Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize

The Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize (OURP) was first launched by the Provost Office in AY2006/2007 as an annual university-wide competition to encourage research and to recognise the best undergraduate researchers in NUS.

Through this competition, students develop their research skills for use in courses and other academic and professional pursuits; identify academic and career interests; learn about a new field; develop working relationships between classmates and faculty mentors; and provide them a glimpse of graduate life.

 

Entry Submission for OURP AY2019/20 is now OPEN!

Submission detail:

Please submit your entries to your HOME department (as per your primary major).

Submission Requirements: 
You will need to submit your entries in both hard and soft copy.

Please provide the following in hardcopy:

  1. The Application form (Download it here)
  2. The project report
  3. Abstract

Please provide the following in softcopy in a CD-ROM:

  1. The completed and signed application form in pdf
  2. The project report in both pdf and MS word format.
  3. The abstract in MS word format.
  4. A recent photograph of yourself and/or your group in JPEG format.

If you are unable to submit the finalized full report by this deadline, please submit to us a best draft of your report with your important findings.

 

Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2018/19

YEO XI JIE

Physics, Individual Category AY2018/19

Project Title: Spectral Compression of Narrowband Single Photons

Being awarded the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize (OURP) was a really encouraging experience on my journey in becoming a researcher that can make my contribution to society via science. It showed me that my efforts are putting me on the right track, yet it is also a reminder for me to stay humble and to work even harder in order to get there. The prize money itself also allowed me to fund myself for a trip to an overseas conference after my graduation, and purchase some technical books that I have been interested in.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank my supervisor Professor Christian Kurtsiefer and his group for taking me in early on in my undergraduate career as a UROPS student. Under the tutelage of himself and the experienced researchers and students in his group, I was able to pick up skills (both in and out of the lab) that are necessary to becoming a researcher. These skills acquired did play a huge role in being able to be awarded the OURP in my final year project with him. Apart from the skills I learnt, I would also like to thank Christian for being supportive in my journey in becoming a full-fledged researcher, always ready to help us with any help he can (supporting us for conferences/workshops or writing commendation letters for us). A special thank you also goes to Mathias Seidler here, the PhD student (and will l be doing his defence soon) whom I was working closely with throughout the course of this project.

I would also like to thank the Faculty of Science and the Department of Physics for giving us students the opportunities and encouragement to gain first-hand experience learning from the world-class researchers we have here in NUS. Also, I would like to thank Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) for providing such a lovely environment here which facilitates productive collaboration and discussion between scientists and aspiring scientists interested in the field of quantum technologies.

About the Project

There is an increasing interest in establishing a distributed network of quantum computers, and this interest is not limited to the scientific community, as governments and large corporate organisations around the world are investing more into its research. A core component in realizing this quantum internet is the transfer of quantum information between nodes of quantum computer a. A proposed method of transferring this quantum information is by interacting individual photons with the atoms located at each node. A key factor in efficient photon-atom interaction is the frequency distribution matching of a photon with the corresponding atomic transition. However, some of the conventional techniques to produce individual photons has a frequency distribution 2 to 6 times broader than the corresponding atomic transition’s frequency distribution; a mismatch. Current methods to achieve this matching involves the frequency filtering of photons, which result in the loss of photons from the system. This is not ideal as single-photon sources already have low intensities to begin with, and filtering the photons further dims the source. In my project, I successfully performed a first demonstration in a brightness maintaining method compressing the frequency distribution of 795 nm single-photons by a factor of 2

 

NG KAI MING NICHOLAS

Pharmacy Major, Individual Category AY2018/19

Project Title: Inactivation of Human Aldehyde Oxidase‐1 by Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors and their Impact on Therapeutic Drugs

A pharmacist’s role in the scientific domain remains understated till this date. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to broaden the horizon of scientific knowledge from a pharmacist’s point of view. Our entire pharmacy curriculum places patient welfare at the forefront of our decision making process. This is our edge that we bring to the table and I hope that we can continue to serve the community not just clinically but also scientifically.

I would like to thank my supervisor, Dr Lau Aik Jiang, for her unwavering support and guidance throughout my short yet fruitful FYP journey. Her kind words of wisdom shall remain with me for the years to come. My deepest gratitude to Dr Yeap Szu Ling, Dr Sumit Bansal, Michelle Chen Shiyan and my peers for providing the upmost assistance in resolving the difficulties I have faced.

The deepest lesson I have learnt throughout the project is the value of perseverance. Much of the blood, sweat and tears we shed is unseen but the final result may just surprise you.

About the project

Aldehyde oxidase (AOX) enzyme is the lesser known cousin to the cytochrome P450 enzymes. In this study, I discovered a novel potent inactivator of AOX and showed the significant impact of AOX inactivation on an anti-cancer drug metabolized primarily by AOX. By studying how certain anti-cancer medications interact with the AOX enzyme by different mechanisms, the findings suggest how this interaction can affect the metabolism of other clinically used medications. I hope that these findings can someday contribute to future healthcare guidelines.

 

LIM KANG RUI GARRICK

Chemistry Major, Individual Category AY2018/19

Project Title: Multi-core-shell quantum dots for solar harvesting applications

I am deeply humbled and honoured to be considered for and awarded the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize (OURP) AY 2018/2019. As I reflect on my journey as a budding undergraduate researcher in NUS, I am thankful for countless research and mentorship opportunities offered by the Faculty of Science (FoS). Under the Special Programme in Science (SPS), I was exposed to scientific research and communication early on in my undergraduate career in Years 1 and 2 - it was then I learnt the value of collaborative and inter-disciplinary work. Subsequently, the FoS Undergraduate Professional Internship Programme (UPIP) provided me the opportunity to experience first-hand industrial research at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). I dedicate this prize to the many mentors who have guided me through my undergraduate research projects, and especially to Prof. Tan Zhi Kuang’s laboratory.

This OURP project, entitled “multi-core-shell quantum dots for solar harvesting applications” was my final year project (FYP), supervised by Prof. Tan Zhi-Kuang and mentored by Dr Hadhi Wijaya. This project would not have achieved its success without the guidance and support of Prof. Tan and the rest of the NIR team: Dr Hadhi, Daryl, Tian, Xiaofei, Evon, Chenchao, Li Jun and Zhi Chiaw. Dr Hadhi was instrumental in getting me up to speed and I have learnt so much about synthetic chemistry and equipment management from him. Dr Hadhi was also my role model to emulate as a mentor – a patient and effective mentor who often selflessly puts his students’ interests before himself and above all, a team player well-liked and respected by the entire laboratory. I thank Prof. Tan and the NIR team for valuing my input and contributions for they afforded me responsibilities and freedom rarely granted to undergraduate students. To this end, I have found myself growing tremendously as a researcher and could not have found a better laboratory to make my transition from my undergraduate career to graduate studies. A special appreciation goes out to the rest of Prof. Tan’s laboratory, past and present. They were always ready to lend a helping hand in a highly collaborative and positive environment – days in the laboratory were made less dull and less mundane with these people.

About the Project

Infrared emitting materials with a large Stokes shift are technologically important for luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) and for bioimaging applications. The design of III-V quantum dots (QDs) for these applications necessitate the understanding and use of band gap engineering to synthesize core-shell QDs with high photoluminescent quantum efficiency and minimal absorption-photoluminescence (PL) overlap. Here, we describe the first realization of two new quaternary giant shell QDs with efficient PL in the near-infrared (NIR): InAs-In(Zn)P-ZnSe-ZnS and In(Zn)As-In(Zn)P-GaP-ZnS. Our results provide a highly convenient protocol to synthesize highly luminescent and spectrally tunable NIR core-shell QDs for consumer opto-electronic products and biological applications. We further anticipate that our experimental and computational results will provide scientific insights into future NIR core-shell QD designs.

 

MAVIS KANG PEI LIN

Chemistry Major, Individual Category AY2018/19

Project Title: Optimising the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide to Ethylene and Ethanol using Gas Diffusion Electrodes 

I am deeply honoured to receive the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize. This award is an excellent form of recognition for undergraduates gaining research experience and demonstrates the University's support for budding researchers. It encourages undergraduates to take failures in their stride, while developing innovative and creative solutions to tackle future global issues.

The Faculty of Science provides many opportunities, such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Science (UROPS) as well as overseas research attachments, for undergraduates to understand what research is truly like and to be exposed to the various fields of research available in their major. I was also fortunate to be part of the Special Programme in Science (SPS), which was instrumental in shaping my research experience. SPS provided a safe environment to not only freely express and test out my research ideas, I could also explore beyond my major. Having mentors with knowledge of the various fields vastly facilitated the learning process when it came to research and experimentation. In addition, the multidisciplinary nature of the SPS modules encourages exchange of ideas and perspectives with students of other majors in an intellectually‑stimulating environment.

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my supervisor Associate Professor Yeo Boon Siang Jason for giving me the opportunity to join his research group and guiding me throughout the year‑long final year project journey. He was very patient and encouraging, despite all the failed experiments and the setbacks I faced. He also provided many insights which allowed me to better understand the fundamental ideas and developments in electrocatalysis. Additionally, I am extremely thankful to all members of the Electrocatalysis Laboratory for their valuable and timely advice and for making my research experience such an enjoyable one.

About the Project

The electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2RR) has the potential to both lower atmospheric CO2 concentrations and to produce useful chemicals and fuels. However, the electrochemical CO2RR activity is greatly limited by the low solubility of CO2, which causes immense mass transport limitation to the process. Use of gas diffusion electrodes can circumvent this obstacle. In this study, we demonstrated the potential of using gas diffusion electrodes (GDEs) for production of ethanol and ethylene. Leveraging the tri-phase catalytic interface that GDEs offer, we also developed a novel layered bimetallic catalyst structure which can electrochemically convert CO2 to ethanol with high selectivity and electrochemical activities. This highlights the potential of using the GDE for the high throughput conversion of CO2 to C2 molecules and is a key step towards the efficient conversion of carbon dioxide into useful fuels.

 

YAP JIT WU

Mathematics Major, Individual Category AY2018/19

Project Title: On DeBacker’s parametrization for Orthogonal Groups

I am honoured to have been chosen as a recipient for the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize. This project was done under the Overseas UROPS at Shanghai Jiaotong University, and I am grateful to the Faculty of Science and NUS for this opportunity. I would also like to thank Dr. Ma Jia-Jun, who served as my research supervisor and has been very patient guiding me through the project.

Unlike the coursework one usually takes in NUS, research need not have a clearly defined scope nor have an answer waiting at the end. At the beginning of the project, the problem we solved was not in our mind and only arose after much exploration. This experience has greatly enlightened me on what research is about, and to keep an open mind on different perspectives.

Throughout my undergraduate years, I have greatly benefited from the various mathematical courses I have taken, especially those under the Special Program in Math (SPM). I would like to express my gratitude to the Department of Mathematics, and to the professors who have taught me, for the project would not be successful without the foundations they have given me.

About the Project

Nilpotent orbits are objects that play an important role in representation theory. Previously, Stephen DeBacker found a way to parameterize them using a geometric structure known as the Bruhat-Tits Building. Later, Monica Nevins compared DeBacker's parametrization with other known parametrizations for the Sympletic group, as a means of understanding DeBacker's parametrization better.

Our project extends Nevins' work to the case of the Orthogonal group. On the way, we proved a general result regarding the dimension of the facet associated to a nilpotent orbit. With this, we collaborated with Nevins to extend her results to all classical groups.

 

HE MENGLAN 

Life Sciences Major, Individual Category AY2018/19

Project Title: Changes in Cellular Lipid and Cholesterol Levels Affect Alpha Synuclein Aggregation

I am deeply humbled and honoured to be one of the recipients of the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize. Although the project itself focused on unrevealing basic cellular process, I was enlightened by how such knowledge could contribute to our understanding of etiology of Parkinson’s Disease. This prize not only serves as a recognition of my research work done during my Final Year Project, but also as a motivation to further pursuit my aspiration of becoming a clinician scientist, despites all the odds and obstacles lying ahead.

Reflecting on my research experience during NUS, I am grateful for the numerous opportunities that Faculty of Science had offered to me. For example, Special Programme in Science (SPS) gave me early exposure to scientific research and writing, as well as a group of passionate peers and mentor interested in interdisciplinary science. Moreover, my experiences in Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Science (UROPS), Student Exchange Programme (SEP) where I did a semester long research attachment in Duke University, as well as the FoS supported for our participation in in international Genetically Engineered Machine competition, had all equipped me with necessary skills and mindset, and nurtured my ability to be a better researcher.

I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to my supervisor, Asst. Prof Liou Yih-Cherng, for giving me the freedom and support as an undergraduate student to design and conduct this new project in the lab. One of the valuable lessons I learnt from the experience in Liou’s lab is not be afraid of challenging popular view if our own experimental results are reproducible. I would also like to thank Dr. Lee Yew Mun, who has been my mentor since my first research project in NUS, for his continuous guidance and encouragement, especially when I encountered failures and challenges.

 

 

Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2017/18

NICOLE ANN GUNN LI LIN

Life Sciences Major, Individual Category AY2017/18

Project Title: A Novel Method to Engineer Immune Cells to Secrete a Functional Soluble T-Cell Receptor-Immunoglobulin G Fusion Protein

I am deeply humbled and honoured to be a recipient of the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize. I am elated to be chosen as one of the winners but at the same time, I am also keenly aware that many of my fellow peers are exceptional individuals, making significant contributions that we might or might not know about. I can attest to the huge efforts and high quality of work put into their own research projects of my fellow batch-mates. Not only do I hope this will serve as a form of encouragement but also to reaffirm all my fellow peers and juniors to pursue their research interests and ambitions.

I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to my supervisors Professor Dario Campana and Dr. Noriko Shimasaki. They have inspired me with their foresights, insights and passion to push the frontier of cancer immunotherapies and human health. I would also like thank all the staff, postdocs, and PhD students for providing me with valuable and timely advice and feedback for my project. The environment in Prof. Campana’s lab has been very supportive, motivating me to delve deep into the many unknowns in cancer immunology research.

In addition, I would also like to thank the Faculty of Science and the Special Programme in Science (SPS), for granting me research opportunities such as UROPS as well as SPS’s independent research-based modules.  I was fortunate to learn from fellow peers and mentors in SPS in a collaborative and intellectually-stimulating environment. Challenges from these past research experiences has made me a more resilient person and prepared for my final year project. Hence, I also would like to attribute this achievement to overcoming several failures and repeated experiments which turned out to be very valuable learning lessons in making progress. Culmination of these research experiences inspires and motivates me to further dedicate my curiosity and efforts to improve human health as a clinician-scientist.

About the Project

Compelling results from recent clinical trials demonstrates the capacity of immune cells such as natural killer (NK) cells to effectively kill multi-drug resistant cancer cells and elicit clinical remissions. We have devised a novel method that allows NK cells to kill cancer cells with greater specificity and efficiency using an antibody-like protein. When secreted, this protein can recognize virus-derived proteins as well as proteins expressed on several cancer types. This protein thus endows NK cells to specifically target cancer cells and increase their killing capacity. This method represents a new form of immunotherapy to expand the range of targetable cancers.

CHONG JIN JIAN

Pharmacy Major, Individual Category AY2017/18

Project Title: INHALED PROTEIN POWDERS: DESIGNING “PLUG-AND-PLAY” POWDER FORMULATION PLATFORMS FOR PROTEINS AND PEPTIDES

Pharmacists are custodians of science in healthcare - our understanding of fundamental scientific research grounds and augments our evidence-based practice. I am elated to receive this award for my contribution to this project, and am grateful to my supervisors and collaborators, Dr Rachel Ee (NUS), Dr Desmond Heng (A*STAR) and Dr Lee Sie Huey (A*STAR), my research partner, members of the labs and everyone whom I worked with for their support and guidance. 

As pharmacy students, our exposure to research is largely different from our peers because of our clinical specialization. The Faculty of Science (FoS) and Department of Pharmacy recognises these distinct educational needs, allowing greater flexibility in our syllabus to focus on relevancy to our professional development. They have also been extremely enthusiastic in engaging students in research work and offering research opportunities both locally and abroad. Participating in international exchanges as part of the International Pharmaceutical Students' Federation (IPSF) and Study Trips for Engagement and EnRichment (STEER) program also broadened my perspectives and contributed greatly to my research journey. 

Research is like rowing a boat against the current - forge ahead or be driven back. I urge my peers to uphold scientific excellence as students and pharmacists, to go beyond and broaden your perspectives, and to forge ahead together to translate our knowledge into better public health outcomes.

About the project

Traditionally, protein and peptide drugs can only be injected because of various stability and efficacy issues. My project investigates the feasibility of formulating protein and peptide drug compounds into dry powders and administering them via inhalation, as well as the generalizability of such a formulation. Eventually, we managed to propose a general "recipe" to make such dry powders that can be applied to different protein and peptide drugs! 

 

SHAWN NG VOON HWEE

Chemistry Major, Individual Category AY2017/18

Project Title: Practical Kinetic Resolution of Biaryl Amino Alcohols via Atroposelective N-alkylation Catalysed by a Commercial Chiral Amine

I am honoured and elated to have been awarded the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize this year. Perhaps in a rather romanticised view, this piece of news could be seen as a culmination of the undergraduate research experience that the Faculty of Science offers. The Faculty of Science provides many opportunities for undergraduates to explore their interests and develop as aspiring researchers, these include dedicated programmes like UROP and overseas research attachments, and the modular system which enables curriculum flexibility. I was fortunate to be involved in the UROP initiative offered in the Department of Chemistry in Year 3, where I explored the enhanced optical properties of coupled metal nanoparticles under the guidance of my former advisor Associate Professor Xu Qinghua. I would like to thank him for providing a holistic experience through which I learnt to work independently and developed practical, analytical, and scientific writing skills.

This OURP entry is titled Practical Kinetic Resolution of Biaryl Amino Alcohols via Atroposelective N-alkylation Catalysed by a Commercial Chiral Amine and is a project I worked on under the supervision of Associate Professor Zhao Yu and mentorship of Dr Lu Shenci during Honours year. I had a wonderful time working in the Zhao Research Group. Besides developing practical and analytical skills related to organic synthesis, I was able to experience the process of transforming written ideas into reality. Furthermore, the collaborative environment enabled me to learn much about new developments in asymmetric catalysis. I would like to thank my advisor, mentor, and all members of the Zhao Research Group for providing this brilliant experience.

Lastly, this would certainly not have been possible without several friends who encouraged me to submit an entry. While my research experience in NUS has been positively enriching, I still have much to learn and wish to pursue further studies in Chemistry in the near future. 

About the Project

In this work, we developed a simple, efficient and practical kinetic resolution* of axially chiral amino alcohol (NOBIN-type) biaryls via N-alkylation with Morita-Baylis-Hillman (MBH) carbonates catalysed by a commercially available chiral amine organocatalyst. The methodology enables unprecedented access a diverse library of enantiopure NOBINs which belong to a class of privileged structures that act as highly effective organocatalysts and ligands in many important enantioselective transformations. This development enables greater exploration and discovery of NOBIN-based catalysts for enantioselective synthesis.

*Kinetic resolution is the differentiation of enantiomers in a racemate by different reaction rates in a chiral environment such that an enantioenriched substrate can be recovered at partial conversion.

 

LEE JIA QI

Life Sciences Major, Individual Category AY2017/18

Project Title: Human ESCs-derived neurons as a model to study FEZ1 expression in human brain development

Receiving this award is indeed a great honour and encouragement for me. This was the first time I undertook a research project of my own and although it had been exhausting and filled with challenges, I am thankful for the experience and also for the community of support I was blessed with. I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. John Chua for entrusting me with this project and for his invaluable guidance and support throughout my FYP. Another indispensable figure in my FYP journey was my mentor, Dr. Sumitra, who was always patient in showing me the ropes. Thank you for spurring me to be inquisitive, meticulous and persevering, which I believe are what makes a good scientist! I would also like to thank members of the JC lab for all the help and encouragement they have rendered.

The LSM modules, particularly the neurobiology classes, have definitely equipped me with the essential knowledge to embark on this project. I am also thankful for the various opportunities the Faculty of Science has provided me with to broaden my exposure and further my interests. One of which is my semester-long exchange to Duke University, where I had the great privilege to work at Nobel Laureate Dr. Robert Lefkowitz’s lab and experience firsthand how research is conducted overseas. Being able to interact with Dr. Lefkowitz and learn about the arduous journey he undergone to convince the scientific community of the existence of GPCR receptors was truly a great inspiration for a young scientist like me. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for which I am utterly grateful for.

In retrospect, my undergraduate journey has been a fulfilling and enjoyable one and I would like to thank NUS for the efforts put into offering a holistic education and for validating students’ work and achievements through awards like this.

About the Project

FEZ1, a kinesin-1 adaptor, has been shown to be essential for neuronal development in animal neurons and has also been implicated in human neurological diseases like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s. Since animal neurons cannot fully recapitulate the properties of human neurons, neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells were found to be a more compelling model for investigating the functional role of FEZ1 in human neurons. My findings have validated the importance of FEZ1 in human neuronal development and paved the way for future research like knockdown studies or pull-down assays to further elucidate FEZ1 function. 

 

Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2016/17

Tay Zhi Jian Daniel

Physics Major, Individual Category AY2016/17

Project Title: Photon-Magnon Coupling in Split Ring Resonators

I am extremely honoured and grateful to receive the award. NUS students produce a vast body of excellent research every year, so it is humbling that my work has been singled out among all the other outstanding work and deemed worthy of an award. One unique strength of the Faculty of Science is its focus on research. I can think of no better place for a young undergraduate student to be exposed to actual hands-on research on topics that are close to the cutting edge of modern technology. Even as we celebrate the achievements of the OURP winners, we should not forget that OURP winning projects are but a small subset of the excellent research done by NUS students. In particular, I can personally attest that there are many other research projects done by my fellow batch-mates and seniors in the physics department which are of extremely high quality. I strongly encourage all physics-lovers in NUS to engage in conversation with physics majors regarding their research and/or have a quick browse through the FYP thesis archive on the physics department website.

I would like to acknowledge my supervisor Prof Ong Chong Kim and my mentor Dr Soh Wee Tee for their help and guidance throughout the project. I would also like to thank our collaborators at the Center for Ion Beam Applications (CIBA) for generously allowing me to use their clean room and lithography facilities to fabricate my sample. I would also like to comment that my mentor Dr Soh Wee Tee was working on his PhD thesis while supervising my UROPS project, and was awarded his PhD sometime after my UROPS project ended. Congratulations, Wee Tee!

About the Project

 Traditional electronic devices operate by manipulating electrical charges. In recent years, a new body of spintronic devices which operate by manipulating electron spins are being developed. For my project, I fabricate and study a spintronic system in which collective spin excitations (magnons) in an Yttrium Iron Garnet (YIG) film are coupled with microwaves (photons) in a Split Ring Resonator (SRR). Two effects can result: Electromagnetically Induced Absorption (EIA), where the system strongly absorbs microwaves, or Electromagnetically Induced Transparency (EIT), where the system becomes transparent to microwaves. Hence, I show that my spintronic device can be used to control microwave transmission. 

 

Leong Jun Hao

Life Sciences Major, Individual Category AY2016/17

Project Title: Development of NKG2D Chimeric Receptors for Cancer Immunotherapy

I am deeply honored to be a recipient of the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize. This prize will be a great motivation as I pursue my future research goals.

I would like to express my appreciations and thanks towards my supervisors Professor Dario Campana and Dr. Robert Lieu, as well as all members of my laboratory for their valuable advice and guidance throughout my entire journey. They have played a huge role for my achievements and in shaping my perspective and thinking. I appreciate the conducive environment of the laboratory and the friendliness of all lab members. These greatly assisted and enhanced my learning throughout my stay in the laboratory. Lastly, I would like to thank my peers and family members for their support.

Being someone with no prior knowledge or experience in research, I am also grateful for the various opportunities provided by the University that has greatly increased my exposure towards scientific research. Special Program in Science (SPS) has imparted me with basic skills and knowledge necessary for budding researchers like myself. Through SPS, I had a glimpse of what research is like and it further confirmed my interest. My experience in research is further strengthened when doing my UROP. These programs have prepared and equipped me with necessary skills to embark on my research career.

About the Project

Natural killer (NK) cell is an immune cell subtype with special anti-viral and anti-cancer activity. Because of these unique properties, it has been proposed that NK cells could be used as a treatment for cancer. The project involved the engineering of NK cells to better target and kill cancer cells. This was achieved through the incorporation of key signaling domains into the structure of the main NK cell activating receptor, NKG2D. We developed a novel chimeric receptor, called NKG2D-CD16-41BB, and showed that NK cells bearing this receptor have markedly improved tumor cell killing. Our results demonstrate that the biological functions of activated NK cells can be further enhanced to maximize their anti-tumor activity. Thus, the project has laid out the foundation for a new form of NK cell-based immunotherapy.

Chan Mei Zhi Alcine

Food Science and Technology Major, Individual Category AY2016/17

Project Title: Probiotic Sour Beer 

While I humbly accept this prestigious Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award, I can only attribute credits to Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan, a leading expert in the field of fermentation, for his unstinting support, and unwavering belief in me. Professor Liu has also provided me with invaluable learning opportunities to hone my research and entrepreneurship skills. I sincerely extend my utmost gratitude to my PhD student mentor, Chua Jian Yong. Beyond being an instrumental guide, Jian Yong has been most encouraging and patient throughout the entirety of the project. Gratitude also to the staff of the Food Science and Technology Programme, my friends, and my family.

When I first embarked on this probiotic beer project, it was with known understanding that obtaining meaningful results would be most challenging. However, it was also with steadfast belief that probiotics could be the key for increasingly health oriented consumers to embrace the Healthy Beer Concept. Knowing that I could play a role in improving consumers health, spurred me on.

The Food Science and Technology Programme has equipped me with the necessary skills to undertake the inter-disciplinary nature of this project. It was interesting and thought provoking as to how years of seemingly contrasting lecture modules (e.g. flavour science, microbiology, fermentation etc.) converge to become fundamental knowledge for application to this project. Indeed, such fundamental knowledge would additionally allow students to appreciate and understand the complex and inter-disciplinary nature that food scientists face every day.

About the Project

 Craft beers (eg sour beers) and probiotic based non-dairy foods are increasingly popular due to lifestyle choices. It would therefore be opportune to develop a novel, unfiltered, and unpasteurized sour beer with high probiotic live counts. The live probiotics present would possibly provide additional health benefits compared to regular sour beers. As an example, Lactobacillus paracasei L26 utilized in this study, is a proven commercially available probiotic strain with enhanced gut health and immune system function.

However, developing such a beer is challenging as intrinsic anti-microbial constituents (e.g. hops, ethanol) impede probiotic viability and stability. Through our innovative brewing procedures and techniques, we have made a breakthrough in demonstrating that the development of a sour beer with high probiotic live counts can be made possible. When taking into consideration the health benefits, this first-of-its kind break-through holds great promise to become commercially viable for the world marketplace. Furthermore, the groundwork has been laid for maintaining probiotic viability in other unconventional functional alcoholic beverages.

 

Ta Le Duc Huy

Life Sciences Major, Individual Category AY2016/17

Project Title: An Evaluation of Nasal Microbiome in Infants with Early onset Persistent Rhinitis and Wheeze 

I am greatly humbled and honoured to be receiving this OURP award. I would like to offer my sincerest gratitude to Adjunct Professor Lee Bee Wah, Associate Professor Lee Yuan Kun, the collaborators from Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), Growing up towards Healthy Outcomes (GUSTO)’s group, the staff from the Allergy and Immunology Laboratory, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and people from Special Programme in Science (SPS) for sharing with me your expertise and knowledge, imparting me the skills and techniques required to carry out the experiments, providing me immediate advice when needed and also for being patient and understanding throughout my learning process.

My research project experience was a rocky but an enlightening one. This project experience helped me realize many pitfalls and frustrations that come with research, but more importantly it taught me valuable lessons in how rewarding it could be.

The Faculty of Science (FoS) has given me with plenty of valuable opportunities to immerse in research projects, to engage in active discussions and most importantly, to allow bidirectional feedback. FoS provides me a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary study environment from different backgrounds. This interdisciplinary research approach allows me to expand my horizon and prepares me for future research problems.

About the Project

The nasal microbiota in infants plays a key role in influencing the local mucosal immune responses and the susceptibility to develop respiratory disorders in childhood. Given that respiratory disorder such as rhinitis and wheeze has become a rising concerns, these findings provide novel insights into microbial initial establishment and succession in the nasal airway in infancy and link early-life profiles to microbiota stability and respiratory health status of an individual. Identifying the microbiome pattern changes in this population could lead to potential predictive marker for early diagnostic and potential therapeutic strategy to reverse the respiratory outcomes in the disease population.

 

Donavan Marcus Neo

Pharmacy, Individual Category AY2016/17

Project Title: Evaluating the Potential of N-substituted Indoles for Development as Inhibitors of the Chikungunya Virus 

The Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize has been one of my greatest achievements and I am honoured to receive this accolade. As an aspiring researcher, I am thankful to be acknowledged by the Faculty of Science for my achievements in scientific research. I am also deeply grateful to my supervisors, Prof Christina Chai from the Department of Pharmacy (NUS) and A/Prof Lisa Ng from Singapore Immunology Network (A*STAR), for granting me this wonderful opportunity to work with both labs and giving me their constant encouragement and sincere guidance. Not to forget the numerous members and students from both labs that have helped me in one way or another, showing me that research is truly a collaborative affair.

I am also extremely grateful to the Department of Pharmacy and Faculty of Science for providing me with numerous opportunities to enrich my university experience. For instance, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in Science (UROPS) and Final Year Project (FYP) have honed my critical thinking and research skills. My overseas summer exchange to the University of Toronto, as well as the Study Trips for Engagement and Enrichment (STEER) to the University of Vienna in Austria and the University of Semmelweis in Hungary have allowed me to acquire a truly global perspective. Moreover, student activities such as being in the 54th Executive Committee of NUS Pharmaceutical Society have shaped my leadership and organization skills.

All things considered, my journey in NUS has been a fulfilling one with numerous opportunities granted by the Department of Pharmacy and Faculty of Science, giving me a fully well-rounded education to be prepared for any challenges in my career.

About the Project

 Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-borne virus that has been gaining recognition as a global health threat. Joint pain is a key feature of CHIKV infection and commonly becomes chronic for many patients. As a result, infections markedly compromise quality of life while causing socio-economic burden. Moreover, severe and fatal complications can also occur in some patients. The wide spread of CHIKV coupled with the lack of licensed therapeutics reinforce an urgent need to develop drugs for this neglected disease.

Briefly, this project involved a screening of a previously-synthesized library of compounds. From the preliminary results, new indoles were designed, synthesized and tested for their biological activity. Various metrics were then used to evaluate the potential of these compounds for further development. This project identified two promising compounds for future biological studies and structural modifications. With these compounds in hand, this could potentially be a step forward towards the development of a novel anti-CHIKV drug.