My regular readers already know that I have a passion for all things scientific. I like laboratories. I like experiments. I like scientific method and logic. I enjoy science fiction and science fact. I like smart people who think up new ideas, invent new things, and solve problems with their brains rather than with cudgels or megaphones.

Miss Samoa 2010-2011, Jolivette Menime Ete

Jolivette Menime Ete was working as a research scientist at SROS when she was selected to be Miss Samoa by a panel of judges that I had the honor of chairing.

So, today was a special day because I was able to spend a couple of hours at the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS). The visit started with a dynamic discussion with incoming Chief Executive Officer David Hunter, Acting Chief Executive Officer Mere Aisake-Asi, the heads of SROS’s various divisions, and several of the other research scientists.

Established by the Government of Samoa in 2006, SROS is intended to conduct research relevant to Samoan society, develop technologies and products that benefit the Samoan economy, and partner with public and private entities to address a variety of development, public health, environmental, and other challenges.

SROS is funded in part by the Government and in part by grants from outside entities. It is organized into four major divisions — Plant & Food Technology (PFT), Environmental & Renewable Energy (ERE), Industrial Research, and Administration & Finance.

Over morning tea the division heads and senior scientists briefed me at length about the exciting work being done in each division.

The projects all smartly use abundant local resources in innovative ways … including creating efficient bio-diesel fuel from coconuts, using cassava starch for bio-ethanol, creating a commercially viable cooking and seasoning oil from avocados, developing gluten-free breadfruit flour …

Preparing to sample experimental muffins made with breadfruit flour and cassava flour.

With Industrial Research head Gaufa Salesa Fetu, preparing to sample muffins made with newly developed breadfruit flour and cassava flour.

… conducting a nutritional study of various taro varieties, analyzing food microbiology and shelf-life factors of various native species, and identifying and utilizing bioactive compounds in Samoan medicinal plants known to have healing effects.

We didn’t just talk, though. After tea we put on lab coats and toured the various laboratories in the complex. The team let me press buttons, tease the staff, and get my teeth into some of the experiments. I sampled the new avocado oil, taste-tested muffins made of breadfruit and cassava flour …

Doing another round of testing on the muffins with CEO Hunter, Acting CEO Aisake-Asi, and the researchers.

Doing another round of testing on the muffins with CEO Hunter, Acting CEO Aisake-Asi, and the researchers.

… talked to various researchers about the equipment they were using, watched chromatographies and other maneuvers being performed, visited the bio-diesel plant, and had a look at the SROS passenger van and pick-up truck currently being powered, essentially, by coconut oil.

There are plans afoot to significantly expand the output of the bio-diesel facility, as continuing research produces fuel that is economically viable and environmentally superior to traditional fossil fuels. I didn’t get to ride in the pick-up truck, but that’s on my list for next time.

ERE division head Taitosaua Eddie explaining his team's work in the bio-diesel facility.

ERE division head Taitosaua Eddie explaining his team's bio-diesel work.

What I enjoyed most about the visit was the enthusiasm, skill, and positive energy of the administrators and scientists, including the many young researchers that I met. They are a dynamic, engaging, and cohesive team dedicated to making a positive impact on Samoan society.

I think that the motto on SROS’s annual report nicely sums up what I saw: Positive thinking achieves positive results.

Talking with research scientist Tulia Molimau about the microbiological analysis equipment that she uses.

Talking with Plant & Food Technology head Kuinimeri Asora Finau and research scientist Tulia Molimau about the microbiological analysis equipment that they use.

I intend to visit SROS again each time I come to Samoa, and I’ll continue to give you updates about what the wizards there are up to. In the meantime, though, here’s a short video about the organization and its work:

The SROS website also provides a wealth of additional information and news. Thanks for taking a look.