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Samoan awarded doctorate in Japan

A Samoan woman has graduated with a doctorate in agricultural science from Japan’s Kyushu University.

Feunai Agape Tautau – who is from the villages of Malaemalu, Falealili and Saletagaloa, Salelologa – was awarded the Japanese government-funded Monbukagakusho Scholarship to undertake a master of science [MSc] and doctorate [PhD] in agricultural science for five years.

She said it was an internship in a microbiology laboratory in Auckland – which was a prerequisite for her to undertake a bachelor of science degree at the Pacific Adventist University in Papua New Guinea (P.N.G.) – that sparked her interest in microbiology.

“Every day is a challenge but I enjoyed learning new things especially learning how to detect and identify some foodborne bacteria pathogens from goods [food] coming in and going out of New Zealand,” she said.

“Learning how to prevent the contaminated food at an early stage before reaching the shelves of any shop.  Learning that I was the only Samoan lady working in this lab also motivated me to go the extra mile and stay in this line of academic field.”

Ms. Tautau graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 2012 with a double major in biology and environmental science from the Pacific Adventist University in P.N.G. and taught biology and general science at Samoa Adventist College in 2013. 

From 2013–2015 she worked at the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa [S.R.O.S.] in the Energy and Renewable Division.

“I enjoyed work at Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa under Energy and Renewable Environment Division projects and working alongside a senior Japan International Cooperation Agency [J.I.C.A.] volunteer, Dr Kenji Sakamoto, drove me further with my career,” she added.

She was then awarded the Japan government-funded scholarship to undertake studies at the Kyushu University.

“It was not easy from the start and the COVID-19 global pandemic greatly impacted my studies but by God’s grace I made it, enjoyed that I did it,” she added.

Her studies focused on the identification and characterisation of novel enzymes that are responsible for the releasing of rare sugars.

“I studied rare sugars [monosaccharides that are present in very low quantities in nature] that are valuable natural products, widely possess many potential applications in food, nutrition and pharmaceutical industries.”

Ms Tautau believes that a similar study can also be done in Samoa to contribute to better health outcomes, quality local food and adding value to the scientific literature currently available in Samoa.

 She also added that her thesis work can be used as a baseline study for those who choose this field of study.

Japan’s clean environment as well as the polite nature of the Japanese people made a big impression on her during her five-years stay.

“I’m grateful that God placed people on my path, my Professor, lab mates and colleagues to help and make my stay enjoyable and more importantly still able to worship God in a country who doesn’t believe in our Christianity Faith, Jesus Christ which is paramount of my time in Japan,” she said.

She emphasised that she owes her achievements to her family in Samoa, especially her parents for their endless support and prayers.  

Ms Tautau is the fifth child and daughter of the late Reverend Panapa Papalii and Suasa’a Panapa Papalii and is also a graduate of the Samoa Adventist College in 2007.

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