobilities, identities, and the university in Norsiah Gapar’s Pengabdian and Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North

Sarah Ahmad Ghazali

PhD in Comparative Literature at University College London

Set in university settings and focusing on the lives of university characters, academic narratives provide us with a literary insight into the university experience. However, this literary genre is currently facing a decline in popularity, due to its tendency to utilise repetitive plots and obsolete archetypes. In recent years, the genre is emerging outside of Britain and America, establishing itself in locations where higher education is developing as a significant social institution. A recurring thematic is the correlation of emerging academic narratives with narratives of nation-building for each particular location. Through exploring the figure of the intellectual in emerging academic narratives, my paper aims to establish how literature contributes to the negotiation and construction of national identities. My analysis will focus on two texts, comparing Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North with Pengabdian by Norsiah Gapar. In both texts, the university past abroad is depicted as an important period that defines the intellectual, and their subsequent correlation to the nation. However, mobility is presented as another important factor, as travel and dislocation lead to necessary negotiation of identities caused by transnational encounters within academic settings. I would like to argue that mobility is an important factor for education and nation-construction. By researching these intersections as represented in literature, my research will supplement existing discourses on higher education, through examining the humanistic side and inner-workings of an institution significant in establishing a nation of educated and highly-skilled individuals.


Panel 3: Skills & Professionalism


What are the school experiences for young people with Juvenile Arthritis?

Nur’Asyiqin Bazilah Hj Ali Hassan

BSc Occupational Therapy at University of East Anglia

The aim of this research is to investigate the school experiences for young people with Juvenile Arthritis (JA). In previous studies, they have emphasised that there are gaps between the transitional care from young to adulthood and the need for comprehensive education and therapeutic support for young people. Occupational therapists (OT) are interested in looking into what the future of their clients would be like in order to facilitate the independence of the young people specifically in their school environment. Moreover, to explore our role as an OT to use therapeutic interventions to provide holistic support for the young people with JA.


This will be explored through a literature review of qualitative studies that explored the living experiences of young people who grew up with JA. The effects of JA on school varies; not being able to participate in school activities due to bodily limitations, absenteeism, and limited education and vocation options. Struggles of disclosing to and lack of understanding from teachers and peers, and also stigma around being ill. They also experience insecurities and loss of self-esteem. However, young people have been able to develop resilience and endurance; thereby, accepting of their limitations to cope with illness.


Evaluating Risk Transfers in The Management of Waste Public-Private Partnerships: A Research Proposal

Awang Emil Zahrin Haji Ali

PhD in Accounting at University of Sussex

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) has successfully transformed the provision of public sector goods and services by minimising risks and delivering public infrastructures within budget and on time. The success of a PPP project rests in the principles of better Value for Money (VfM) including the ability to shift risks from the public to the private sector. However, recent studies seem to suggest that the transfers of risks, which has been heavily used as a justification for PPP, did not occur. Thus, this research proposed to explore the PPP projects, in particular on the transfers of risks between the two partners. Empirical research will be based on a qualitative case-study approach to better understand the extent of risk management between the partners. The research seeks to better understand from the discussions with key stakeholders and experts by focusing on the Waste sector PPP. This study is very important towards understanding best-practices of PPP – one of the key strategies in realising Wawasan Brunei 2035.


Topic: The Role of Company Law in the Protection of Employee Interests

Dayang Bazilah Amirah Binti Awang Haji Mohamad Yunus

LLM in Bar Professional Training at City, University of London

There has been a growing social anxiety about the levels of inequality believed to exist between consumers, employees and the ‘privileged few.’ This paper deliberates this concern in the context of the capitalist public company and focuses on the interests of employees. It will be divided into two parts.

The first part engages with theory to show that the historical development of the corporate form has assisted in the creation of a relationship of power dominance held by shareholders in public companies. This leaves little room for consideration of the interests of other stakeholders, especially of employees’ and this shareholder primacy approach is no longer viable or at least, conducive to the contemporary economy.

The second part will consider the regulation of companies through corporate governance, to promote the consideration of employee interests in the workings of a company. The current corporate law structure in the United Kingdom (the basis of law adopted in Brunei Darussalam) will be analysed to show that it prefers shareholder interests and fails in its role to protect the rights and interests of employees.

Following the line of reasoning from the first part of this paper about the failings of shareholder primacy, it will ultimately be argued that the role of company law within the corporate governance framework should be strengthened. Adopting a stakeholder approach in order to support company law’s role in protecting employee interests would then allow ordinary working people to have confidence that companies act responsibly to consider their interests, as deserved.