Singapore committed to investing in people: Chan Chun Sing

This is the case even during tough times, says minister at A*Star Scholarships award event

Not content with simply meeting the basic requirements for graduation, Mr Daryl Jude Lawrence's passion for medical diagnostic devices prompted him to choose a daunting research project in his final year.

He clocked long hours in the laboratory at Imperial College London working on a graphene field effect transistor - a diagnostic device to detect cell particles that could indicate the presence of cancer.

Mr Lawrence, 25, who graduated last year with a bachelor's degree in materials science and engineering, will soon begin a joint PhD programme in bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco.

Yesterday, he was one of 66 recipients of the A*Star Scholarships, awarded by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research since 2001 to grow the local scientific talent base for the research, innovation and enterprise industries.

His journey would have been very different without the National Science Scholarship he received for his undergraduate studies, and which will now support his PhD.

"The scholarship provided me with access to top labs that helped me realise my passion in medtech. I also undertook several research attachments at A*Star, during which I gained invaluable research experience and was exposed to the commercialisation side of the product development equation," he told The Straits Times.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who was guest of honour at the virtual scholarship award ceremony, reiterated the nation's commitment to investing in people, even when times are tough. He said: "We continue with our investments through all the difficult moments to make sure that there is a sustainable pipeline of talent for the future."

Another National Science Scholarship recipient, Ms Tan Yee Lin, 19, developed a novel antibacterial surface with zinc oxide nanostructures that kill microbes in a relatively short time.

Her invention, which potentially could be applied to frequently touched surfaces such as hand railings and lift buttons, won her one of the top three awards in the microbiology category of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Arizona last year. She will study materials science and engineering at Imperial College.

Ms Nur Ayu Afira Sutrisnoh, 26, a recipient of the A*Star Graduate Scholarship, aims to create materials for the clean energy industry. She will pursue a doctorate in materials science and engineering at the National University of Singapore.

Mr Chan said the science and technology scene here needs to continue to build systems, networks and communities despite the challenges of Covid-19.

The success in the country's research and development lies in how agile those systems are, he noted.

"Success, to me, is not just about delivering solutions to known problems in peacetime. Success must also mean delivering solutions in crisis situations like Covid, and having the capabilities to deal with problems that may not have emerged at this point," he said.

Mr Chan also warned against complacency and insularity. Noting how scientists here worked closely with research networks worldwide to fight Covid-19, he said: "Our philosophy remains that we must remain connected to the rest of the world in order for us to cross-pollinate ideas and exchange ideas with others, so that we are never alone in trying to find any solution."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore committed to investing in people: Chan'. Print Edition | Subscribe