Preparing for Potential Tsunamis in Oman Issue 218 Department of Public

SQU Shines at Innovation Fair
Experience with a Live Volcano
Mind Over Matter
SQU Students’ Annual Trip Begins
News Update
Preparing for Potential
Tsunamis in Oman
Department of Public
Relations and Information
Sultan Qaboos University
Issue 218
View Point
Critical Perspectives
Increasing demands for greater accountability within higher education have
prompted institutions to more closely examine their academic programs and
practices to assess their quality, efficiency and impact on student learning
outcomes. A continuous, systematic evaluation process for reviewing
academic programs, and an assurance that results are being used towards
program improvement are equally important for any institution that aspires
to move forward in terms of quality in academic programs, research and
Khamis Rajab Al Busaidi
Editorial Supervision
Humaid Al Adwani
Editor -in-chief
M.K. Santhosh
Senior Editor
Younis Al Harrasi
Editor & Translator
Ahlam Al Wahaibi
Design & Layout
Rashad Al Wahaibi
& Photography Dept., CET
Review of academic programs should be a comprehensive process that enables
academic units to engage in a thorough evaluation of the status, strengths
and weaknesses of their degree programs; determine the extent to which
departmental and institutional goals and objectives are aligned; and, make
credible claims regarding educational outcomes. Through careful evaluation
and feedback from faculty and other stakeholders, as well as in-depth analysis
of quantitative and qualitative indicators of quality, institutions are able to
gather essential information that can be used to inform the decision- making
process and make modifications and improvements as necessary.
SQU is committed to educational excellence and the enhancement of its
academic programs. The primary purpose of review of academic and research
programs is to promote and maintain high quality undergraduate and
graduate programs and research that are effective, efficient and consistent
with the mission and resources of the university.
Recently, we got the opportunity to interact with a group of international
experts who were entrusted with the task reviewing different departments
of the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences. All of them expressed
satisfaction over the standards of the academic programs and the dedication
and commitment shown by the faculty and technical staff. We hope that the
results of the academic program review will provide evidence of the quality
and strength of the undergraduate and graduate degree programs of this
college and other colleges that go for external review process, and allow for
decisions to be made regarding program development, enhancement and
Horizon invites contributions from SQU members of staff and faculty. Contributions in the form of articles, news, travelogues, stories of unique and interesting experiences, encounters, etc., are welcome. Contributions may be edited
for the sake of clarity and length. Please send your contributions to preferably, as MSWord attachments. Authors will be suitably credited.
Horizon is published three times a month by the Department of Public Relations and Information,
Sultan Qaboos University, P.O. Box 50, P.C. 123, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
Phone: +968 24141045
30 May 2011 P2
Fax: +968 24413 391
SQU Students’ Annual Trip Begins
News Update
CESAR to Celebrate
Environment Day
The 14th annual overseas trip of the students of Sultan Qaboos University,
which are supported by the generous grant from His Majesty, commenced
on Friday, 27 May 2011. This year, the male student batch is visiting Ireland
and United Kingdom where as the female batch is touring different places in
the Republics of Germany and Austria. The students are selected for annual
student trips on the basis of their performance in academic and co-curricular
spheres. The idea behind organizing student trip annually is to familiarise the
students with the cultural and social aspects of different countries across the
HE Dr. Ali bin Saud al Bimani, Vice Chancellor of SQU, hoped that the trips
would benefit the participating students. He stressed that the trip is significant
considering its cultural, educational, social and entertainment dimensions.
The Vice Chancellor observed that the overseas trip would foster the spirit of
responsibility among the students. “The role that international trips play in
improving the self confidence levels of students cannot be ignored. The trips
will also increase one’s sense of belonging to his/her homeland”.
The Vice Chancellor advised the participating students to use this as an
opportunity to learn new cultures and civilisation and to witness the progress
and prosperity of the visiting nations. The entertainment aspect of the trips, he
said, would pave way for the students to come back to their respective colleges
with increased enthusiasm and dynamism. Dr. Al Bimani thanked His Majesty
for his unrelenting care and attention given to his sons and daughters.
The annual student trips are coordinated by the Deanship of Student Affairs.
This year, the male batch, consisting of 36 students and four staff members,
is led by Dr. Badr bin Hilal, Dean of Student Affairs, and the female batch
consisting of the same number of students and staff, is headed by Dr. Zakia al
Busaidi from the College of Medicine & Health Sciences.
The Center for Environmental Studies & Research (CESAR) at
Sultan Qaboos University is all set to organize World Environment
Day 2011 on June 5 with a series of activities. World Environment
Day is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global
day for positive environmental action. 2011 is the International Year
of Forests (IYF) and the theme of this year’s celebration is “Forests:
Nature at Your Service”. This year represents an opportunity
for evolving our work on sustainable forestry to a higher plain.
Forests cover one third of the earth’s land mass, performing vital
functions and services around the world which make our planet
alive with possibilities. In fact, 1.6 billion people depend on forests
for their livelihoods. They play a key role in our battle against
climate change, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere while
storing carbon dioxide.
SQU is celebrating World Environment Day in association with
the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs. The activities
will be held at Al Fahm Hall of SQU’s Cultural Center. In the
opening Ceremony, after the opening remarks of Dr. Mushtaque
Ahmed, Director of SQU CESAR, Dr. Annette Patzelt from Oman
Botanical Garden, will deliver the keynote speech titled “Forests in
Changing World” this will be followed by a short film on forests.
The second session is earmarked for talks and deliberations on
environmental issues. In this session, Prof. Faisal Taha, from the
International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture, UAE will deliver a
talk on the impact of climate change and agriculture in the Arab
world. Dr. Noreddine Ghaffour from King Abdullah University of
Sciences and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia will talk about the
environmental impact of desalination. The third session features
presentations on environmental management. Dr. Vincent Kotwicki
from Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research (KISR), Kuwait
will give a presentation on climate change and water resources
management. In addition to international experts, researchers
from the Ministry and SQU will deliver several presentations
during the sessions. According the CESAR sources, the latest issue
of CESAR Newsletter, SQU Environmental Research Digest, and
the Book of Abstracts of World Environment Day presentations
will be released on the occasion.
SQU Hosts Seminar on Reactive Power Control & Stability
on equipment for reactive compensation and voltage control and purchase
issues. Case studies pertaining to reactive power control in Real time and
system stability issues were also presented.
The Electrical & Computer Engineering Department in the College of Engineering
at Sultan Qaboos University recently organized a seminar on “Reactive Power
Control and Stability”. The event, held in association with Oman Society
of Engineers, and IEEE Oman Section, was sponsored by Oman Electricity
Transmission Company.
The seminar addressed operational problems and the types of reactive
power compensation equipment currently employed in both transmission
and distribution systems in GCC countries. The highlight of the seminar
was a presentation by Engr. John Bailey, who gave an overview of reactive
power control in transmission and distribution networks and relevant
sections of Oman transmission and distribution codes. He also elaborated
A communiqué issued by the organisers of the seminar said that the
domestic, commercial and industrial use of electricity will spread rapidly
across the globe in the ensuing years. “Today, generating stations of varying
types and size are installed and high voltage interconnected transmission
systems are evident in most parts of the world. Grid systems must be robust
enough to carry the power from generating stations to demand centres
under all reasonable conditions. Extreme system operating conditions are
more likely to occur in networks with long transmission lines or where such
networks are rapidly expanding to meet ever increasing demand. For sound
economic reasons system real power and reactive loading conditions tend to
be much closer to limits than in the past; loss of transmission or generation
in-feeds can more easily result in grid imbalance, causing power swings
and voltage control problems”.
At the end of the seminar sessions, Engr. Thani Al-Khusaibi, formally
announced the launching of the Oman Chapter of IEEE Power & Energy
Society. The IEEE Power & Energy Society (IEEE/PES) is a worldwide, nonprofit association of more than 24,000 individuals engaged in the electric
power energy industry.
30 May 2011 P3
By: Dr. B. Babu Madhavan
Research Scientist
SQU Remote Sensing and GIS Center
& T. Yanuma, Y. Sumikawa,
and T. Hatori, PASCO Corporation- Japan
The tsunami in Indian Ocean generated after the Sumatra earthquake
on 26 December 2004 provided wakeup call to the countries and people
living near the coastal areas for advanced preparedness of tsunami related
hazard. Accordingly, several scientists around the globe investigated this
particular tsunami and proposed simulation and related activities. For the
Pacific Ocean rim countries, beside their own warning centers, there is
advanced and well equipped international tsunami warning center,
explicitly, Pacific Tsunami Warning Center
1949. Besides, many countries, for example Japan, are equipped with
up- to-date hazard maps, and warning & advisories services. Subsequent
to the occurrence of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, nations like India and
Oman, as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO), initiated setting up an Indian Ocean tsunami
warning system. It is required that any tsunami mitigation by the Sultanate
of Oman should focus on its eastern coastline. Given that the Oman is a
coastal country, with the vast majority of its population and industry along
its coasts, the importance of developing and maintaining a tsunami warning
system should be evident, especially on the eastern coast. In conjunction
with the tsunami warning system, sea floor earthquake monitoring program
would also assist in detecting potential tsunami-generating events in the
The geography and geomorphology of the Sea of Oman, especially its
shallow depth and lack of historical tsunamis are interpreted to mean that
a tsunami in the Sea of Oman is very unlikely. On the other hand, experts
articulate that Oman cannot overlook tsunami threat. Studies show that the
potential of the disaster knocking Oman’s eastern coast from the Makran
subduction zone cannot be ruled out. Research work in Oman’s eastern
coast near Qalhat and Sur on coastal evolution and ancient harbors found
significant scientific evidence of the 1945 tsunami in Sur lagoon from shell
deposits to raise possibility of tsunami striking Oman in future. Fractured
shells deposits found in the area indicate the impact of tsunami or earthquake
in the sea.
Lastly, the public needs to be educated. In the past, this may have been
difficult, but given the tremendous awareness raised by the 2004 Indonesian
tsunami, the general public is far more likely to respond positively to the
distribution of information by public signs at beaches seafronts or in the
form of printed material. People who live in coastal settings should be given
information on the risks of that environment.
Tsunami Analysis Aid GIS System in Japan
In Japan, several robust Tsunami Analysis Aid Systems have been
created and existing for preparing Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
based tsunami hazard maps, which facilitate decision-making support
damage. By using such systems, it is possible to
create tsunami hazard map for planning disaster prevention or to plan the
location and height of civil infrastructures, which prevents tsunami
disaster. By predicting possible tsunami scale and potential inundation
areas, it is possible to establish suitable measures for reducing the damage
in tangible form and in an easy-to-understand fashion. Similar measures
have been developed, improved, and the results are published to the public
in Japan regularly. The procedure of compiling a hazard map comprises:
(1) establishing digital terrain model, (2) selecting possible earthquake, (3)
performing tsunami simulation (estimating inundation area), and (4)
creating tsunami hazard maps.
30 May 2011 P4
Preparing for Potential
Tsunamis in Oman
Considerations in creating a hazard map for Oman
Land topography and bathymetry data are essential; future possible
tsunami-generating earthquakes should be examined based on the latest
scientific achievements, not only past tsunami or earthquake data; social
conditions data (population, building, land use, etc.) are needed to establish
an evacuation plan.
Contents to be included in Hazard map
Inundation area to be used for identification of the vulnerable area or
evacuation route, etc.; expected arrival time of tsunamis after the occurrence
of the earthquakes; social information (such as schools, police stations, fire
stations, medical centers, public facilities) for evacuation area, emergency
countermeasures, etc.
Publication, dissemination and education of hazard maps
The hazard maps should be shared among all-stakeholders. People should
understand that the hazard information on the hazard map is not an actual
situation in future, but a possible estimation. Education to the people is
essential to make people use hazard maps properly. Local leader on disaster
management should be trained through “Training of Trainer” from central
/ local government to community levels. In order to establish the education
frame work, a pilot project in a designated area could be considered to
collect basic experiences and knowledge about how to implement “Training
of Trainer” efficiently. The final goal is tsunami damage reduction. To
accomplish the goal, tsunami hazard maps should be connected with proper
action and implementation of tsunami measures.
In Japan, sign boards based on tsunami hazard maps are erected all along
the coastal regions where people live or frequently visit. Sign boards
of evacuation routes, places for gathering (usually an elevated park or
ground), tsunami height (maximum wave height based on past records),
social information such as school, police station, fire station, medical centers,
and public facilities can be noticed. Japanese people are perfectly educated
on evacuation measures. Starting from primary schools to colleges, all the
students and parents are educated about the hazard maps by specialists.
All the news network channels in Japan are well equipped, have readyto-respond to hazards expertise by which alert the public with actual
happenings. For example once a tremor is felt, within a few seconds
people can watch flash news of the tremor with relevant maps showing
epicenter, the magnitude of the tremor and warning for any hazard. If the
situation is worrisome, Japanese people know what to do subsequently.
They keep exceedingly calm and wait for the authorities instructions. All
the shops will be ready to supply food (there will be always a very polite
queue in front of food shops). Hospital, fire and safety officers are perfectly
placed to deliver their services. Conversely, if the epicenter of tsunamigenic
earthquake is in close proximity to the coastal line, there is insufficient time
for mass-evacuation which has happened in the March 11, 2011 disaster.
Several free to use maps derived from advanced satellite images of the latest
Sendai tsunami have been posted at
For the last 7 years, Dr. B. Babu Madhavan had been functioning in a variety of senior
management roles at the rank of Director for the Tokyo based PASCO (world largest airsurvey corporation) and more recently as the President and CEO of its Indian operations.
He has nearly 20 years’ experience in research suitable for Satellite and Airborne surveying
industry. The author expresses his appreciation to Dr. Andy Kwarteng, Director-Remote
Sensing and GIS, for supporting the publication of this article.
Mind Over Matter
Experience with a Live Volcano
By: Dr. Sayyadul Arafin
Department of Physics
College of Science
and devastating’ then ashfall that follows an
eruption can perhaps be described as depressing
and nuisance. Ash fall is a health hazard and inhaling
volcanic ash can lead to many diseases linked to
the respiratory system. Frequent ashfalls from the
Montserrat volcano threatened the survival of the
local ecosystem. Whenever we went out of the observatory, we carried one set
of walkie-talkie with each group and a mask and head-gear for each individual.
People were cautioned to filter the air they breathe with either a damp cloth or
a face mask when facing an ash fall. Ashfall seemed to look like a ‘bizarre blizzard
from hell!’ Some people left the island to settle down elsewhere not because of
fear of volcanic eruption as such but the pain they had to go through in dealing
with ashfalls especially when it concerned keeping the house and the households
including food items for themselves and for their pets clean.
The capital city, Plymouth was considered most vulnerable to the ravages of
the volcano. The city was evacuated a few months after the phreatic explosion
in July, 1995 and the residents were taken to temporary shelters established
in schools and churches. The shelters with inadequate civic amenities were
all over-crowded. While the volcano was in calm stage, I along with other
colleagues of Seismic Research Unit tried to foster good relationships with
the authorities and the communities by giving lectures to civic and school
groups, and also the people living in the shelters.
Montserrat is a small volcanic island in the Caribbean sea. The island is one
of the last remaining colonies of the British Empire. The island measures
about 16km long and 11km wide giving an area of 100 square km and a
coastline of 40 km. The island remained relatively unknown to the outside
world until July 18, 1995 when its Soufriere Hill volcano erupted spewing
steam and ash in the sky. In the jargon of volcanology, this type of eruption
is termed as ‘phreatic’(steam related) eruption. The Montserrat volcano is
known as Soufriere volcano. Soufriere is a French word, which stands for
Montserrat lies on a destructive plate boundary where the North
American plate is forced down or subducted under the Caribbean plate.
As the American plate is forced down, pressure increases which triggers
earthquakes and at the same time heat produced by friction melts the
descending plate to form molten magma. The hot magma which is under
high pressure tries to push up to the surface and when it succeeds will
form a volcano like the one in Montserrat.
The idea was to make media and the people aware of the volcanic phenomena
in general and nature of possible volcanic hazards in particular. A well
informed public is less likely to get panicked and more likely to act rationally
in responding to governmental advisories and contingency measures in the
event of a volcanic emergency. Most of the people in the shelters looked
exhausted and scared. A sense of uncertainty gripped them all. It was very
difficult for some people, especially old people, to have to go through the
traumatic anguish when they saw the area they lived and loved had to be
abandoned making them homeless. Many people found it difficult to live
in a state of uncertainty that maligned their dignity. We tried to appease
them by narrating positive sides of a volcano. Volcano not only brings forth
destruction it also creates. There are about 500 active volcanoes worldwide
affecting half a billion people living around them. Over time, ashfall can
also lead to the creation of fertile soils suitable for supporting lush green
vegetation like the ones found in the Caribbean regions. The volcanic activity
in the Caribbean has created some of the ‘most beautiful paradise islands’
in the world and many islands in the region offer a diversity of landscapes
in a small area which together attract millions of tourists each year. There
was, at one point, a sense of mistrust and fury prevailing upon the people
of Montserrat with regard to the management of the volcanic crisis by the
politicians and the scientists working in the temporary Montserrat Volcano
Observatory. This happened when almost simultaneously two exaggerated
views on the safety of the public expressed by two scientists working
independently were published in the British and American media. One
report was on the danger of inhaling volcanic ash and the other about the
unpredictable behavior of the Montserrat volcano.
Soon after joining Seismic Research Unit (SRU) of the University of the
West Indies, Trinidad in July 1995, I was assigned duties in Montserrat
to assist in the monitoring of the volcano. I took this assignment as an
opportunity to work with a live volcano and preferred to work with
different monitoring teams such as Seismology, Electronic Distance
System(GPS) and Visual Observation. In the initial stages of the volcanic
crisis, scientists from Seismic Research Unit to which I belonged, UK and
USA were involved in the monitoring.
As it became quite clear to the scientists that the nature of the restlessness
of the volcano was indicating towards a big event, they informed the civil
authorities of the worst-case scenario in which the dome of the volcano could
collapse generating pyroclastic flows. Pyroclastic flows are a catastrophic
eruption of a mixture of scorching dense gases and rocks that would roll
down the slopes of a mountain at about 200 km per hour, incinerating
and flattening everything in its path. Pyroclastic flows are perhaps the
most destructive weapon in nature’s arsenal, capable of destroying cities
in seconds. It was such a catastrophe that destroyed the Roman town of
Pompeii in AD 79 and a similar one was in the waiting to show its power of
destruction in Montserrat.
The volcano became restless after the July 18, 1995 phreatic explosion. It was
erupting since then frequently though not violently, mostly spewing steam and
ash accompanied by rockfalls. If volcanic eruption is described by ‘spectacular
(The second part of this article will be published in the next issue of Horizon)
30 May 2011 P5
News Round Up
International Experts Satisfied
Over CAMS’ Standards
Prof. Sharon Smith
Prof. Mary Harris
Prof. Abdelfattah Nour
Three international experts who were entrusted with the task of reviewing the
academic programs and research in various departments of the College of
Agricultural & Marine Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University expressed their
satisfaction over the standards of the programs in the college. SQU has realised
that external reviews of academic programs are a useful and valuable means of
protecting quality in higher education as they can generate suggestions for program
improvement that are both specific and practical.
Mary Harris, Professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
at Colorado State University, who reviewed the Department of Food Science
& Nutrition said that the exercise of reviewing the programs is in line with the
mission of SQU to become a world class university. “We have been asked to review
the programs, expertise and quality of research within the department. Improving
the quality of programs in agriculture is important in ensuring food security.
The extent of food security is not limited to access to adequate amount of food;
the term involves adequate knowledge in nutrition to promote the health of the
people”, she said. The nation needs well-qualified dietitans who could serve at
both primary and tertiary care levels. Being the national university, SQU should
take the responsibility of properly training professions in human dietetics. Mary
observed that SQU is always open towards the realm of raising the quality of its
academic programs.
Sharon L. Smith, Professor in the Department of Marine Biology & Fisheries at the
University of Miami, evaluated the programs and research in the Department of
Marine Sciences & Fisheries. “Our mission was to evaluate the courses, looking at
the curricula, quality of text books prescribed, exams given, student evaluation,
so on”. Prof. Smith has been associated with this department since 2005 through a
collaborative research that investigates the effect of climate change on the Indian
Ocean. Being an ocean biologist, she is looking at the impact of climate change on
biological production in the sea.
As part of the evaluation process, Prof. Smith interviewed the faculty members,
technical staff, and students in the Marine Sciences & Fisheries Department.
“The department offers a lot courses which gives students more flexibility in
picking up the courses they are interested. The overseas internship program
introduced by the department offers students the opportunity to putting their
skills into practice and facing real challenges, exposing them to different cultures
and work environments”, Prof. Smith added. She lauded the faculty member’s
successful efforts in striking a perfect balance between teaching and research in
their tightly packed work schedule. Prof. Smith observed that Marine Sciences
and Fisheries is very important for a country like Oman, considering its long
coastline. “Considering introduction of new programs in Fisheries Oceanography,
Meteorology and Physical Oceanography would be worthwhile to cater for the
raising need of experts in these fields”, she added.
Abdelfattah Y. M. Nour, Professor of Basic Medical Sciences in the Department of
Basic Medical Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine in Purdue University,
USA, reviewed the programs and research in the Department of Animal &
Veterinary Sciences. He expressed satisfaction over the dedication of the faculty
members and technical staff in the department and suggested the idea of setting up
clinical lab for Veterinary Technology Graduates to receive more hands-on training
in clinical skills.
30 May 2011 P6
SQU Team Discovers Bones
of Elephant Ancestors in Oman
The Omani Barytherium is the first one to be found in
Oman and represent the oldest ancestors of elephant
(Barytherium). It was found in Aidum area in Dhofar
by the Ministry of Heritage and culture and brought to
SQU for identification. A group of geologists from SQU
(Prof. Dr. Sobhi Nasir, Dr. Abdulrahman Al Harthy,
from SQU and Dr. Erick Seifert from the Stoony Brook
University, USA) visited the area and found a large area
of elephant bones as known as elephant grabs where
they found and collected large quantities of bones to be
identified. The group of researchers from SQU, Stony
Brook and the Ministry of Heritage are still working
on these bones and they are expecting new discoveries
in the area. They said that this finding is extremely
important as it give the first evidence of the oldest
ancestor of elephant found in the world. The scientists
named the new finding as Barytherium Omansi.
Barytherium (meaning heavy beast) is a genus of an
extinct family (Barytheriidae) of primitive proboscidean
that lived during the late Eocene and early Oligocene
in North Africa. The Barytheriidae were the first large
size proboscideans to appear in the fossil records and
were characterized by a strong sexual dimorphism.
The only known species within this family is
Barytherium grave, found at the beginning of the 20th
century in the Fayum, Egypt. More complete specimens
have been found since then, at Dor el Talha Libya.
In some respects, these animals would have looked
similar to a modern Asian Elephant, but with a more
slender build. The most visible difference, however,
would have been the tusks Barytherium had eight very
short tusks, four each in the upper and lower jaws,
which resembled those of a modern hippopotamus
more than those of an elephant. The upper pairs were
vertical, while the lower pairs projected forwards from
the mouth horizontally. Together, these would have
created a shearing action for cropping plants.
Paleontologists know a lot more about Barytherium’s
tusks, which tend to preserve better in the fossil
record than soft tissue, than they do about its trunk.
This prehistoric elephant had eight short, stubby
tusks, four in its upper jaw and four in its lower jaw,
but to date no one has unearthed any evidence for its
proboscis (which may or may not have looked like
that of a modern elephant). Bear in mind, though,
that Barytherium wasn’t directly ancestral to modern
elephants; rather, it represented an evolutionary side
branch of mammals combining elephant-like and
hippo-like characteristics.
SQU Shines at Innovation Fair
Dr. Haider Al Lawati
Mustafa Barami
SQU won the first and second places the best innovation projects
exhibited at the first ever Innovation Fair (INFOM) organised by the
Industrial Innovation Centre (IIC) in February this year at Grand
Hyatt Muscat. The IIC aims at supporting industrial projects in the
Sultanate and linking them with local, regional and international
research centres in order to underline the importance of co-operation
in developing industries, as well as to find sustainable means to
spread the culture of innovation and activate it in the Omani industrial
HH Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq al Said, Advisor to His Majesty, the Sultan,
honoured the winners of the innovation contest held on the sidelines
of the fair. Dr Haider bin Ahmed Al Lawati, Assistant Professor in the
Department of Chemistry of the College of Science at SQU won first
place as he improvised a tool for chemical analysis, while Mustafa
bin Salim Barami, a graduate from the same department won second
place for his project on extracting paper from palm fronds.
Dr. Haider’s Project using Lab on a Chip Technology
A fast, economic and sensitive method has been developed for the
analysis of a known antihistamine (cetrizine hydrochloride) in
pharmaceutical formulations and in biological fluids using a novel
microdevice that is based on a new technology known as Lab On a
Chip (LOC).
LOC are devices that process or manipulate small amount of fluids (106 to 10-18 liters) using channels with dimensions of tens to hundreds
of micrometers (a micrometer is 10-3 millimeters). Because LOC
devices uses very minute quantity of solvents (nanoliters) compared
to the quantities used in the current methods; it reduces the chemical
consumption by a factor of thousand to more than hundred thousand.
You can imagine that the volume of one drop of a liquid is almost
greater than ten thousand nanoliters. Therefore, this system leads to
generation of extremely minute hazardous wastes and reduces the
cost of analysis considerably. Additionally, these devices have many
unique advantages afforded by the reduced dimensions compared to
the standard analysis methods. This is due to the new capabilities in
the control of concentrations of molecules in space and time, which
leads to a high degree of control, higher purity and sensitivity, better
selectivity and reduced analysis time. For instance an analysis that
takes about an hour using the traditional methods will be performed
in few minutes using LOC devices. Moreover, the technique offer
opportunity to have a portable laboratory so you can take your
laboratory -like taking your notebook- to the site of the analysis rather
than bringing your sample to the laboratory. Using this technology a
novel device was made that can analyze up to 180 samples per hour,
consuming only micro-litters (1/100000 litter) quantities of reagents
per analysis.
Paper from Date Palm Leaves
The project deals with using date palm leaves, which is generally
avoided as a waste material, for producing paper pulp. Date palm
population in the GCC countries is around 100 million which is capable
of producing three million tonnes of palm leaves annually. “The
process of paper making from palm leaves is techno-economically
more acceptable. Applying this project in the GCC region can
contribute to about one per cent of the world production of paper
which is considered as a good share and it will be enough to supply
about half of our local need of paper,” Mustafa said.
Abandoning date palm leaves causes several environmental issues as
decomposition of the leaves results in the emission of carbon dioxide
and other unwanted gases into the atmosphere. The idea of Mustafa
is to utilise this waste material for producing a useful thing such as
paper products including printing paper, tissue paper, envelopes,
paper bags and even cartons. Replacing plastic bags with paper bags
helps reduce plastic pollution. Mustafa said that date palm leaf, a
sustainable agri-residue is an excellent raw material for making pulp
and paper of various grades due to the presence of cellulose content
in it.
“We have done laboratory tests producing different qualities of paper
from date palms. Our plan is to do the economical study and scale it
up to take it up for commercialisation. I would extent my thanks to
Dr. Al Saeed Al Shafi of Chemistry Department who supervised me
in this project,” he said.
30 May 2011 P7
Straight Talk
Horizon: How would you underline the importance of sleep medicine
as a medical
Dr. Nabil: Sleep medicine is a subspecialty devoted to the diagnosis and therapy
of sleep disturbances and disorders. Since 1960s, research has provided increasing
knowledge and answered many questions about sleep-wake functioning. The rapidly
evolving field has become a recognized medical subspecialty in some countries.
Disorders and disturbances of sleep are widespread and can have significant
consequences for affected individuals as well as economic and other consequences
for society. The main objective of the National Symposium on Sleep Medicine was
to increase the awareness of people, medical community and the policymakers in
Oman on sleep disorders, especially Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) which affects 4
percent of males and 2 percent of females worldwide. In fact, we don’t have the exact
figures of patients affected by this disease in Oman; however, the probability is to
have a similar prevalence rate.
Horizon: The symposium seems to have give much importance to OSA? Is this the
most common sleep disorder?
Dr. Nabil: Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder which is caused by several
psychological and environmental factors such as alcohol addiction, anxiety, stress, etc.
It can be classified as a psychosocial rather than a physiological or organic disorder.
OSA is a condition in which pauses in breathing occur during sleep because the
airway has become narrowed, blocked, or floppy. This disease has numerous medical
and psycho-social consequences and direct impact of the well being of the patient.
OSA is most often under-diagnosed and consumes a lot of health care resources. If
the disease is diagnosed on time and treatment started, the burden on the health
care system can be reduced by as much as 50 percent. OSA is also associated with
economic and social consequences. Since the patients lack proper sleep during
night, they are prone to daytime sleepiness and because of this, people with sleep
apnea have an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents from driving while sleepy
and industrial accidents from falling asleep on the job. Untreated obstructive sleep
apnea may lead to, or worsen, cardiovascular disease, such as arrhythmias, heart
failure, high blood pressure and stroke.
Horizon: What are the causes of sleep apnea?
Dr. Nabil: The etiology of this disease is not fully understood. Risk factors include
male gender, obesity and narrow upper airways. Men are more likely to have
obstructive sleep apnea than women before age 50. Among obese patients, 70%
have obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea worsens in severity and
prevalence with increasing obesity. Among patients with heart disease 30% to 50%
have obstructive sleep apnea, and among patients with resistant hypertension qand
polycystic ovearian disease 60-80% have obstructive sleep apnea.
Horizon: Is OSA a hereditary disease?
Dr. Nabil: A good hereditary component is there. If the first degree relatives of a
person has OSA, there are 20 percent chances for him or her to inherit the disease.
Age is one of the risk factors, hence this disease is more common among adults
rather than children.
Horizon: Do we have enough OSA treatment facilities in Oman?
Dr. Nabil: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is probably the best, nonsurgical treatment for any level of obstructive sleep apnea. In finding a treatment
for obstructive sleep apnea, the primary goal is to hold the airway open so it does
not collapse during sleep. CPAP uses air pressure to hold the tissues open during
sleep. The CPAP machine is a little larger than a toaster. It is portable and can be
taken on trips. One unit cost around RO 500 and can last up to five years. At present a
patient has to wait for at least 6 months to get this treatment as sleep medicine units
are available in one or two hospitals. The need of the hour is to expand the sleep
medicine services in the hospitals. The CPAP machines are not funded by government
due to lack of provisions in this regard. Now the Sleep Medicine units depend on
financial support from non-governmental organizations to purchase the machines.
Considering the psycho-social and economic consequences of this disease, it is high
time the government implemented policies to expand the sleep medicine units in
the health services sector.
Dr. Nabil Al Lawati is a Senior Consultant in Respiratory & Sleep Medicine
at the Royal Hospital in Muscat. He was one of the organizing committee
members of the 2nd National Symposium on Sleep Medicine, organised
by SQU Hospital and Oman Respiratory Society, held at SQU from 4th to
5th of May 2011. Horizon spoke to Dr. Nabil Al Lawati on different aspects
of sleep medicine with special reference to the Sultanate of Oman.
Dr. Nabil M. Al Lawati