SINGAPORE - Not content with simply meeting the basic requirements for graduation, Mr Daryl Jude Lawrence's passion for medical diagnostic devices prompted him to develop an invention in his final year- a difficult research project few undergraduates would choose.
He clocked long hours in the lab at Imperial College London working on a graphene field effect transistor - a diagnostic device to detect vesicles, particles released from cells. Detecting specific vesicles can determine if cancer cells are present in a patient.
Mr Lawrence, 25, who graduated last year with a bachelor's degree in Materials Science and Engineering, is set to continue on this path, and will soon begin a joint PhD programme in bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco.
On Thursday (Aug 6), he was one of 66 recipients of the A*Star Scholarships, awarded by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research since 2001 to grow Singapore's 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, he said.
"The scholarship provided me with opportunities I may never have had without it. It 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. These experiences have helped me in my pursuit to become a scientist-entrepreneur," he told The Straits Times.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, who was the guest of honour at the virtual scholarship award ceremony, reiterated the country's commitment to investing in its people, even when times are tough.
Emphasising that the nurturing of talent in Singapore should not be a "feast or famine strategy", 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 recipient of the National Science Scholarship, 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 has the potential to 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 be studying Materials Science and Engineering at Imperial College London.
Ms Nur Ayu Afira Sutrisnoh, 26, a recipient of the A*Star Graduate Scholarship, aims to create innovative materials to further the clean energy industry. She will be pursuing her doctorate in Materials Science and Engineering at the National University of Singapore.
Mr Chan said the science and technology scene here needs to continue building its systems, networks and communities despite the challenges that Covid-19 has brought.
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 in time," he said.
Mr Chan also warned against complacency and insularity.
Noting how scientists in Singapore worked closely with research networks worldwide in the battle against 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."