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Indonesian Researcher Leads the Charge at IRRI
by Heru Andriyanto
31-March-2012 The Jakarta Globe
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Think rice science is boring? Think again, says Inez Hortense Slamet-Loedin.

“There’s modern technology and traditional knowledge. There’s the opportunity to help people,” the Indonesian researcher says. “And there’s traveling the world, meeting some of the most interesting people: farmers and brilliant scientists, policy makers and philanthropists.”

Slamet-Loedin is a rice scientist. More specifically, she is a senior scientist of plant breeding genetics and biology at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, Philippines.

She wasn’t always so into rice. She used to work with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), a government agency, as head of its molecular biology division. At the University of Nottingham in Britain, where she received her PhD in 1991, she studied life science.

But then she got a chance to attend a rice genetics conference in the Philippines. Later she received the Rockefeller Foundation’s rice biotechnology research grant in Indonesia. That led to part-time work with IRRI.

“Some years after that, I was offered a full-time appointment as head of the lab,” said Slamet-Loedin, who is also a graduate of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture.

At IRRI, where she does things like develop new kinds of iron-fortified rice, Slamet-Loedin has had the chance to get more Indonesian scientists hooked on studying the staple grain.

“I have so far invited six young researchers,” she said.

That is especially important, she said, because rice scientists in the country are becoming few and far between, despite the field’s growing importance for Indonesia.

Even though Indonesia is full of rice farmers, it recently became a net importer of the grain, given the huge amount its citizens consume.

“The number of rice scientists is diminishing, but it is crucial for Indonesia,” Slamet-Loedin said.

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