Dancer Muhammad Noramin Mohamed Farid would often be asked if traditional Malay dance was still relevant. Younger dancers would point out it was not as widely appreciated as other forms of dance.
Perturbed by their questions, he decided to conduct research.
"It was not easy to approach my parents and say I would like to do my degree in dance," said the 30-year-old, who holds a master's qualification in dance knowledge, practice and heritage.
But he did, and yesterday Mr Muhammad Noramin became the first PhD student to win the Goh Chok Tong Youth Promise Award. In January, he will begin PhD studies in drama and theatre at Royal Holloway college at the University of London.
Now in its 11th year, the award gives scholarships to deserving Malay/Muslim young people. Mr Muhammad Noramin and 10 others, from fields ranging from sports science and health to Chinese painting, won this year.
Last month, he took part in a dance production with other London-based Singaporean students in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world's biggest arts festival.
"You might have to take detours and create alternate paths but if your goal is clear, let your aspirations bring you nearer to your dream," he said in a speech at yesterday's event.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said the scope of the awards, organised by self-help group Mendaki, may be expanded in the future to include other emerging fields of study.