Singapore Needs To Nurture Curiosity, Says President Tan

At the closing ceremony of the Global Young Scientists Summit 2016 last Friday, President Tony Tan emphasized the need to nurture a sense of curiosity in future generations.

AsianScientist (Jan. 28, 2016) – The Global Young Scientists Summit 2016 ([email protected] 2016) was officially closed by the president of the Republic of Singapore, guest-of-honor and patron of GYSS, Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam, last Friday.

During his closing speech, he remarked that beyond academic development, Singapore needs to nurture the curiosity to discover and the desire to experiment in our youth. His words reflect the country’s ambition to become a thriving research hub and knowledge-based economy, starting with the recently announced SG$19 billion RIE 2020 budget set aside for R&D over the next five years.

Back for a fourth year and held from 17-22 January at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, [email protected] 2016 played host to 21 distinguished speakers comprising 13 Nobel Laureates, four Turing Awardees, two Fields Medalists and two Millennium Technology Prize Winners; 270 young scientists; and 150 guests from the research community and industry.

Throughout an intensive week of plenary lectures, panel discussions and small group sessions, eminent scientists and technology leaders mentored the young scientists who had come to Singapore from all over the world to interact with their research heroes.


International gathering of science’s best and brightest

In the very first lecture on day one, Professor Serge Haroche spoke about the history of light research and explained how light can, quite paradoxically, exist as both a wave and a particle at the same time. Professor Carlo Rubbia discussed the future of energy, highlighting the potential of shale gas to eclipse fossil fuels in coming years as the dominant primary energy source.

Sir Anthony Leggett tackled the complex question of whether the everyday world really obeys the rules of quantum mechanics, and then elaborated on the attempts made over the last few years at finding a definitive answer. And in a presentation titled “A Crime Against Humanity,” Sir Richard Roberts gave a passionate lecture on why genetically-modified organism (GMO) technology could be crucial to securing our food supply in the developing world had widespread adoption not been hindered by political resistance.

The afternoon panel discussions were diverse and insightful, with topics ranging from the real world value of a PhD, particularly in a competitive job market, to the responsibility of scientists to educate the public on the work that they do.

President of the Singapore Management University, Professor Arnoud de Meyer (left) chairing a panel discussion on science education and society. Credit: Asian Scientist Magazine.
President of the Singapore Management University, Professor Arnoud de Meyer (left), chairing a panel discussion on science education and society. Credit: Asian Scientist Magazine.

The speakers carried out engaging public discussions about science and technology at various venues such as the National Library, the Science Centre Singapore and selected local universities.

As a welcome break from their busy schedules, the young scientists were brought on site visits around the host city. They were ferried to various institutes and universities, such as the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and the National University of Singapore, and popular tourist destinations such as Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage.


Stiff competition: the Singapore Challenge

The entries for the Singapore Challenge were no less impressive than in previous years. With the theme of “Sustainable and Livable Cities,” eight shortlisted finalists took to the stage to pitch ideas that address the challenges faced by global cities to a panel chaired by Professor Michael Grätzel, winner of the 2010 Millennium Technology Prize.

Mr. Jedi Pan Zheng Xiang from Nanyang Technological University proposed a technology framework called AirTick, which uses artificial intelligence powered by crowdsourcing to monitor air quality. Towards the end of 2015, a thick haze blanketed Singapore from the burning of coal peatland in nearby Sumatra, making his work particularly relevant to the city state.

Ms. Dolaana Khovalyg from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pointed out that air-conditioners—a necessary evil in tropical Singapore—are a major source of carbon emissions. Her net-zero energy air-conditioning and dehumidification system is a re-design of this inefficient system, combining liquid dessicant dehumidification, absorption refrigeration and energy recovery ventilation.

Mr. Lim Chong-U from Massachusetts Institute of Technology combined technology and data analytics in his three-part strategy to help inform policymakers and the public alike on environmental and social issues. His proof-of-concept video game, SG Challenger, invites players to build an ideal city, educating Singaporeans on local policies and encouraging active citizen participation.


The winning concept

During his presentation, Mr. Carlos Duarte-Guevara from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign underlined the importance of food safety on both a local and global scale. Duarte-Guevara proposed a point-of-care biosensing system that can detect harmful foodborne pathogens in just eight hours and without the need for a trained technician. The research team expects a prototype to be ready by 2017.

Mr. Carlos Duarte-Guevara receiving the Singapore Challenge 2016 medal from President Dr. Tony Tan. Credit: Asian Scientist Magazine.
Mr. Carlos Duarte-Guevara receiving the Singapore Challenge 2016 medal from Singapore’s president, Dr. Tony Tan. Credit: Asian Scientist Magazine.

Duarte-Guevara’s prize-winning concept holds an advantage over existing food systems that are time-consuming and require both specialized expertise and facilities. Furthermore, innovations such as this one could potentially help to alleviate the burden of food-borne diseases—the World Health Organization estimates that almost one in ten people fall ill every year from eating contaminated food, and 420,000 die as a result.

For his exemplary work, President Tan presented Duarte-Guevara with the Singapore Challenge Medallion and a US$100,000 cash prize.


Asian Scientist Magazine is a media partner of the [email protected] 2016.

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Source: Asian Scientist Magazine.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Coming from a design background, Filzah brings a fresh perspective to science communications. She is particularly interested in healthcare and technology.

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