AsianScientist (Dec. 10, 2021) – Insights into how the brain makes us eat, building the next generation of quantum computers and reducing artificial intelligence’s reliance on big data are the scientific breakthroughs by young Singaporean scientists recognized at a ceremony held at The Istana on December 10, 2021.
Organized by the Singapore National Academy of Science (SNAS) and supported by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), the Young Scientist Awards (YSA) are awarded to researchers under 35 years of age who have shown strong potential to be world-class experts in their chosen fields.
This year, the awards went to Dr. Sarah Luo from A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), Dr. Yvonne Gao from the Department of Physics at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Dr. Zhang Hanwang from the School of Computer Science and Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore).
All three recipients were shortlisted by the YSA committee from a list of nominees to present their research achievements to a judging panel.
Neuroscientist Luo was recognized for her discovery of a novel region in the brain that regulates feeding behavior. When activated in mice, this region led to increased food consumption even when mice were not hungry. At her lab at IMCB, Luo continues to explore the brain’s role in appetite and metabolic regulation.
“We all know you are what you eat…With modern-day constant exposure to calorically dense food, it’s all the more important to prevent future generations from being affected by metabolic disease,” shared Luo in a video presented at the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Gao was awarded the YSA for her development of robust, scalable hardware necessary for scaling up quantum computers without any loss in performance. Gao, who leads the Quantum Circuits Research and Engineering Workgroup at NUS, already holds two patents for her previous work on universal entangling operations.
“Quantum computing has the power to transform many facets of our lives,” explained Gao over video. “My work here hopes to establish a foundation for us to build [quantum] hardware locally, such that we can have reliable and secure access.”
Finally, the YSA also recognized another breakthrough in computer science: Zhang’s work on building a general causal framework for next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) models. His framework will allow AI to actively intervene in the environment, collect data on demand, and generate unseen data to reduce their reliance on big data sample sizes.
“Data right now [in AI] is in the hands of big corporations and big countries,” said Zhang. “My research can help small countries to also build strong AI.”
The recipients accepted their awards from Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Mr. Heng Swee Keat. In a world where scientific advances are crucial to solving global concerns, awards like the YSA that celebrate and inspire the next generation of scientific talent are a welcome sight.
Source: A*STAR; Photo: Jorgina Tan/Asian Scientist Magazine.
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