Prof. Dr. Hairul Azhar Abdul Rashid
Defining Mentorship with World-Class Guidance and Profound Knowledge
With the vision to be a dedicated academic and internationally recognized expert and leader in research, Prof. Hairul started his professional journey with teaching. Today, he is a well-known Malaysian professor affiliated with Multimedia University since 1997.
His educational profile is extensive with an electronics and electrical engineering background with Bachelors’ from University College London in 1994 and a Ph.D. from Multimedia University in 2007. His research area is focusing on specialty optical fibers for applications in telecommunications and sensing.
Currently, he is the Vice President of MMU, focusing on research and industrial collaboration and engagement. Dr. Hairul has served MMU for over 23 years in several leadership capacities including Director of Research Management Center, Dean of Research, and Director for Research Collaborations.
Both these areas are important for the university, especially in ensuring students the perfect exposure to industry and learning experience associated with the research mindset. He also overlooks the strategic planning, implementation, and monitoring of the university’s research pursuit.
With first-class professional experience and knowledge, he has been leading a group of researchers and colleagues pursuing various research projects ranging from specialty optical fibers for radiation sensing and distributed acoustic sensing to optical fiber amplifiers, receiving grants worth more than USD3 million from industries such as PETRONAS and Telekom Malaysia, as well as the Government of Malaysia.
He finds himself grateful to have worked with many talented students at the undergraduate and postgraduate level, as well as renowned collaborators and professors across the globe ranging from China, Australia, UK, and India. Resulting from these research and education endeavours, he has published more than 150 journal papers, 2 patents, and established 2 spin-off companies that commercialize the research output from the group.
An Overview about the University
The university was founded in 1997, when its parent, Telekom Malaysia Berhad, was given the task of establishing a university in Cyberjaya that would be able to help supply the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) with superior quality knowledge workers.
Its mission statement is “to inquire, inspire and innovate, via:
Education: Commit to learner-centered life-long learning
Research: Embrace intellectual curiosity to solve real-world problems
Entrepreneurship: Create value to the economy and society through technology”
Since its establishment, MMU has been fulfilling this purpose, producing more than 65,000 graduates. In recent years, MMU has been awarded the Premier Digital Tech Institution (PDTI) status by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), an acknowledgment of MMU’s capability to produce superlative quality graduates for digital-centric, tech-based, high-value jobs.
It has been often remarked, although anecdotally, that pursuing one of MMU’s programmes is akin to obtaining a passport to a land of outstanding prospects and lucrative opportunities.
MMU is a Government Linked University (GLU). On a global scale, it has bagged many winning titles and recognitions under its name for its prominent education presence in Malaysia.
MMU offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the fields of Engineering, Information & Communication Technology, Creative Multimedia, Cinematic Arts, Business & Management, Finance, Accounting, Law, and Strategic Communication. While MMU is naturally strong in the sciences, owing to its niche, the university is also the producer of several high-caliber graduates in the creative industries.
The Skill of Motivation
Born into a family of teachers, Hairul had deep roots in education. The aim of the university of “transforming society through innovation”, elevating the young minds, and uplifting the economic status of the society inspires me to be the best in my field.
After serving for 24 years, Hairul has come across talented alumni who are doing exceptional for themselves and contributing to the nation. “I am married to my better half, Dr. Arnifa Asmawi, who is also an academic, making the love for education even deeper. I find great motivation and find solace in finding support and confidence from my significant other”, concluded Hairul.
Additionally, he also constantly has engagement sessions with his team and colleagues, where there is always a free flow of thoughts and sharing of experiences. This allows a great deal of learning and empowerment among the team while motivating them to continue the pursuit of inculcating great education values.
A Walk down the Best Memory Lane
Hairul reminisces his best experiences related to research into specialty optical fiber radiation sensors or to be exact radiation dosimeters. It all started with a project looking into the fabrication of doped optical fiber which landed on a specialized application in radiotherapy, a treatment for cancer patients. After investing long hours of dedication students, colleagues, and collaborators, both from academia and industry have made significant steps establishing fundamental work in this area. “Putting an impact into the picture, we were blessed with the university’s entrepreneurial pursuit that led to the establishment of a spin-off company, Lumisyns Technologies Sdn bhd. Today, Lumnisyns is expanding, working on systems to measure Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) using specialty optical fibers that are prevalent in the oil and gas, and mining industries”.
And the Award goes to…
Blessed to have worked with a great team has led to Hairul being recognized with significant awards. Two of such are the Top Research Scientists Malaysia Award (TRSM) that he received from the Academy of Science, Malaysia in 2014. And the other is my appointment as the Advisor to the Deputy Minister, Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI), Malaysia in June 2020. Apart from their prestigious achievements, Hairul has won many awards, scholarships, recognition, and more under his name by exhibiting his excellent performance.
Conquering Obstacles for a Better Tomorrow
Having deep roots in education, Dr. Hairul’s first interest was teaching. He didn’t prefer research in the early days, with little exposure to the beauty and significance of the research. Thanks to the policy of the university that ensured all academics in the university pursued a higher degree that led to a Ph.D. this led to finding a new love in research which complemented the love for teaching. “My wife, who is also an academic, was and still is a great source of energy, which I find of great help when I hit a snag now and then. We continue to debate (as most academics do) but always, in the end, resulting in a surcharge and energy to move further.”
A Piece of Advice for Budding Students
The power lies in knowledge. Become an insightful student, there is a lot to discover. Dr. Hairul sincerely believes that anyone can be excellent and achieve great heights in any endeavor one takes.
Dealing with the COVID-19 Times
Just like other institutions and organizations, COVID-19 caught MMU by surprise. Fortunately, however, the university has long practiced distance education and online-based learning partially. That capability was part and parcel of MMU’s raison d'être, since the university was established upon the Malaysian government’s request to help lead the country into a knowledge-based economy, where physical presence is not requisite to a formal teaching and learning process.
So, when COVID-19 came onto the scene, the system was scaled up and applied across the board. The students have been able to progress as scheduled, and the final years have even been able to complete their studies.
The Promising Future
MMU has been positioned as a pathfinder, a trendsetting university in many ways. This is reflected in how it was the first to introduce several programmes that were entirely new to the nation. This has resulted in MMU graduates being among the most sought after in the Malaysian job market.
In other words, the university has always been in tune with the needs of the industry and their upcoming needs. In the years to come, MMU will still lead the way as it brings more new technologies and applications into the folds of academic programmes.