100 Scientists of Malaysia: Fong Chng Saun

“As Malaysians, we live in a tropical climate where it is hot and humid all the time!

In areas of rapid urbanisation, such as Kuala Lumpur where I am from, vegetated lands are replaced with buildings and surfaces which traps heat, forming isolated heat islands. The loss of evapotranspiration cooling (evaporation of water and plants transpiration to the atmosphere) from vegetation coupled with secondary heating sources such as heavy traffic and high dependence on air-conditioning systems has led to drastic temperature difference in between the urban-rural area. In fact, studies found that the difference can reach up to 2oC at night! These factors contribute to a phenomenon known as Urban Heat Island (UHI)”

Fong is a PhD student under the supervision of Associate Professor Dr Nasrin Aghamohammadi from Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Prof Dr Nik Meriam Sulaiman from Faculty of Engineering. His transdisciplinary research on urban heat island in a tropical city was recently featured in 100 Scientists of Malaysia. In his feature, he shared a glimpse into his multidisciplinary research which encompasses the field of environmental engineering, health and urban design.

“The urban ecosystem involves a dynamic interaction between the living and non-living components. As such, stress undergone by the environment affects the human population too. In my research, I am particularly interested in the variations of microclimates within these heat islands”

“Due to the UHI phenomena, the urban population risk higher and longer heat exposure. Consequently, urban populations are prone to experience heat stress and other heat-related illnesses. The accumulation of heat may also affect one’s productivity and wellbeing”

“Mitigating UHI in a tropical city. Through modelling and simulation approach, I’ve developed an urban model which is the exact replica of my study area. Within this, I am able to simulate various UHI mitigation strategies. The outcome from this can provide the evidence to support sustainable urban development while avoiding unnecessary expensive mistakes”

So what makes a perfect city?

“The ideal city integrates nature within its design – it is green and self-sustainable.

But it is not as simple as just ‘plant more trees!’. A lot of consideration has to be put into identifying the optimum way for “green” cooling. Soil quality, water availability and air quality are important for the survival of plants. The placement of trees is also very important – Will it provide the required shade? Will it affect wind flow which prevents heat stagnation? And the list goes on. We should also look into cleaner sources of energy as tropical areas are a great place to harness solar energy!”

Written by Fong Chng Suan

He is taking over the 100 SoM tweet account from 16-20 Sept 2020 to share more on his research work. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, here is the link https://web.facebook.com/100Scientists/

He can be contacted via:

Email: fongcs92@gmail.com
Facebook: Fong Chng Saun
Twitter: @fongcs92

100 Scientists of Malaysia features profiles of Malaysians in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) research. Their goal is to raise the visibility of Malaysians in STEM, showcase diversity in the STEM fields and inspire Malaysians to pursue STEM regardless of their background.