Special Programme in Science (SPS) team wins gold


Team KiasuNUSPS, comprising Special Programme in Science (SPS) students Max TAN Jin Hui (Chemistry), ANG Shi Hui (Chemistry), Gabriel KAM Mao Quan (Physics) and Amanda NG Ren Hui (Life Sciences), emerged international champions at the 2016 International Natural Sciences Tournament (INST) held in Russia from 12 to 16 October 2016.


This was the first time that SPS students participated in the tournament. The team was coached by Dr Robert LIEU Zi Zhao, a lecturer with SPS and the Department of Biological Sciences.


INST is a team competition for current undergraduate students in Chemistry, Material Science, Physics, Biology, Medicine, Pharmaceuticals, Engineering or related areas. The competition aims to teach participants how to apply their knowledge to solve current scientific and industrial problems.


Every year, bright young scientists gather at the event to generate new scientific ideas. The tournament is also a platform to form collaborations between participants, scientific experts and industry.


The tournament comprised extramural (1st) and intramural (2nd) rounds. The extramural round was open to all universities, and teams were selected based on their performance. The intramural round was held on 12 to 16 October 2016 and was divided into two rounds - the preliminary and final round, with the top three teams making the finals.


Participants were given broad real-life scientific problems to be solved. Team KiasuNUSPS presented their solutions to experts, who included team leaders from participating universities, industry leaders, practicing scientists and R&D specialists from corporations. They also participated in active scientific discussions and debates to explain their solutions.


One group of students proposed using crystallised chemosensors ‘gemstones’ which dissolve slightly in the presence of heavy metal poisons such as arsenic or mercury, kickstarting a reaction leading to a colour change. The other students came up with a reversible hydrogel which can transform from hydrogel to liquid and vice versa. In its fluid state, the gel can seep into wounds, where it will gelate and pressurise the wound to hydrate burns. The team was coached by Dr Robert Lieu.


Despite being up against more experienced and senior university opponents, Team KiasuNUSPS stood their ground and did the Faculty proud by clinching the Gold award. Max and Gabriel also received best speaker awards.


Daniel KOLOKOLOV, President of the tournament jury and research fellow at the Institute of Catalysis SB RAS, said, “The NUS team demonstrated excellent skills in public speaking and extensive subject knowledge. They answered questions from the opponents and the jury with confidence. Team KiasuNUSPS also offered comprehensive and diversified solutions for complicated problems, effectively applied best practices and developed their own novel concept.”


The students found the experience educational and highly rewarding. Max said, “The competition was a great melting pot of cultures and science. We exchanged ideas on different sciences and gained exposure to the commercial aspects of science. It was encouraging that our ideas received validation from industry experts.”


Gabriel said, “The international tournament brought together people from different nationalities and cultures, who were united through a common passion for science. We had the opportunity to apply what we learnt in SPS and other modules to solve diverse problems, ranging from industrial problems to novel challenges and even sci-fi issues. To be able to share our ideas and discuss them in detail and to receive critique and new perspectives, especially in an interdisciplinary context, was a very enriching experience.”


Amanda said, “Can cells experience time differently? What is the electromagnetic spectrum of lightning? The questions posed were fascinating and got us out of our seats to the drawing board to explore various concepts.”


Dr Robert Lieu said, “The interdisciplinary science in SPS greatly helped our students to come up with innovative solutions to challenging problems. Members of the jury, comprising academic and industry experts in Russia, were extremely impressed by the quality of scientific solutions presented by Team KiasuNUSPS. This is an excellent testimonial of our top notch Science education.”


Group photos taken by Team KiasuNUSPS: