Poly students win recognition for R&D breakthroughs

The project of Republic Polytechnic students (from left) Fennatika Salim, Lhu Ying Xuan, Ong Joo Kian and Tan Min Hui, all aged 21, was among 10 recognised with a Polytechnic Student Research Programme Award. Their sunlight-activated larvicide is 1,000 ti
The project of Republic Polytechnic students (from left) Fennatika Salim, Lhu Ying Xuan, Ong Joo Kian and Tan Min Hui, all aged 21, was among 10 recognised with a Polytechnic Student Research Programme Award. Their sunlight-activated larvicide is 1,000 times less toxic for other aquatic animals than the usual larvicide.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Ngee Ann Polytechnic students Tan Jian-Hui (right), 20, and Brandon Koh Wei-Han, 19, devised a sensor that monitors the condition of LRT rail systems and allows real-time detection of track faults.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic students Tan Jian-Hui (right), 20, and Brandon Koh Wei-Han, 19, devised a sensor that monitors the condition of LRT rail systems and allows real-time detection of track faults.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Among award-winning projects are a sunlight-activated larvicide and a real-time sensor that detects track faults

With their novel sunlight-activated larvicide, four students from Republic Polytechnic (RP) are turning up the heat in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases.

Their project was among the 10 that were recognised with a Polytechnic Student Research Programme (PSRP) Award, given out in a ceremony at Ngee Ann Polytechnic's auditorium last Wednesday. 

Speaking on behalf of her four- member team of pharmaceutical science students, Ms Fennatika Salim, 21, said their product is 1,000 times less toxic for other aquatic animals than the usual larvicide.

It is also able to reduce the resistance of larvae, making them easier to eradicate.

RISK-TAKERS

It is important for Singapore to develop a strong pool of research talent... Students who are driven to make a difference and not afraid of taking risks.

PROFESSOR JACKIE YING, executive director of A*Star's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, on the type of students who are primed to contribute to Singapore's R&D.

 

She said: "We hope our product will minimise the number of Singaporeans infected by these diseases, while maintaining the balance of the ecosystem."

Since 1997, the PSRP has aimed to nurture students in research and development (R&D) through immersion in scientific and engineering research environments.

This year, the programme assisted more than 100 different projects across all polytechnics, and the top 10 received the award.

Sponsored by individual polytechnics, the PSRP selects third- year students with outstanding ideas and offers them support in their final-year projects through tie-ups with local universities and research institutes.

For instance, some of this year's projects were supported by Tan Tock Seng Hospital, National University of Singapore and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

In the RP larvicide project, the support came in the form of larvae and expertise from the National Environment Agency (NEA), which helped the students' supervisors handle and hatch the specimens during the six-month project.

The team is in discussions with NEA and hopes to develop the larvicide further to commercialise it.

Their supervisor, Dr Susmita Ban, 39, said: "The students had valuable hands-on experience as they could create their own compounds. They've learnt problem-solving skills, teamwork and perseverance as well."

The PSRP also acknowledged the brains behind a sensor that monitors conditions of LRT rail systems. The sensor allows real-time detection of track faults, which would expedite maintenance and cut costs.

Devised by Ngee Ann Polytechnic students Brandon Koh Wei-Han, 19, and Tan Jian-Hui, 20, the sensor will be developed further before SBS Transit considers installing it.

Professor Jackie Ying, executive director of A*Star's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, who was guest of honour, said in her speech that polytechnic students in particular are primed to contribute to the country's R&D.

"It is important for Singapore to develop a strong pool of research talent and that's why we need polytechnic students like you. Students who are driven to make a difference and not afraid of taking risks," she said.


Correction note: In an earlier version of the story, we said that the event was held at Nanyang Polytechnic. This is incorrect. It should be Ngee Ann Polytechnic. We also said that the Polytechnic Student Research Programme (PSRP) is sponsored by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), this is incorrect as the projects are largely self-funded by the respective polytechnics. We are sorry for the errors. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2017, with the headline 'Poly students win recognition for R&D breakthroughs'. Print Edition | Subscribe