Science Faces

He helps keep digital devices humming along

Dr Meng with a network analyser which helps to measure the parameters of radio frequency and microwave components
Dr Meng with a network analyser which helps to measure the parameters of radio frequency and microwave components. PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A*Star scientist part of team that sets standards for electromagnetic signals so that they can be used safely

From wireless Internet connections to mobile phones, electromagnetic signals are at the core of almost every digital device we use.

Dr Meng Yusong, a scientist at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) National Metrology Centre (NMC), is part of the team that sets standards for these signals so that they can be used efficiently and within safe limits.

While this is an area that people generally take for granted, Dr Meng says that his work underpins many aspects of society.

His work at NMC includes setting national standards for radio frequency and microwave power, and understanding attenuation - or a reduction in the strength of signals.

"Radio frequency and microwave signals are like vehicles that carry data from one digital device to another," said Dr Meng.

"For wireless applications, if the signal power is not enough (due to inaccurate power measurements), the quality of service can be severely affected."

The 34-year-old Singaporean who joined NMC in 2011, graduated with a PhD in electrical and electronic engineering from Nanyang Technological University in 2010.

Dr Meng said that the science of how things work has always been something he was curious about.

"My interest in science motivates me to explore unknown areas and new things. Science makes me learn new knowledge continually," he said.

One of his career highlights was working with Singapore-based communications infrastructure testing firm Psiber Data.

During his secondment to Psiber Data from November 2012 to October 2014, under A*Star's Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) scheme, Dr Meng helped the company to come up with a cable network analyser that can test cables at a higher bandwidth.

The handheld device, which has since been commercialised, helps companies to test - in a matter of seconds - if their cables are working well within international standards. The cables enable wireless Internet connection and devices like closed-circuit television cameras to work.

Mr Simon Harrison, general manager for Psiber Data, said: "We are all dependent on data services - everything from government websites to banking to social media.

"All of these services depend on reliable and cost-effective data transmission - which can be guaranteed only by installing and testing data networks based on international standards."

Approximately 620 researchers and scientists have been seconded to local small and medium-sized enterprises under the T-Up scheme since it was started in 2003.

The scheme involves placing research scientists and engineers with local enterprises so that they can tap on talent from the A*Star research institutes.

On his collaboration with Psiber Data, Dr Meng said: "Such partnerships are important because we can contribute our knowledge to help Singapore companies develop better products so that they can compete with international firms out there."

Apart from his work with the company, Dr Meng has also been working with the authorities to find out how cloud cover can affect satellite transmission. The study started about two years ago and is expected to be completed by the middle of this year.

Dr Meng is married to an engineer two years his junior and likes to watch documentaries on Discovery Channel during his free time.

He also enjoys American television series Survivor - he has watched almost every episode.

Asked why he enjoys watching the series, he said: "In our society, we have almost everything we need to survive, but imagine if those things were taken away. It's ultimately a show about survival."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2016, with the headline 'He helps keep digital devices humming along'. Print Edition | Subscribe