Straight Talk
Horizon: What is the challenge faced by private companies with regard
to hiring university students for training?
Mohammed bin
Ahmed Al Riyami
Mohammed bin Ahmed Al-Riyami is
the Senior Manager, Career Planning at
Oman Telecommunications Company
(Omantel). Al Riyami gave a talk on
student training in private sector companies and employee engagement at the
Cooperation Day organized by Sultan
Qaboos University in order to strengthen its ties with government and private
organizations with focus on field training of students. This interview is based
on Al Riyami’s talk at the opening ceremony of the Cooperation Day event.
Al-Riyami: Training of university and college students poses many
challenges. These are not limited to the educational institutions but also
include sectors that train these students. If we take the private sector as an
example, one of the biggest challenges that the private sector faces is the
growing demand of training students in a short period which is during
the summer break. This challenge can possibly affect the quality of training provided to these students because of the large number of trainees
who seek training opportunities at the same time and in the same place.
Horizon: What is your advice for the students who take up practical
training in various organizations?
Al-Riyami: From the practical experience that I have gained in the field
of management and human resource development, I would like to encourage our students to pay their attention to the practical training and
take their training seriously and choose the institutions that have similar field of study and interest. This will allow the students to learn and
sharpen their professional skills and be able to transfer what they have
learned in their courses to real life practical environment. Furthermore,
some institutions might target trainees who proved that they have great
merits and credentials and ready to join the labor market.
Horizon: Do you have any advice for educational institutions with regard to student training?
Al-Riyami: The educational institutions should focus more on the practical training for students and not restrict it to the summer period. They
should also ensure that the institutions are able to train the students and
make them acquire the necessary skills required to successfully complete
their training period.
Horizon: Nowadays companies pay a lot of attention to employee engagement. How would you comment on this?
Al-Riyami: The private sector focuses on many aspects during the process of employing graduates of the higher educational institutions such
as assessing the behavior of the individual, the educational skills, the ability to solve problems, the ability to work in teams, and vigilance. This
is because many organizations rely heavily on the extent to which the
graduate is able to fit into its environment and culture. Therefore, “employee engagement” has become the goal of human resource managers
to propagate loyalty within their employees. For example, Omantel has
demonstrated a great interest in the investment of its human resources
and carried out several projects and initiatives such as training, scholarship, career development, talent management, and the cultivation of
the performance culture. As a result, the company has achieved a rate of
more than 90% in the staff career affiliation.
Horizon: How do companies HR departments ensure personal and professional development of employees?
Al-Riyami: The HR departments in leading institutions have been playing an important role in attracting staff and graduates to work in their
institutions and making their institutions the ‘Employer of Choice’. Many
organizations have given great attention to their employees and support
projects that create opportunities for their personal and professional development. These organizations also believe that success and progress
are led by employees and; therefore, institutions aspire to support a new
culture that ensures the improvement of work, social, educational and
physical aspects with the aim of instilling important values of loyalty,
satisfaction and job affiliation. Among these initiatives is the Employee
Value Proposition (EVP) which focuses on the benefits, compensation
and material and moral offers in any organization apart from the salary such as: work environment in the company; bonuses and benefits;
management; training and career development; opportunities for career
advancement; new and updated policies of the company; administrative
Therefore, this creates a balance between what the employee provides in
terms of his time, expertise and effort and what is given to him in terms
of rewards in addition to the moral and material benefits in an effort to
promote loyalty and enhance the career affiliation of the employee. This
also helps institutions, on the other hand, to focus on attracting the exceptional and talented staff and create suitable environment to unleash those
talents, capabilities and expertise which, in turn, contributes positively to
how staff value their organization.
30 January 2015
Winter Bug is in; Know it
Bacteria to Produce Value added Products from Waste
Mind Over Matter
Council Briefed on Academic Promotion Committee’s Work
News Update
Prospects for
Microalgal Biofuel
Department of Public
Relations and Information
Sultan Qaboos University
Issue 306
View Point
Technology versus
Technology is changing society in many ways. Technology changes society
deeply, but in ways to which we become so habituated that we hardly notice
them. First radio and then television have brought to children concepts and
points of view to which they would not have been exposed at the turn of the
century. Today children interact with laptops, smartphones, I-Pads and so many
other gadgets which are the outcomes of the information and communication
technology revolution.
Mohamed Salem Al Ghailani
Editorial Supervision
Santhosh Muthalath
Senior Editor
Sara Al Gheilani
Nasebah Al Muharrami
Ahlam Al Wahaibi
Design & Layout
Photography Dept., CET
Salim Al Sudairi
Technology, has been a highly constructive force in the development of intelligence in human beings especially children. It has made it possible for them
to experience events and even virtual worlds that were never available to their
parents when they were children. Technology is helping to raise levels of intelligence and even reshaping what intelligence is. Increasingly, the intelligence
one needs for coping with the environment will involve complex, higher-order
thinking skills rather than routine, lower-order skills.
As technology increases the importance of higher-order thinking skills and decreases the importance of lower-order and more common ones, there is a risk
of socioeconomic polarization of societies. For instance, an effective secretary
today, for example, must have the conceptual and technological skills to use
sophisticated word-processing machinery effectively; the job has gone up scale.
But to operate most cash registers, one needs only to be able to scan a bar code—
no longer does one need to add, subtract, multiply, and divide; the job has gone
downscale. And more and more middle-level jobs, such as those of telephone
operator and bank teller, are dying out as technology does what was formerly
done by humans. As a society, we need to be prepared for the changes to come.
We need to educate all our students so that they do not get left out in the technological cold. We need to develop not only their technological skills but their
conceptual ones as well.
Technology can bring a wonderful future to our children. But we have to shape
it and teach children how to use it effectively and constructively. We need to
remember that technology will not be a substitute for intelligence. It will change
levels of intelligence and even what intelligence is. As educators we should ensure that the changes are for the better and not for the worse.
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 [email protected] preferably, as MSWord attachments. Authors will be suitably credited.
The views and opinions expressed in the articles published in this newsletter are those of the authors
and are not to be construed as the official views of the publication. 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
E-mail: [email protected]
30 January 2015
Fax: +968 24413 391
Winter Bug is in; Know it
By: Mrs. Sheeba Elizabeth J.
MCH Department
College of Nursing
“Vacation” is the most happiest word for all school going kids especially
the winter vacations where the cool breeze blow in the face and it is an ideal
time to make a family trip too. Parents are busy searching online for tourist
destinations, booking tickets , applying leaves and packing their bags for
the adventurous trip for enjoying. This is when the winter bug comes in
and spoils the scene. Bags are packed but not for the trip but for the hospital
also cause inflammation of the stomach and intestinal lining called as acute
gastroenteritis .The bug has short life span and hence should be dead by 2 or
3 days. But if the symptom persists for more than a week then appropriate
treatment with hospital admission is advisable. The main risk from norovirus is dehydration. It is more of a risk in the very young and the elderly.
Severe dehydration can lead to low blood pressure and kidney failure and
in some cases, It can even be fatal.
Winter Bug – A type of Norovirus
The winter bug is a group of norovirus sometimes also known as the winter vomiting bug. Norovirus is a genus of single-stranded RNA, non-enveloped viruses in the calciviridae family. Winter vomiting disease affects
nearly 267 million people and causes over 200,000 deaths each year worldwide. It affects all age groups of people and at any time of the year. It tends
to be more common in winter, hence the name. It is interesting that, the
virus particularly likes people with the blood group “O” which constitutes
about 45 percent of the population.
Managing the Disease
The following are the important things to be done if you are suspecting
winter vomiting disease.
The Winter Battle
As the winter sets in mostly in December, the climate becomes inclement
with chillness everywhere. People huddle together for warmth and that is
the fastest way of spreading the virus. It is easily contracted from closed
environments like schools, hospitals, day care centers and cruise ships. Norovirus is extremely contagious and easily transmitted through contact with
infected individuals from one person to another by shaking hands, shared
food or utensils, consumption of contaminated food or water, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with Norovirus, and then placing their hands
in the mouth. It can be found in toilet seats, handles etc. Infected individuals are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least 3 days
after recovery. Some people may be contagious for as long as 2 weeks after
recovery. People who have a weakened immune system are particularly
susceptible to catching noroviruses.
Global Burden of Norovirus
A news report appeared recently in Times of Oman says that about 1.1 million people in Britain has succumbed to winter vomiting disease this season. Though Norovirus are commonly found in very cold countries still this
stomach bugs sweeps countries like Oman which was reported in a news
update by ‘Oman Tribune’ that the country is seeing the rise of winter
vomiting disease as reported by doctors of various hospitals.
Waves of nausea and vomiting
The first sign of norovirus is usually a sudden sick feeling, nausea, forceful
or projectile vomiting and watery diarrhea followed by a raised temperature (over 38C/100.4F), headaches, lethargy, painful stomach cramps, aching limbs. Symptoms
usually appear one to two days after
a person become
infected but they can start sooner.
make a full recovery within a
couple of days. Norovirus can
Water – the best Medicine: It is a well-known health fact that water is a good
medicine to keep diseases away . Especially with vomiting being a main
symptom, dehydration can occur . Drinking plenty of warm water helps to
keep one hydrated.
Home Food – Safe Food: Though the mind gets tempted to eat out, it is
always safe to consume food prepared hygienically at home.
Consume colourful Friends – Fruit and Vegetables: Nature by itself is a
good doctor and has blessed man with a lot of colourful fruits and vegetables each one rich in its own way. But a combination of these in the form of a
soup and salad can work wonders for developing immunity to fight against
theses stomach bugs. They are easily digestable too.
Hand washing – The Gold Standard: Washing hands frequently is not only
mandatory for the health care workers who deal with the patients but to all
as part of good hygiene practice. The hands are the most infected parts of
the body and can transmit the virus fast. It is ideal to wash with hot water
and good antiseptic soap. Do it after using the restroom , before and after
eating and whenever the hands look dirty.
Disinfection: Keep the surfaces and objects that are contaminated clean by
using disinfectants.
Doctor – Your Friend: If the symptoms are severe and puts one
down, it is good to fix an appointment with the doctor
and take the treatment.
No Handshakes: If a person is suspected to have
the winter bug, be it a friend or the boss avoid
handshakes because the virus spreads faster
through a person to person contact.
30 January 2015
News Round Up
Dept.of Finance Adjudged
as Best Unit
Sultan Qaboos University recently organized a function to honor three
administrative units and their employees for excellence in performance.
The ceremony was held under the patronage of Prof. Amer bin Ali Al Rawas, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Postgraduate Studies & Research. The
Department of Finance was selected as the best administrative unit in the
university. The SQU Printing Press came second and the Department of
Administrative Affairs got the third place. The winning departments were
honored and the employees were given cash awards and gifts.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Hamed bin Sulaiman Al Salmi, SQU Deputy
Vice Chancellor for Administrative & Financial Affairs, said that honoring the administrative units and encouraging the employees would be an
incentive for them to put more efforts in serving the university and its
students. “This decision to honor the departments for outstanding performance came out of the concern for comprehensive development of the
university and to improve the services offered by various administrative
units to the staff, students and the community outside. This gesture is expected to encourage the employees to exert more efforts and simplify the
administrative procedures and achieve quality performance and speedy
delivery of services”, he said.
A special committee was formed at the university level to form the criteria
and to select the best administrative units.
Students Set off
for Australia
Two groups of outstanding students selected from different colleges of
Sultan Qaboos University stared their two week long trips to Australia
on Monday, 26 January 2015. The trip is organized by Deanship of Student Affairs at SQU, with support from His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin
Said for the annual students trip for those students who excel in academic and extracurricular activities. The trip is aimed at familiarizing
the students with the programs and activities of reputed universities
and introduce them to the cultural traits of various countries by taking
them to places of social and historical significance.
Commenting on the overseas trip of students, H.E Dr. Ali bin Saud Al
Bimani, the Vice Chancellor of SQU said: “The annual trip for outstanding students in academic and extracurricular fields is considered as a
reward for their efforts and that reflects the support of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said for SQU’s students. Dr. Al Bimani Also mentioned
the importance of this trip, how it enriches the students’ knowledge,
acquiring new experiences through informing the students about the
cultural and historical sites of other countries. “It also has cultural,
educational and social dimensions which form the student’s personality. We choose Australia this year because of its cultural, historical and
natural landmarks”.
About the selection process, Dr. Al Bimani mentioned that the University does not choose students who excel in academic field alone, but
it gives the opportunity for students who excel in various students
activities organized by the Deanship of Student Affairs and the colleges in order to encourage to be more creative and innovative. The Vice
Chancellor expressed his gratitude and appreciation to His Majesty for
supporting and rewarding the students. He is also thanks those who
contributed in the planning and preparation for this trip. He hoped that
the students would benefit from the overseas trip and be good ambassadors of the Sultanate of Oman and Sultan Qaboos University abroad.
The group of male students is headed by Dr. Yousif bin Salem Al Hinai,
the Dean of Student Affairs, which consist of 40 students and a number of administrative staff, while the female group is headed by Dr.
Humaira Sulaiman Al Sulaimani, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs for
Social Services and comprises 40 students and a number of administrative staff.
SQU to host the IEEE GCC Conference
aims to convene practitioners and students alike all over the world from
various industries, academic and research institutes on multidisciplinary
background. The key objective of this gathering is to present, discuss and
review the challenges and developments confronting the dynamic world of
electrical and electronics engineering. Tutorials, workshops and industrial
exhibitions on the theme “Towards Sustainable Smart Solutions” will also
be showcased.
History will unfold in the capital city of the Sultanate on 1-4 February,
2015 as it hosts the IEEE GCC Conference and Exhibition at Sultan Qaboos
University, represented by the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, for the first time on its 8th biennial succession. Sultan Qaboos
University and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Oman – a professional organization under the auspices of Oman Society of
Engineers (OSE) – take great honor and pride for having been chosen to organize this momentous technical event, which is considered to be the most
prominent and premiere gathering of Electrical, Electronics and Computer
Engineering professionals in the GCC region. H.E. Dr. Ahmed Al-Futaisi,
Minister of Transport & Communications is anticipated to inaugurate and
grace the event, while H.E. Mohammed Al-Mahrouqi, Chairman of Public
Authority for Electricity and Water, is the honorary chair of the conference.
This internationally-recognized conference, which has already been held
and organized in other GCC states of UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain,
30 January 2015
With 208 submitted technical papers from 20 different countries around the
world, the conference involves a number of tracks in the fields of Power
Systems & Energy, Communications, Computer & IT, Control & Industrial
Technology, and Engineering Education & Development. Additionally, a
special track is dedicated to Industrial Challenges & Applications. A total
of 111 accepted papers will be presented in the track above. Additionally,
IEEE will be officially represented by IEEE Past President “Prof. J. Roberto
de Marca”, a representative from IEEE Region-8, and two distinguished
Prof. Ahmed Al Naamany, conference chair, has stated that “Participants
look at IEEE-GCC conference as an event to gain and exchange technical
expertise at the same time managers tend to look at the conference as means
to improve their staff professional standing and know-how. Similarly, the
conference allows significant industry-academic interaction and networking, which can materialize into applied research collaborations – something
that our region highly demands.”
News Update
SQU, Cardiff University to
Promote Ties
Sultan Qaboos University and Cardiff University, UK, has agreed on
boosting cooperation in different spheres including student and staff
exchanges, and collaborative research. A discussion in this regard was
held between H.E. Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani, the Vice Chancellor of
SQU and Prof. Colin Riordan, President and Vice Chancellor of Cardiff
University recently.
The two sides agreed on initiating collaboration by facilitating academic and student exchanges between the universities and taking up
joint research in medicine, nursing and engineering. The two universities will further explore the possibilities of medical and nursing students’ internships through exchange of students. H.H. Sayyidah Dr.
Mona bint Fahad Al Said, SQU Assistant Vice Chancellor for International Cooperation, and officials from Cardiff University, who accompanied Prof. Colin Riordan, also attended the discussions. Founded in
1883, Cardiff University is established as one of the Britain’s leading
research universities. The university has a diverse student population
with students coming from more than 100 countries and with a range
of backgrounds. Cardiff University is ranked in the UK’s top 25 in the
Complete University Guide, and among the top 125 Universities in the
world in the QS World Rankings.
Brunei Deputy Minister
Visits SQU
H.E. Dato Paduka Haji Ali Haji Apong, Deputy Minister, Prime Minister’s Office and Chairman of Brunei’s Economic Development Board
(BEDB) and accompanying delegation was received at Sultan Qaboos
University recently. The delegation visited the TRC Chair in Nanotechnology for Water Desalination and its facilities. The delegation was received by Prof. Amer bin Ali Al Rawas, SQU Deputy Vice Chancellor
for Postgraduate Studies & Research, and senior researchers from the
College of Engineering and the Water Research Centre.
H.E. Dato Paduka Haji Ali Haji Apong was briefed about the research
and facilities at the TRC Chair in Nanotechnology by Chair Professor
Dr. Joydeep Dutta. The Deputy Minister said that he was impressed
with the quality of water research and the facilities at Sultan Qaboos
University. “Brunei is one of the countries in the world with highest
per capita water consumption. We would like to learn from the efficient
water extraction and consumption practices in Oman. I hope that scientists from Brunei University can collaborate with SQU counterparts
in water research. SQU has excellent facilities for water related research
and ample support from the government in promoting research in this
area”, H.E. Dato Paduka Haji Ali Haji Apong said.
SQU, US Medical Centre
Explore Ties
Council Briefed on Academic
Promotion Committee’s Work
A delegation from Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Centre USA, headed by
its President Wayne Keathley visited Sultan Qaboos University recently in order to strengthen ties between the two institutions in medical
education and patient services fields. The US medical delegation was
received by HH Sayyidah Dr. Mona bint Fahad Al Said, SQU Assistant
Vice Chancellor for International Cooperation, and other officials.
The second meeting of Sultan Qaboos University Council for the academic year 2014-2015 was chaired by H.E. Dr. Rawyah bint Saud Al
Busaidi, Minister of Higher Education and Chairperson of the SQU
Council on 19 January 2015.
The two sides discussed on boosting the ties between the two institutions through partnership in patient services and education. The discussions focused more on training opportunities for cardiac care and
cardiac surgery specialists and technicians at SQU in the US Medical
Centre. They also discussed on promoting exchange of medical students to do internship, and collaboration in medical research. Earlier,
the Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Centre officials held talks with senior officials from the College of Medicine & Health Sciences at SQU and SQU
The Council was briefed on the work of the university’s academic promotions committee and discussed a proposal to develop the corporate
identity of SQU. The council agreed on the mechanisms that must be
followed before starting to implementing the proposal. The Council reviewed the proposal for the charges of the services of preparing and
analyzing of samples at the Central Analytical and Applied Research
Unit (CAARU) at the College of Science. The Council stressed the need
to study and standardize the charges at all units of the University. A
presentation was given on the provision of information network at the
30 January 2015
Prospects for Microalgal
Biofuel Production in Oman
Dr. Lamya Adnan Al-Haj
The production of liquid fuels from biological material or ‘biomass’ is
gaining popularity across the world. Factors such as climate change, rising fuel prices, political instability and depletion of petroleum resources
are some of the recent concerns that have sparked this interest into alternatives for fossil fuels. As a result, many different biomass sources are being
evaluated as suitable feedstocks for biofuel production, and these range
from plant material, to animal waste, to microorganisms such algae and
genetically engineered bacteria and cyanobacteria. More recently, research
has focused on exploiting microbial systems for the biosynthesis of a wide
range of drop-in liquid biofuels.
Dr. Lamya Adnan Al-Haj, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology of the College of Science at Sultan Qaboos University, who did her
PhD research at the University College London, UK, focusing on the use of
genetically modified cyanobacteria for the production of drop-in liquid biofuels, says that the aquatic unicellular microorganisms, algae and cyanobacteria, which are considered together as ‘microalgae’ offer significant
advantages for biofuel production. “Microalgae are proved to have the
potential to convert sunlight into chemical energy while some species are
able to double their biomass in less than a day. Microalgae can be grown
in open pond systems on non-fertile land and in more extreme environments. Different species thrive in a variety of aquatic environments such
as freshwater, brackish water, seawater, hot springs, polar regions, etc.”,
says Dr. Lamya.
do not need to be broken or sacrificed. Dr. Lamya further says that two
species of unicellular cyanobacteria (a Synechococcus and a Synechocystis
species) have been the focus of most genetic engineering work for biofuel
production in cyanobacteria. “These species are naturally transformable
by exogenous DNA and amenable to genetic studies. Of all cyanobacteria,
Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 is the best-characterized species. Synechocystis is a relatively fast growing unicellular cyanobacterium with doubling
times of approximately 10 hours that is spontaneously transformable via
a highly efficient double homologous recombination system between the
genome and the exogenous DNA. It has no specific nutritional demands,
hence exhibits robust growth characteristics and it has been reported that
it can grow fully if exposed to a short period of blue light. All these advantages combined with the ease and efficiency of the transformation procedure and the metabolic flexibility of the organism make it an ideal model
organism for studying many biological processes. By means of modifying
the metabolic pathways of these organisms we can redirect the cell to produce economically viable novel biofuels”, says Dr. Lamya.
Dr. Lamya is interested in genetic manipulation techniques that have been
developed for some key species, which can be applied to optimize biofuel
production in microalgal systems. “Amongst unicellular microalgae, the
cyanobacteria in particular are attractive candidates for the development
of biofuel producing ‘designer’ strains since their small genomes are well
characterized and they can be easily manipulated. Recent advances in the
fields of molecular biology, molecular systems, and synthetic biology now
allow for the rapid engineering of microbial biosynthetic pathways in cyanobacteria, and the last few years have seen a variety of advanced biofuel
candidates such as alcohols, esters, alkanes, and alkenes produced from
intermediates of the cell’s various biochemical pathways”, she said.
In the words of Dr. Lamya, the geographical location of the Sultanate of Oman provides required conditions for easy cultivation of algae.
“In Oman, we have plenty of arid land available to grow algae in open
ponds on an industrial scale. Furthermore, Oman has high temperatures
throughout the year and a long coastline to provide sea water for algae
growth. These advantages would allow for easy mass cultivation of algae that is also linked to carbon dioxide capture further contributing to
a cleaner environment” says Lamya who has always been interested in
the field of renewable energy with special interest in the production of
biofuels from microalgae. Lamya’s research employs synthetic biology
approaches to modify the metabolism of a cyanobacterium such that the
organism is able to synthesise significant quantities of novel, energy-rich
hydrocarbons. These different compounds have been evaluated in a test
engine for their performance as fuels. Her research, therefore, involves a
combination of algal microbiology, molecular biology techniques including genetic engineering, extraction and gas chromatography-based analysis of hydrocarbons, and a battery of analytical tests relating to fuel performance in the test engine.
The introduction of one or more novel enzymes into a cyanobacterium can
result in the synthesis of “ready to use fuels” that do not require further refining or chemical modification for use in an automobile engine. Furthermore, additional genetic engineering of these strains can result in increases in the yield of these fuel molecules and their export from the cell into
the growth medium, making the recovery of the fuel simpler since cells
Dr. Lamya Al-Haj has and continues to communicate her research in
several biofuel related international meetings and conferences including
those in the UK, Poland, Germany, France, Canada, China, Singapore,
UAE and Lebanon. She is keen on discussing biofuels as an alternative
energy resource for Oman and can be reached on the following e mail:
[email protected]
30 January 2015
Mind Over Matter
Bacteria to Produce
Value added
Products from
By: Dr. N. Sivakumar
Department of Biology
is increased. At high temperatures the solubility of many polymeric
substances is considerably increased and the risk of contamination
is reduced.
Even though a large number of microorganisms are reported for cellulose degradation, only a few of these produce significant quantities
of cell-free enzymes to degrade crystalline cellulose in an artificial
environment. Till date, very few thermophilic cellulolytic bacteria
have been described for its cellulase activity. Thermophilic enzymes
play a significant role in bioremediation because higher temperatures applied during waste treatment favours the solubility of the
substrates. Hence thermophiles remain an important source of cellulolytic enzymes. The arid environment in Oman is very unique in
terms of its biodiversity. The probability of getting microbes with distinctive features is more in such environment. The hot springs in arid
region like Oman would be a potential source of microbes with novel
features. Till date the hot springs in Oman are unstudied resources
in terms of its bacterial diversity. Our preliminary studies showed
the presence of thermo, acidic and alkaline stable cellulase producing
thermophilic and hyperthermophilic bacteria in the Al Kasfah Hot
Spring at Al Rustaq.
The increase of solid wastes is becoming a global problem. Different methods such as burial, incineration and recycling are used to
dispose solid wastes. Improper management of solid wastes contaminates air, soil and water. In addition, disposal of solid wastes
in landfills pollute the ground water and cause emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane which in turn cause
climatic changes. Municipal solid waste contains high amounts of
cellulose, which is an ideal organic waste for the growth of most of
microorganisms. Municipal solid waste is composed of 40–50% cellulose. Most of the carbon dioxide and methane are produced from biodegradable cellulosic wastes such as wood, leaves, other agriculture
residues and waste papers. Hence, recycling of such cellulosic wastes
would decrease the greenhouse effect. Today, environmental policies
and regulation progress lead to the development of biodegradation
processes to turn organic wastes into valuable products using potential microbes. One of the strategies of Oman government is to find
out the possibilities of utilizing alternative renewable resources for
energy production. Cellulosic wastes such as paper, wood, agriculture residues and cardboard could be considered as one of the main
renewable energy sources. According to 2010 survey, about 1.6 million tons of solid waste is simply dumped in landfills in Oman every
year. Out of which, 62 thousand tons is paper waste. This much of
paper waste could be used as a source to produce an economically
important cellulase enzyme. In addition, using the cellulase enzyme
the paper wastes could be degraded and the degraded product could
also be used as a substrate to produce commercially important products.
Through a research project, funded by TRC, scientists from the
Department of Biology of the College of Science, SQU, are trying
to isolate cellulase producing thermophilic bacteria from the hot
springs in South Al Batinah and Muscat regions of Oman. The aim
of the project is to use the characterized bacteria to utilize the paper waste. The bio-converted paper waste would be utilized as a
substrate to produce various microbial products with commercial
value such as biofuel and bioplastics etc. The long term aim of this
project is to solve the problem of increasing accumulation of solid
waste which could cause environmental and public health concerns in the Sultanate.
Cellulose, an important plant polymer, is the most abundant and
renewable carbon source on earth. Cellulases are inducible enzymes produced by microorganisms to degrade cellulose when
cellulosic materials are supplied as substrates. Application of cellulase enzymes in paper, detergent and leather industries demands
the finding of highly stable enzymes active at extreme pH and
temperature. The search for enzymes from extremophilic microorganisms is one of the ways to obtain enzymes with suitable characteristic features for industrial applications. Practically there are
some advantages in using thermostable enzymes in industrial processes as compared to thermolabile enzymes. The main advantage
is the increase in rate of reaction as the temperature of the process
As part of our research, we try to isolate cellulase producing thermophilic bacteria from the hot springs in South Al Batinah and Muscat
regions of Oman. The selected cellulase potential strains would be
used to utilize paper wastes. This study will be conducted in three
phases. In the first phase cellulase producing thermophilic bacteria
will be isolated from hot springs. The identified microbes will maintained as a thermophilic cellulase producing bacterial culture collection. In the second phase, some efficient cellulolytic bacteria would
be selected to do cellulase fermentation. Increased cellulase production would be achieved by a gradient feed of substrate and standardization of different process conditions at their optimal. The produced
enzymes would be purified by ammonium sulfate precipitation, dialysis and gel filtration chromatography. The purified enzyme would
be characterized by studying the activity and stability of cellulase at
different temperature, pH, salinity, different metals, detergents etc.
In the third phase the bio converted paper waste would be used to
produce biofuel and bio plastics with the help of suitable microorganisms.
This research is a unique and challenging attempt to solve the problem of increasing accumulation of solid waste which could cause environmental and public health concerns in the country. In addition,
this research will give knowledge about the bacterial biodiversity in
the major hot springs of Oman, helps in capacity building and establish a bioprocess research facility at Sultan Qaboos University.
30 January 2015

Straight Talk Horizon: