ACBI’s 2016 annual meeting was slated for January 2016 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The nation stretches 5,120 kilometers, with a population totaling around 260 million as of 2016: undoubtedly the most populated nation in the Southeast Asian region, and the world’s fourth largest country of all. Backed by its rich labor pool and tactic economic planning, the capital city of Jakarta and its surrounding areas has enjoyed robust growth at an unprecedented rate. The average age of the population is around 28 years old - boding well for the country that the large workforce could be a critical driver for further growth if properly educated and given opportunity.
Asian Chemical Biology Initiative 2016 Jakarta Meeting
Our excitement ballooned as the meeting dates neared. The pounding hearts, however, were collapsed by the news of a series of bomb and gun attacks in central Jakarta. As the incident was provoked only three weeks before the Jakarta meeting, ACBI board members argued whether or not the meeting should be held amid the turmoil. After due deliberation and discussion, the ACBI reached a bold conclusion: the meeting should be held as originally planned for continuing efforts to promote chemical biology in the region, while prioritizing the safety of all participants and guests.
On arriving at Jakarta, we found the city was safe as it was well patrolled by police on a frequent basis. ACBI meeting attendees, having visited Southeast Asian countries for four consecutive years, felt even comfortable with the tropical weather, congested cars, and honking bikes. The much anticipated ACBI 2016 Jakarta Meeting was thus convened from January 30-31, 2016 at Sultan Hotel Jakarta, with the purposes of fostering international collaborations, sharing research and educational resources, and streamlining chemical biology research in the region.
The first half of the Jakarta Meeting was closed-door scientific sessions, where 25 participants (18 from Japan, 3 from China, 1 from Singapore, and 3 guests from Indonesia) presented their ongoing research for 15 minutes each, including questions. Discussions and brainstorming continued and extended during coffee and lunch breaks, with the intention of grasping opportunities for joint projects. Due to the bomb incident, the Jakarta meeting ended with a smaller number of attendees, but on the bright side, the small size tuned out to be a threshold where meeting attendees could spend quality time together socializing and swapping ideas with each other.
A part of the Scientific Sessions was devoted to 3 researchers from Indonesia: Drs. Arry Yanuar and Ade Arsianti of University of Indonesia and Dr. Sophi Damayanti of Bandung Institute of Technology. They briefly presented their respective schools and ongoing research for 10 minutes each, and joined exchanging ideas for international collaborations and personnel exchange plans with the ACBI members.
Tutorial & Student Interview Sessions
To promote chemical biology in emerging countries of Southeast Asia, ACBI has been trying to proactively recruit students in good academic standing to the ﬁeld. Four months before the Jakarta meeting, Indonesian students majoring in chemistry and biology were invited to visit the ACBI website () to browse the member database and were encouraged to register for an interview opportunity of the Jakarta Meeting. From among the 55 applications received from the entire nation, 26 students were invited to attend the event held on January 31.
The afternoon event kicked off with 3 tutorial lectures by leading ACBI members. Topics covered were “Chemical Biology & Chemical Genetics” by Dr. Motonari Uesugi of Kyoto University, “Bioimaging” by Dr. Young-Tae Chang of National University of Singapore, and “Target Identification” by Dr. Minoru Yoshida of RIKEN. Their passion for chemical biology research resonated well with the students, many of whom had merely been exposed to the field before.
Following the tutorial lectures were interview sessions set up in a speed interviewing format. The ACBI professors had an opportunity to meet with about 8 students each and talk with them about research and scholarships for overseas graduate programs in chemical biology in individual countries or at speciﬁc institutions.
Overall, Indonesian students communicated well in English, being articulate about their future visions and career goals. Some of the ACBI professors were impressed with the vigorous discussions they had with the students and indicated a willingness to offer some students opportunities to study in their laboratories.
Despite the world’s reaction to the bomb and gun attacks in Jakarta, ACBI meeting attendees had a good time networking with local researchers and students, successfully expanding their network base in Indonesia. Through our visit to Jakarta amid the chaos, we were convinced that science education should be open, fair, and accessible to everyone regardless of nationality, religion, and beliefs; science education is a key priority for a nation to strengthen economic growth and industrial competitiveness; and science education is one of the core missions that train the next generation leaders in a non-biased and fair manner. Indonesia’s future is in the hands of the young generation – like the 26 bright students we met in Jakarta. Our hearts keep tumbling with excitement imagining what shape the country will be in after 10 to 20 years.