JC students impress Nobel laureates

Yu Ki discussing her research project, a portable dengue fever diagnostic kit, with Professor Johann Deisenhofer, Nobel laureate and chief judge of the A*Star Talent Search Awards Committee.
Yu Ki discussing her research project, a portable dengue fever diagnostic kit, with Professor Johann Deisenhofer, Nobel laureate and chief judge of the A*Star Talent Search Awards Committee.PHOTO: SCIENCE CENTRE SINGAPORE

Current methods of diagnosing dengue fever involve laboratory assistance and it can take up to a day before a person finds out whether he has the disease.

However a new diagnostic kit is being developed which aims to determine whether the user has dengue and how severe his case is. It could cost as little as $5 and be as easy to use as a pregnancy testing kit.

This is the project of 17-year-old National Junior College student Sim Yu Ki, who last Thursday received her gold award at the Singapore Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF) prize ceremony at the Biopolis. Her project surpassed 614 others.

"Dengue is a common problem that is not very well addressed in Singapore," Yu Ki told The Straits Times. "I've known many people who have contracted dengue fever and described it as a painful process involving body aches."

Although in its early stages, her project is being developed in collaboration with biotech start-up Biosensorix and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) Institute of Materials Research and Engineering.

Additionally, she was shortlisted as one of eight A*Star Talent Search (ATS) finalists. She was also selected to compete in the world's largest international pre-college science competition, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

Yu Ki said: "I am very humbled and honoured to be representing Singapore at the ISEF, which is regarded as the Olympics of science competitions."

The SSEF, which draws participant from secondary schools and junior colleges, is an annual competition that inspires youth to apply scientific concepts innovatively in addressing pertinent global challenges. This year, it gave out a record 125 gold, silver and merit awards, including 26 golds.

Clinching first place for the ATS was 18-year-old National Junior College student, Victoria Emily Hui Ting Buckland, who prepared "a class of novel compounds that can solidify crude oil in sea water and improve oil spill management".

Professor Bertil Andersson, chair of the ATS 2016 Awards Committee added: "Many junior college research students in Singapore are as good as PhD students in other countries.

Every year, the Nobel Prize winners invited to ATS are so impressed by Singaporean students, saying, 'How can they be so good?'"

Correction note: An earlier version of this story stated that student Sim Yu Ki was from Nanyang Junior College. She is actually from National Junior College. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'JC students impress Nobel laureates'. Print Edition | Subscribe