Trailblazing scientific talent receive Singapore’s highest research and innovation accolades
17 OCTOBER 2019
Singapore – Two teams and an individual have been awarded this year’s President’s Science and Technology Awards (PSTA), the highest honours bestowed upon research scientists and engineers in Singapore whose work have resulted in significant scientific, technological or economic benefits for the country.
The PSTA 2019 consists of the following awards:
- President’s Science Award (
PSA) - Two recipients
- President’s Technology Award (
PTA) - One recipient
The winners received their awards from President Halimah Yacob during a ceremony at the Istana on 17 October 2019.
They were picked by a distinguished panel of representatives from industry, academia and research.
This year, there were two PSA recipients: Professor Toh Kim Chuan, Department of Mathematics and Institute of Operations Research and Analytics, National University of Singapore (NUS); and a team from the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) consisting of Associate Professor Audrey Chia, Professor Saw Seang Mei, Professor Roger Beuerman, and Adjunct Professor Donald Tan.
The PTA was awarded to a team consisting of Dr Poh Hee Joo, A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), Dr Koh Wee Shing, IHPC, Mr Fachmin Folianto, A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R), and Mr Tan Sze Tiong, Housing & Development Board (HDB).
President’s Science Award (PSA) recipients
Pioneering the field of computational optimisation
Professor Toh Kim Chuan has done ground-breaking work in the field of computational optimisation, and is a world-leading figure in algorithms for semi-definite programming (SDP). He has been internationally recognised for his fundamental contributions to the theory, practice and application of this key area of research.
His work has enabled important advances in applications ranging from sensor network localisation to 3D chromosome organisation, as well as in machine-learning and data science. His algorithms could also be applied to the prediction of consumer behaviours of interest to businesses. Critical optimisation problems that were previously regarded as too difficult to solve in practice are now routinely dealt with by SDP solvers that Prof Toh made major contributions to.
Leading clinical research and combating myopia in Singapore and beyond
The team from SERI – comprising Assoc Prof Audrey Chia, Prof Saw Seang Mei, Prof Roger Beuerman, and Adjunct Prof Donald Tan – is recognised for their pioneering work in the field of myopia research that has contributed to a decrease in the prevalence and severity of myopia in children over the last three decades.
The team carried out translational research and clinical trials that established the role of low-dose atropine in controlling myopia in young children; as well as epidemiological studies that have led to practical recommendations for better eye health. Both strategies have contributed to decreasing the severity of myopia in children.
The SERI team was the first to identify low-dose atropine eyedrops as a viable treatment option that is both safe and effective for long-term use in children. This work has triggered many other interventional trials globally. This led SERI to develop its own eye drops to reduce the development and progression of myopia and this is now available in many countries. The team also developed the FitSight watch that encourages children to spend more time outdoors, as studies have shown that this is effective in reducing the occurrence of myopia. The team’s work has impacted education, clinical care, optometry guidelines, clinical interventions and preventive measures, leading them to be recognised as an international leader in myopia research.
President’s Technology Award (PTA) recipient
Taking urban planning to the next level with a state-of-the-art modelling tool
An Integrated Environmental Modeller (IEM), developed by a team consisting of Dr Poh Hee Joo (IHPC, A*STAR), Dr Koh Wee Shing (IHPC, A*STAR), Mr Fachmin Folianto (I²R, A*STAR), and Mr Tan Sze Tiong (HDB) looks set to play an important role in urban planning for greater environmental sustainability.
The IEM is an advanced modelling tool which uses high-resolution 3D city models to simulate the interaction of environmental factors such as solar irradiance, wind flow, air temperatures and noise levels, as well as their combined effects on an urban setting. Other modellers currently available in the market typically only assess one to two environmental factors.
With the IEM, urban planners can visualise environmental factors “virtually” to optimise the design of urban spaces. This platform is based on the latest high performance computing technologies from A*STAR’s IHPC, in collaboration with HDB.
The IEM was adopted in the urban design plan for Tengah town. HDB’s planners, architects and engineers will be able to use the IEM as one of the smart planning tools to analyse key wind channels and the solar heat gained by different urban features, such as concrete, vegetation, or water bodies. This will help them to design open spaces, as well as optimise the building layouts and orientation to enhance the intensity of wind flow and promote natural ventilation within the town.
Young Scientist Awards (YSA)
Organised by the Singapore National Academy of Science and supported by A*STAR, the Young Scientist Awards (YSA) recognise the accomplishments of researchers under 35, and who have shown the potential to scale greater heights. The awards highlight the importance of investments in the country’s scientific talent pool.
This year, two outstanding young individuals were recognised with the YSA.
- Dr Lim Ci Wen, Charles, NUS; for his research in quantum cryptography that contributes to Singapore’s world-class strengths in quantum cybersecurity;
- Dr Shao Huilin, NUS; for her work in developing innovative diagnostic technologies to empower patient care.
They received their awards from Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry, at the same event.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Agency for Science, Technology and Research
DID: (65) 6419 6541
HP: (65) 9109 7390
ANNEX A – List of PSTA winners
ANNEX B – Citations of PSTA winners
ANNEX C – List of YSA winners and information sheet on YSA
ANNEX D – Citations of YSA winners
ANNEX E – Fact sheet on PSTA selection committees
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 spearheads economic oriented research to advance scientific discovery and develop innovative technology. Through open innovation, we collaborate with our partners in both the public and private sectors to benefit society.
As a Science and Technology Organisation, A*STAR bridges the gap between academia and industry. Our research creates economic growth and jobs for Singapore, and enhances lives by contributing to societal benefits such as improving outcomes in healthcare, urban living, and sustainability.
We play a key role in nurturing and developing a diversity of talent and leaders in our Agency and Research Institutes, the wider research community and industry. A*STAR’s R&D activities span biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering, with research entities primarily located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis.
A*STAR is the secretariat for the annual President’s Science and Technology Awards.
For more information on A*STAR, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg.
 The PSTA represents the highest honours conferred upon outstanding research scientists and engineers in Singapore for their excellent achievements in science and technology. Originally established in 1987 as the National Science and Technology Awards, the awards were elevated to the Presidential level in 2009.