My #Sciencehero is PGPB

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We all have our Science heroes that we look up to and draw inspiration from. Men & women who give us concepts and tools to make sense of our complex world. Tell us who your science hero is, and we will share Your Story with the world. #ScienceHero




Story by Umaiyal Munusamy,

Many of us have their own science hero. When I was asked to contribute an article on this topic, I realised that it was very hard for me to nominate mine. I thought, that if I were to nominate a person as a Science Hero, I would need to know him or her in person and have been guided by either of them along my research journey. I was browsing the world wide web, reading all the blog posts written by other authors, and was impressed seeing how great it was that they could identify someone as their Science Hero, yet I was still unable to come up with the one person who really impacted me. Unfortunately, I have not known anyone like that personally and it is a real disappointment. But then, I tried to consider: could it be possible to choose a Science Hero who is not a human? Why not? Especially since I do actually have one like that – a bacteria known as plant growth promoting bacteria (PGPB), my Science Hero that had been with me throughout my research and placed me on the world stage.

How I met PGPB? One day, I was wondering about the plants in the forest. How could they grow healthier even though there is no one to water them or fertilize the soil for better growth? This made me think and want to investigate. I discovered that bacteria known as PGPB are found in substantial amounts in healthy soil. They exist as various types of bacteria in the forest soils due to different types of discharges from plants and soil conditions. However, many of us have forgotten about them. I felt that this needed to change. I came up with an initiative to spread the information on PGPB – bacteria for agriculture and to look for this bacterium in healthy soils. The idea was for people to start using PGPB in unhealthy soil, as they have the capability to help soil recovery.

Through PGPB I participated in many types of competitions to educate people on how important PGPB is in agriculture, and I won a few awards spreading my mission. I won an Audience Choice Award in FameLab Malaysia 2016 and the Falling Walls Lab Malaysia.

Thus, I also got to travel to the Falling Walls Lab Finale in Berlin. My pitch in Berlin has proven to be relevant for many: the positive effect of PGPB can impact the plant growth and quality which leads to sustainable food production for 10 billion people in 2056. There, I was approached by a Commissioning Editor to write a book for Palgrave Macmillan and had constructive braindates on food insecurity with two other participants of the Falling Walls Lab Finale 2016. Recently I published a book chapter in Malaysia entitled Plant Growth Promoting Bacteria for Crop Productivity in “Focus in Environment Challenges and Perspectives for Sustainable Development”.

PGPB helped me obtain new opportunities for collaboration and a network bigger than I had ever imagined before. I met people who have similar passions and we discovered synergies which we can use to bring about sustainable development in agriculture. Climate change and extreme weather events have become one of the major constraints in crop production as reduction in crop output was noticed in most sensitive crops. Plant growth promoting bacteria which are able to induce positive effects for plant growth under stressful conditions, will help farmers to overcome the problem of plant growth inhibition.

PGPB made me realise that my passion as a plant scientist, who believes in her responsibility to help feed the people in this world, is actually achievable. Now PGPB are taking me even further: I will pitch in front of distinguished investors and hope for their contribution to move my project forward – and all thanks to my Science Hero: PGPB!


FW_Lab_web_0152Umaiyal Munusamy is a Plant Scientist and Science Communicator from Malaysia. She is also a Falling Walls Lab Finalist 2016 and FameLab Malaysia alumni. Her research interest focuses on sustainable agriculture systems. She can be connected through

Umaiyal Munusamy (LinkedIn;YouTube),

@yalyagu (Twitter)

umaiyalmunusamy (instagram)

m.umaiyal (skype)

umaiyal munusamy (vimeo) umaiyal (facebook ID) and also through emails;


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