MUSCAT: Liss Cardenas is the first exchange student from the Latin American country of Chile to Sultan Qaboos University. She is a PhD student in the Department of Marine Biology at the Catholic University of the North (Universidad Católicadel Norte, UCN) in Chile.
Liss’ one month tenure at SQU as an exchange student was facilitated by Dr. Sergey Dobretsov, Director the Centre of Excellence in Marine Biotechnology, who has a good research collaboration with marine biologists from Chile and UCN in particular. Dr. Dobretsov met Ms. Cardenas during his first visit to UCN to attend a conference on seaweeds and bioactive compounds held a couple of years ago. In the summer of 2019, Dr. Dobretsov visited UCN again, this time as a resource person to deliver an intensive training on chemical ecology of seaweeds. Students from different Latin American universities attended the weeklong training led by Dr. Dobretsov. His strong ties with academics from UCN paved way for Ms. Cardenas’ visit SQU’s Center and the Department of Marine Science and Fisheries to perform some experiments related to her PhD research.
During her stay in SQU in October 2019, Ms. Cardenas performed numerous experiments on samples of marine invasive species that poses threat to the marine environment. Most of the invasive species reach the Chilean cost from far away countries, such as Japan, carried around in ship ballast water. Using the state of the art facilities at SQU, she tested the antibacterial activity of the invasive seaweed species and compared this activity with antibacterial potential of local species. In addition, Ms. Cardenas analyzed the chemical compositions of seaweed samples that she brought from Chile using gas chromatography GC-MS. This work was done together with Dr. Jamal Al-Sabahi at the Central Instrumental Laboratory of College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences. Experiments of Ms. Cardenas could result in findings scientific methods to prevent the spread of invasive alien species, which are recognized as one of the greatest threats to biodiversity.
Ms. Cardenas, who has never been to a Middle East country in her life, was so excited about being in Oman. She has only good things to say about Oman and its friendly people. Ms. Cardenas is happy that SQU has provided her access to research facilities and with furnished student accommodation during her stay in Oman. She said, “This visit allowed me to experience what it is like to live and learn in a different country with totally different culture and traditions from Chile. I find it as an opportunity to broaden my knowledge base and learn in a different cultural environment. I hope to gain a rich understanding of the culture of Oman and the Middle East”.
Dr. Dobretsov said that he is happy to have and exchange student from a South American country. “Such visits by international students give them a chance to more about the rich cultural and historical traditions of Oman and break stereotypes about the region. Additionally, it is a chance for Omani students to interact with students from other countries”, he added.
(The author is a Senior Editor in the Public Relations and Information Department at SQU)