Widely regarded as the nation’s top scientific honors, the President’s Science and Technology Awards (PSTA) recognize outstanding contributions to research and development that are helping to shape Singapore’s science and engineering landscape. A uniting theme at the 2012 awards, conferred by Tony Tan Keng Yam, president of Singapore, at a ceremony held on 30 October, was the impact on society and the economy associated with each of the award-winning fields of research.
A*STAR scientists were among the award winners this year. Dim-Lee Kwong, executive director of the A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics (IME), was awarded the President’s Science and Technology Medal, and Wang Yue of the A*STAR Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) received the President’s Science Award. In addition, Joel Yang of the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) was one of the recipients of the Young Scientist Awards, which celebrate young researchers who demonstrate the potential to be future leaders in their fields.
Congratulating all 2012 PSTA winners, Tan stated: "This year's winners have all demonstrated the spirit of innovation, admirable passion and commitment, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. All of them have made important discoveries, raised the bar for scientific excellence in Singapore, and made a significant positive impact on Singapore's economy and society."
A big win for innovation
Throughout his distinguished career, Kwong has played a prominent role in the development of Singapore’s semiconductor industry. He is credited not only with establishing major partnerships between the IME and more than 50 multinational companies, but also helping to launch large-scale initiatives supporting the emergence of innovative enterprises and technologies such as the 3-D Through-Silicon Via (3D TSV), Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) and the Electronic Packaging Research Consortium.
On being awarded the 2012 President’s Science and Technology Medal, Kwong comments: “I am honored to receive this prestigious award. This would not have been possible without the commitment and untiring efforts of every one of us at IME, and our partners in industry. We have worked hard to build up research capabilities for the microelectronics sector and constantly pushed the envelope of scientific excellence and have raised the profile of Singapore R&D internationally. I am very gratified to see that the work we do has reaped success and has contributed to the progress of Singapore's industry, particularly the semiconductor sector.”
Among his many achievements, Kwong is a longstanding advocate of A*STAR’s outreach and educational activities, and has served as an A*STAR Research editorial board member from 2009 to 2011.
As remarkable strides continue to be made in Singapore’s burgeoning technology market, Kwong emphasizes the importance of building strategic collaborative partnerships, noting that the semiconductor industry is “undergoing a major paradigm shift from the fabless/foundry model to integrated fabless manufacturer (IFM) model.” He explains, “Fabless companies are now actively engaging chip equipment and materials suppliers to know what technologies would become available and how they could be implemented. IFM requires holistic path-finding of advanced technology and optimization of packaging-process-design integration. It is all about integration and collaboration.”
Excellence in medical research
The 2012 President’s Science Award was awarded to Yue for his exemplary research on Candida albicans, a fungal pathogen that causes life-threatening infections in humans. Wang and his IMCB team’s studies have yielded valuable insights into C. albicans development; his laboratory was the first to identify Hgc1 as a master regulator of the transformation of C. albicans from a benign to virulent form, and showed that removing Hgc1 significantly reduced the ability of the pathogen to cause infection in mice. Wang’s group also found that Hgc1 works together with a protein called Cdc28 to regulate cellular machines responsible for cell shape formation.
“The impact of this discovery is manifold,” explains Wang. “First, we gained a better understanding of mechanisms underlying C. albicans virulence. Second, Hgc1 may be targeted for drug development. And third, we found an excellent model to address the fundamental biological question of how cells attain a certain shape.”
On receiving his award, Wang comments: “It is a great honor for me to be conferred this prestigious award. It is recognition of not only my achievements but also those of all people who have worked with me in the past 15 years. It gives me a strong sense of satisfaction that my studies have made significant contributions towards a better understanding of a major human disease and opened up new opportunities for drug development. This award will certainly serve as a great inspiration and encouragement for me and my group to scale new heights in the future.”
The 2012 President’s Technology Award was jointly presented to Louis Phee of Nanyang Technological University and Lawrence Ho at the University Medicine Cluster, National University Health System, for their work on novel surgical procedures.
Nanoscience gets the nod
In the Young Scientist Award category, Yang at A*STAR’s IMRE was recognized for his work on nanolithography and nanoplasmonics. Yang and his team have been pushing the boundaries of digital imaging technologies, most recently demonstrating that color images can be produced at an unrivaled resolution of 100,000 dots per inch (dpi). (See Fine prospects for high-resolution printing and Microscopy: A glance from the nanoworld for more details.)
“It is a very special honor to win the Young Scientist Award,” says Yang. “I feel very fortunate and thankful that not only the effort I have put in, but also the efforts of those with whom I've worked closely are being recognized.”
Yang refers to the IMRE’s “top-notch research facilities” as a key factor in enabling his team’s cutting-edge work. “The support from IMRE's management for young scientists to attend and present our work at focused conferences is also important in keeping us abreast of the latest developments in the field,” he says. “On a day-to-day basis, being able to build a group and surround myself with intelligent and passionate peers was crucial in creating an atmosphere where constant discussions generate new ideas and stimulate creativity.”
Learn more about the President's Science and Technology Awards.
For more information about other awards and scholarships supported by A*STAR, visit the A*STAR website.