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A*STAR Release: Young Scientific Talents Present Novel Solutions to Health, Environment and Engineering Issues

4/26/2013 9:19:27 AM

Singapore, 26 April 2013 – Student research projects at two major science competitions for youths turned the spotlight on young minds and showcased the innovative solutions they believe could combat the health, environment and engineering problems of city living.

One of the gold-medal winning research proposals presented at the Singapore Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF) investigated how a common ginger extract could potentially help combat cancer. Another explored how the humble lalang could be used in the green synthesis of silver nanoparticles, a useful material in the medical field. A third winning proposal was a nano chemistry research project on the next generation of high-capacity, long-life batteries.

These three SSEF projects, made up of two individuals and one team of three students, will go on to represent Singapore at the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) to be held in Phoenix, Arizona from 12-17 May. The INTEL ISEF is widely regarded as the equivalent of the Olympic Games of pre-college science competitions where more than 1,500 high school students from approximately 70 countries, regions and territories compete and showcase their independent research. (Please refer to Annex A for detailed SSEF winners list)

Currently in its 13th year, the SSEF continues to be well received by students in secondary schools and junior colleges, who have conducted research in science and engineering at research institutes, universities and schools. This year, 566 projects were entered for the competition, which is jointly organised by MOE, A*STAR and the Science Centre, of which 188 students were awarded gold, silver, bronze and merit prizes.

Out of the SSEF award winners, a total of 46 students went on to compete in the A*STAR Talent Search (ATS) which saw eight finalists make the final cut with the opportunity to present their projects to a panel of judges including Chief Judge Prof. Dr. Hartmul Michel, a 1988 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry.

This year, participants proved to be highly self-motivated and driven in their research. First place winner, Zera Ong proposed a new research project to her mentor during her attachment at the A*STAR Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology. Her winning research dealt with the analysis of mutant genes affecting the development of Zebra fish. Michelle Lim, one of the youngest ATS participants proved her mettle by winning second place for her research on developing a natural complement to chemotherapeutic drugs for breast cancer using mangosteen peel extract. And third place winner, Gregory Gunawan, drew inspiration for his research from his childhood. A filtration tank he encountered when young led him to work on a growing research field, Microfiltration, where he researched using metal membranes with Nano pores for water filtration.

The three winners of ATS 2013 are:

1st Prize: Zera Ong HuiXuan from Raffles Institution

Project: Analysis of Mutants Affecting NFkB Signaling in Developing Zebrafish

2nd Prize: Lim Xuan Li, Michelle from Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary)

Project: Explore the potential anti-proliferative/pro-apoptotic effects of mangosteen peel extract and alpha-mangostin in triple negative breast cancer cell lines

3rd Prize: Gregory Adrian Gunawan from National Junior College

Project: Metal Membranes with Nano Pores for Water Filtration

(Please refer to Annex B for details on the ATS winners, finalists and their projects)

After the intensive interview session with the ATS finalists, Prof Michel noted, “The research work done by the students was highly impressive, considering their young age. They were highly motivated, with a drive to achieve something for the society.”

Dr Lim Khiang Wee, Executive Director of the A*STAR Graduate Academy and one of the ATS judges commented, “As part of the judging panel, I am always intrigued by the genuine passion for science and research in the students, as they spoke with confidence about their projects. I hope that, through competitions such as the SSEF and ATS, students find their interest in science ignited and go on to pursue their studies and careers in science.”

The ATS is part of the A*STAR Graduate Academy’s science outreach to schools, and gives recognition to these outstanding students who have a strong aptitude for engineering, mathematics, science and technology. The competition helps to nurture a passion for research in young Singaporeans and is a channel through which young aspiring scientists are identified and nurtured. The finalists have to go through two rounds of rigorous judging, where they are encouraged to present a combination of creativity, mastery of scientific concepts and enthusiasm for research to a judging panel of scientists from the universities and research institutes.

Commenting on the growing success of SSEF and ATS, A/Prof Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore said, “This year’s SSEF and ATS once again prove that Singapore has a treasure trove of budding future scientists that should be exposed. Events like these offer the perfect occasion for them to showcase their talent. The Science Centre will continue to work with our partners to champion opportunities and provide a platform for our youth to be involved in hands-on research that will not only help nurture their scientific talent, but also encourage them to pursue careers in the area of research and development.”

A*STAR-CRADLS Student Research Grant

One of the highlights of the ATS this year was the announcement of the A*STAR-CRADLS Student Research Grant. The Centre for Research and Applied Learning in Science (CRADLS) - a research and learning hub set-up at the Science Centre - was formed last year and is supported by A*STAR, MOE, and DSO. CRADLS focuses on inquiry-based experimentation and research for upper secondary and junior college students, as well as teachers. The new grant aims to encourage students to develop independent thinking and a sense of scientific curiosity. Students can apply to CRADLS for the research project funding, with successful applications being awarded up to $2,000 for equipment, consumables and services for their research or innovation projects.

About Singapore Science and Engineering Fair & A*STAR Talent Search

The Singapore Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF) and the A*STAR Talent Search (ATS) are flagship science outreach programmes jointly organised by A*STAR, Science Centre and the Ministry of Education. Both competitions have provided students with opportunities to showcase their stellar research work and encourage them to further explore science and technology for over a decade now.

SSEF is an annual competition for students in secondary schools and junior colleges to showcase their research projects. Selected winners go on to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest pre-college science competition.

ATS is the pinnacle award that shortlists from SSEF participants and identifies top young scientific talents from amongst students aged 15 to 21 years old with a strong aptitude for science and technology. The projects are reviewed by an extensive network of scientists from local and international universities, defence and medical research organisations, and A*STAR research institutes. ATS finalists present their work to a distinguished panel of judges, headed by an internationally eminent Chief Judge.

About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore's lead public sector agency that fosters world-class scientific research and talent to drive economic growth and transform Singapore into a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation driven economy.

In line with its mission-oriented mandate, A*STAR spearheads research and development in fields that are essential to growing Singapore’s manufacturing sector and catalysing new growth industries. A*STAR supports these economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry.

A*STAR oversees 20 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research entities, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis as well as their vicinity. These two R&D hubs house a bustling and diverse community of local and international research scientists and engineers from A*STAR’s research entities as well as a growing number of corporate laboratories.

About Science Centre Singapore

The Science Centre Singapore celebrates 35 years of promoting interest and creative learning in science and technology. Over the past 35 years, the Centre and its partners have played a pivotal role in transforming the way students and the public interact with and learn about science & technology. Together with Omni-Theatre and Snow City, the Centre has engaged and enriched more than 29.5 million Singaporeans since 1977. A custodian of creativity and innovation, the Centre has captured the evolution of scientific developments through unique and relevant exhibitions and shows. It continues to ignite young minds and foster new generations of scientifically savvy Singaporeans.

A non-formal educational institution and leading Science Centre in the region, the Science Centre houses 14 exhibition galleries with more than 1,000 exhibits, and another 20,000 sq metres of outdoor exhibition space showcasing the Waterworks exhibition, Ecogarden and Kinetic Garden. It also houses the Omni-Theatre — Singapore’s only dome-shaped, 5-storey high IMAX theatre. The Science Centre, Omni-Theatre and Snow City received 1.46 million visitors for FY2011/2012. For more information, please visit

For media queries, please contact:

Adrienne Ser

GolinHarris International

DID: 6551-5433 HP: 8571-6855


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