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 AY2017/18 is now OPEN!
Please submit your entries to your HOME department (as per your primary major).
You will need to submit your entries in both hard and soft copy.
Please provide the following in hardcopy:
- The Application form (Download it here)
- The project report
- and abstract
Please provide the following in softcopy in a CD-ROM:
- The completed and signed application form in pdf
- The project report in both pdf and MS word format.
- The abstract in MS word format.
- 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 - AY2016/17
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.
Tay Zhi Jian Daniel
Physics Major, Individual Category AY2016/17
Project Title: Photon-Magnon Coupling in Split Ring Resonators
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.
Leong Jun Hao
Life Sciences Major, Individual Category AY2016/17
Project Title: Development of NKG2D Chimeric Receptors for Cancer Immunotherapy
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.
Chan Mei Zhi Alcine
Food Science and Technology Major, Individual Category AY2016/17
Project Title: Probiotic Sour Beer
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.
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
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.
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
Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2015/16
I am deeply honored to receive the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize! To a budding researcher like me, this prize means a lot – it not only serves as an acknowledgement of the research achievements that I have made during my undergraduate years, but also motivates me to embark on a career in scientific research with greater passion and resilience! I would like to thank my supervisors Prof Chan Sui Yung, Dr Cheong Han Hui and Prof Phan Toan Thang, as well as our collaborator at the Skin Bank Unit of Singapore General Hospital (SGH), Dr Alvin Chua Wen Choong, for the great opportunity to work on this exciting and stimulating research project in my final year and for their continuous guidance, invaluable advice, encouragement and support along the way.
Embarking on this project as my final year honors project has been a fulfilling experience. Throughout the journey, I have learnt the importance of critical-thinking by exploring alternative potential solutions to a problem, working without anticipation of a singular “right answer” and applying scientific methods through careful review and thorough planning. Working in research labs in NUS and SGH allowed me to appreciate how different laboratories complement each other with their distinct research focus and trained me to be more adaptable to different research settings. I am also immensely grateful for the opportunity to present my research work at the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) Annual Meeting 2016 in San Francisco, to learn about the research work from world-famous stem cell researchers and to have meaningful exchanges with them. The conference greatly broadened my perspectives on the various exciting research directions ongoing within the international stem cell research community!
The Department of Pharmacy and the Faculty of Science have provided me with excellent opportunities to develop a greater interest in scientific research, to participate in well-established research programmes and to build up my research skills. Various learning opportunities such as the UROPS programme at NUS and overseas summer programme at University of Toronto have exposed me to the diverse research practices and helped me gain a deeper understanding on what it takes to be an excellent researcher.
About the Project
Wound healing is a complex process consisting of three overlapping phases: Inflammation, proliferation and remodeling. Human cadaveric skin (CS) allograft is currently the most commonly used wound closure material for severe burn wounds. However, potent inflammatory responses pose prominent challenges to effective wound repair. Cord lining epithelial cells (CLEC), a novel stem cell source, have been characterized for immuno-privileged properties in vitro, making it an attractive candidate for stem cell therapy in cutaneous wound repair. The objective of this study is to compare the safety and efficacy of CLEC versus CS treatment for cutaneous wound repair using an in vivo animal model.
Findings from this project support the further development of a promising novel treatment strategy with strong clinical potential as a safe and effective alternative for the management of severe skin wounds. It tackles the current challenges associated with wound management using conventional therapies and provides relevant insights with regard to the immuno-privileged properties of a novel stem cell source in large animal wound models.
Pharmacy Major, Individual Category AY2015/16
Project Title: Safety and Efficacy of Immuno-privileged Cord Lining Epithelial Cells For Cutaneous Wound Repair – A Pilot in vivo Study
I am deeply grateful and honoured to be receiving the prestigious OURP. I would like to express my gratitude towards my supervisors, Prof. Dario Campana and Dr. Noriko Shimasaki. Their dedication to advance medicine, together with their selfless mentorship, provided me with the best learning environment I could ever dream for. I would also like to thank all other postdocs, staff, and peers for their constant support. The family-like atmosphere made the journey significantly enjoyable. This honour belongs to everyone in Prof. Campana’s lab.
In addition, I would like to thank the Faculty of Science for providing me with research opportunities. I entered Prof. Campana's lab in my freshman year summer as a SPS student. Despite lacking any research experience, peer-support from SPS mentors guided me through the initial learning curve. Over the years, programmes like SPS, UROPS, UPIP, and FYP provided the needed administrative flexibility to keep my research work in parallel with my studies. The supportive SPS community also provided me with academic, moral, and administrative assistance that I am truly thankful for.
Years of research under Prof. Campana shaped my view and understanding on translational medicine. This experience affirmed my pursue as a clinician-scientist.
About the Project
Recent clinical trials have demonstrated that immune cells can produce dramatic treatment responses in patients with drug-resistant cancer. A key factor for success is the expression in the immune cells of receptors that recognize cancer cells and trigger their killing. We have devised a new method to redirect a subset of immune cells called natural killer (NK) cells against cancer cells. By using receptors reacting against proteins derived from viruses and abundant in certain types of cancer, we coaxed NK cells to effectively and specifically kill cancer cells. This technology opens new opportunities for cellular immunotherapy of cancer.
Yong Jun Jie Arthur
Life Sciences Major, Individual Category AY2015/16
Project Title: Engineering Natural Killer Cells with Functional Antigen-specific T Cell Receptors
Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2014/15
I am elated and deeply honoured to be a recipient of this prestigious award. I take this opportunity to thank my supervisors Dr. Low Boon Chuan and Dr. Koh Cheng Gee for their invaluable guidance and support, without whom this project would have been an insurmountable challenge. I am also grateful for the excellent infrastructure, facilities and conducive research environment at Mechanobiology Institute Singapore.
Embarking on this project as a part of my UROPS and continuing it through my FYP was a hard yet fulfilling experience. Having to work in a new field with little relevant literature challenged me in more ways than one. It was through those challenges that I learnt the importance of perseverance and patience, and to never give up on a failed experiment till it became a successful one.
The Faculty of Science has provided me with ample opportunities to participate in research programmes and strengthen my passion for research. Research opportunities such as UROPS and overseas summer programmes allowed me to pursue my areas of interest and connect with likeminded individuals in the field. Avenues for collaborations also enhanced the quality of my education and equipped me with key tools needed to excel in the working world.
About the Project
Cell-matrix adhesions are important structures that allow the cells to interact with their external environment. These structures also control cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation and migration. This project was a novel effort to characterize the focal adhesions of embryonic stem cells in terms of its biological and biophysical properties. Analysis of stem cell focal adhesions revealed interesting differences from that of non-stem cell lines. These differences in protein composition were shown to have an impact on biophysical force properties as well as cellular behaviour. Studying focal adhesions of stem cells will serve as a model to better understand the nature of pluripotent cells and will thus have profound effects on the development of stem cell therapy.
Life Sciences Major, Individual Category AY2014/15
Project Title: Characterizing Focal Adhesions of Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells
It is a great honour to be awarded the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize (OURP) as recognition for my passion towards research. This would not have been possible without Associate Professor Yeung Ying-Yeung, who is impeccable in the field of Organic Chemistry and has been instrumental in developing me as one of the best undergraduate researchers in NUS. I would also like to extend my gratitude to my mentor Chen Tao for his patience and guidance throughout the course of my research project.
The strong emphasis on undergraduate research in the Faculty of Science (FoS) is the main reason why I chose NUS for my undergraduate studies. It has been fundamental in strengthening my cognitive abilities and instilling a "never-say-die" attitude towards challenges. Being equipped with a stronger mindset, I am better prepared to face daunting tasks in the working world and more motivated to contribute towards the betterment of society.
About the Project
Industrially, many drug molecules are synthesized in polar solvents. Most of these solvents are hazardous and environmentally harmful. Consequently, billions of dollars are used to treat these solvents for disposal after usage. Such expenditure leads to high manufacturing costs of drugs, making them unavailable to third-world countries.
Our research focuses on a cyclization reaction which is an important step in the synthesis of many drug molecules. We have developed a method to conduct this cyclization reaction in a much "healthier" solvent (e.g. heptane) with the aid of a commercially cheap indole catalyst.
Foo Jian Yao Thomas
Chemistry Major, Individual Category AY2014/15
Project Title: Indole-Catalyzed Halolactonization
It is a fantastic honour to be selected as a winner for Outstanding Undergraduate Research Prize, which recognizes my input and dedication for the final year project. I would like to express my deep gratitude to my supervisor Prof Huang Dejian and my mentro Mr. Liang Dong and Mr. Restituto Tocmo for their guidance, advice, patience and encouragement throughout the project. I would also like to sincerely thank the great support from Food Science and Technology Programme (FST), without which the project would not be possible.
The education I received at Faculty of Science has been immensely rewarding. The course work provides both fundamental knowledge and exposure to advanced research achievement. Undergraduate research projects offered by Faculty of Science are valuable opportunities to work among and learn from passionate experts, which lead to great enhancement in overall skills. The real-life research experience and the well-designed course work compliment each other, which lays a solid foundation for students' career, in the field of scientific research and beyond.
About the Project
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) has been demonstrated with great therapeutic potentials for various conditions including cancers and cardiovascular diseases. For therapeutic applications, safe and effective H2S releasing agents are required. Various sulfur compounds from vegetables and fruits have been proposed to serve the purpose but information is limit. In this study, we developed a novel method to assess the H2S releasing capacity of natural sulfur containing constituents. Distilled oils from nine sulfur-rich vegetables and fruit (yellow onion, scallion, spring onion, garlic bulb, garlic scape, leek, Chinese chives, stinky beans, and durian) have been demonstrated to be H2S donating agents in cell lines. The results obtained were unprecedented and largely contribute to the development of H2S-donating functional constituents from sulfur-rich foods, which can be used for prevention and treatment of multiple diseases.
Food Science & Technology Major, Individual Category AY2014/15
Project Title: Stinky but Healthy? Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) Releasing Capacity of Common Organosulfur Rich Foods
Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2013/14
I am deeply honoured to have received this award, which would not have been possible without my supervisor and mentor. I would like to express my sincere gratitude towards my supervisor Prof JJ Vittal, and my mentor Mr. Raghavender Medishetty for their mentorship, patience and guidance in this project.
Over the course of the year I have learnt valuable research mindsets and skills, among which are a critical mind, keen observations, and the ability to analyze and look beyond unsuccessful experiments rather than be disheartend.
I appreciate the opportunities and programs offered by FoS to incorporate research into the undergraduate curriculum, which are valuable as they allow one to utilise knowledge acquired to develop practical and realistic applications.
About the project
Harvesting of green technologies for energy has been high on everyone's agenda in recent years. In this project, we report the first example of a photosailent effect (photo-induced motion) which finds valuable applications in actuators by conversion of light/UV energy to other useful forms of energies. These systems demonstrate the utility of molecular materials to convert energy to work, and also allows us to understand how molecular processes effect behavior on the macroscopic level which would allow the development of novel molecular materials.
Individual Category, AY2013/14
Project Title: Design and Synthesis of [2+2] Photo Reactive Metal Complexes to form Coordination Polymers
I am immensely honoured and grateful to have obtained the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Prize as it is a validation to my hard work and dedication to the project.
Having said this, I would like to sincerely thank my Principal Investigator, Dr Edward Kai-Hua Chow, for his guidance and support throughout the year when I was in his lab. I would also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Dr Toh Tan Boon, Dr Hou Weixin and Ms Nurrul Lissa for their teachings and encouragements which allowed me to gain a strong interest in research. I am also grateful to Cancer Science Institute (CSI) for the great facilities as well as supportive research culture that allowed me to enjoy my FYP there.
The education in the Faculty of Science has been fulfilling due to the dedicated and passionate professors that had over the years never failed to inspire me. Having such role models in Science has truly enabled me to step upon the shoulder of giants in attempt to reach for greater heights. Besides which, the education at Science has successfully moulded me into an independent learner who will not be daunted by novel situations. It reminded me that in the seeking of knowledge, there can be neither bounds nor course structure that can prepare you for the most novel of situations. These take-away lessons will come to shape my future outlook towards my career, with zeal and with strength to face whatever challenge that may be poised to me.
About the project
Chemoresistance is a major factor accounting for the failure of cancer treatment. Such treatment failure has been attributed to a unique subset of cells known as cancer stem cells, which are able to escape conventional chemotherapy. Cancer stem cells are able to escape conventional chemotherapy possibly due to their overexpression of drug transporters. This project showcased the potential of Nanodiamonds (ND) as a drug delivery for treatment of hepatic cancers, which otherwise has a bad prognosis and high relapse rate, due to chemoresistant cancer stem cells. We were able to show the use of chemotherapeutics conjugated upon nanodiamonds (NDs) as an effective drug delivery method to overcome said resistance with much higher efficacy and minimize the probability of cancer recurrence. This project is the first to demonstrate that ND drug delivery can effectively kill tumor-initiaing cancer stem cells better than treatment with standard unmodified chemotherapeutics.
Low Xinyi Casuarine
Biological Sciences Major
Individual Category, AY2013/14
Project Title: Nanodiamond Drug Delivery Approach for Effective Treatment of Chemoresistant Hepatic Cancer Stem Cells
Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2012/13
Private randomness constitutes a valuable information resource, with applications ranging from gambling to cryptographic protocols.
However, not only is it difficult to ensure that outputs of a random number generator are indeed perfectly random (i.e., not deterministic in nature), it is also challenging to guarantee that the outputs are private (i.e., unknown to any unauthorized third party).
Fortunately, the violation of Bell inequality in a Bell test guarantees, in a device-independent manner (i.e., independent of the internal workings of the devices used in the Bell test), that the test's outputs possess some private randomness, provided the test's inputs are perfectly random.
Since perfect randomness is a rare commodity, it is crucial that the Bell test remains robust against reduced input randomness. For this project, I investigate the robustness of Bell test against reduced input randomness by considering Bell test scenarios that are more general than those that have already been considered in the literature. Although private randomness certification is the focus of this project, my results are also relevant to other device-independent tasks involving Bell tests.
I am deeply honoured to receive this prestigious prize.It recognizes my hard work for and devotion to my project. The learning curve for every final year project is steep.
I would not have been able to make some (tiny) contributions to Physics without the supportive research culture of ConneQt, a research group within the Centre for Quantum Technologies. Hence, I would like to sincerely thank Professor Valerio Scarani for giving me the opportunity to work in his research group. I would also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my project mentor, Le Phuc Thinh, a PhD student in ConneQt, for his continuous support, encouragement, and patience throughout this project.
My special thanks go out to Lana Sheridan, a research fellow in ConneQt, for sharing her valuable insights with me.
Ang Ther Wey Jeysthur
Individual Category Winner, AY2012/13
Project Title: The Effect of Reduced Randomness on Device-Independent Certification
In vitro research models have proved to be invaluable tools for understanding numerous biological processes.
Using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), we were able to develop a novel keratinocyte model which has several advantages over currently available ones. It is of human origin, does not have batch-to-batch variation and can be obtained unlimitedly without any genetic modification.
Moreover, with the availability of well-established hESC lines, the proposed model makes it easier for researchers all around the world to collaborate by working on standard, consistent and reliable samples.
We have further used the hESCs-derived keratinocytes to engineer a 3D human epithelium intended for investigating complex tissue-level processes. Our models offer alternative possibilities for studying physiological phenomena as well as pathological conditions for developing therapeutic strategies. They also hold promise for applications in industries such as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
The recognition of one's sacrifices and hard work is perhaps one of the happiest feelings that a person experiences as a student; and I have the good fortune as well immense honour of experiencing this through the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize (OURP). It gives me a strong sense of fulfilment and encourages me to pursue my career in research with the same passion and curiosity despite all the hidden huddles that pop up while doing research.
This award also reinforces my gratitude towards my supervisor, Assoc. Prof. Cao Tong as well as my mentor and friend, Dr. Fahad kidwai for all the help and guidance they have given me throughout the journey. My sincere thanks for trusting me and allowing me to work independently. No doubt Dr. Fahad gave me a hard life quite a few times, but he was also there to ensure that I emerge stronger every time.
I am also grateful to the faculty of Science which offers many additional opportunities for its students to grow intellectually as well as individually through programmes such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in Science (UROPS), summer research exchanges, student exchange programmes, international internships and others. They not only give us a glimpse of the real world, but they also equip us with various skills which make it easier for us to get into the real world.
Having participated in two of them, I will definitely encourage any student to make the most of these programmes.
Jokhun Doogesh Sharma
Life Sciences Major
Individual Category, AY2012/13
Project Title: Human embryonic stem cell as a robust source of keratinocyte for academic and industrial applications
The Singapore Heart Foundation is the only institution in Singapore that runs a community-based Heart Wellness Programme (HWP), which offers a range of facilities and multidisciplinary healthcare expertise to assist patients with heart problems and people at risk of developing heart disease, providing them with support for lifelong maintenance of their exercise habits and risk factor modification.
However, while such community-based programmes have been shown to be effective in the Western world, there is a lack of literature on its effectiveness in Asia and in Singapore. Our project has managed to show that the programme has beneficial health outcomes.
We are deeply honoured to have received this award. This award is a recognition of our efforts and also recognition towards the growing needs of community based research in Singapore.
More importantly, it has allowed us to share our clinical research experiences, which will hopefully encourage more enterprising students to take a proactive approach towards research and healthcare reform in Singapore.
We have decided to donate part of our award to establish the PORP. The PORP is a cash award for the top Pharmacy project for each academic year, done as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Science (UROPS) programme. Similar to the OURP, which is an annual, university-wide competition to encourage research among undergraduates in NUS, we hope the PORP would perform the same function of encouraging Pharmacy students to undertake research work.
Our education at the Faculty of Science has been rewarding and enlightening. We think that Faculty of Science had done an excellent job in educating and training students to be able to do what they want, as well as providing them with the necessary resources to do so. The faculty members are passionate in their fields. Not only do they impart their valuable knowledge to us, they also nurture us in non-academic ways and inspire us to always strive to improve ourselves.
We would like to take this opportunity to encourage future young and aspiring Science and Pharmacy students to take up research work, and discover for themselves the benefits of engaging in research at this early point in their career. In Science, opportunities are aplenty, but you have to be actively seeking them out. This will in turn lead you to places that you have never imagined.
KY: Special thanks goes out to our supervisor, Dr. Joanne Chang from the Department of Pharmacy, for her guidance and support, as well as our collaborator at the Singapore Heart Foundation, Mr Tay Hung Yong, Manager of the HWP. I would also like to thank my supervisors for my final year project, Dr Priscilla How and Dr Yap Chun Wei, from the Department of Pharmacy, for honing my research skills further, and inspiring me to do more research work.
I am also grateful for the various learning opportunities and programmes that the faculty offers, such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in Science, which I had also participated in. It was the platform which first exposed me to research work, allowing me to acquire the skills required for research, in turn setting the stage for my involvement in this project.
YH: I am extremely fortunate to have met Dr Kang Lifeng, Dr Wee Hwee-Lin and Dr Joanne Yeh Chang for teaching me different aspects of research which I have come to love. I am also extremely grateful to Dr Joanne Yeh Chang for employing me as her research assistant since my third year, and for giving me full autonomy to initiate projects and propose grants.
I have had a humbling but fulfilling experience supervising final year and UROPS students. In addition, this led to the opportunity to work with SHF. It has also been a wonderful experience working with many brilliant students from Pharmacy through the years. This was indeed a very unique education experience that I doubt other universities in the world can provide.
Ong Kheng Yong, Pharmacy Major
Kwan Yu Heng, Phamacy Major
Group Category Winners, AY2012/13
Project Title: Health Wellness Programme -- A community based cardiac rehabilitation and prevention programme to reduce cardiovascular disease in a multi-ethnic society in Singapore
Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2011/12
Electrochromic polymers are interesting materials due to their ability to display different colours reversibly upon various applied voltages. The successful development of electrochromic polymers with properties such as fast switching times, increased optical contrasts and excellent ambient stability will open up limitless possibilities in a myriad of applications such as smart windows, flat-panel displays, camouflage clothing and e-papers. In this project, we have successfully obtained polymers that can be easily processed to fabricate electrochromic devices with enhanced properties. Such devices can also be operated with low energy consumption which is especially important in today’s focus on sustainable and renewable energy.
I am deeply honoured to receive this award. It is a form of recognition and encouragement, especially for one who is interested in pursuing a research career. My deepest gratitude goes to Professor Chan Sze On, Hardy for his support and encouragement throughout the course of this work. Also, I express my sincere thanks to Dr. Xu Jianwei for his mentorship, patience and advice, and his research group at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering.
The education at the FoS has been rewarding and enlightening. The faculty members are passionate in their fields and are always sharing their insights enthusiastically. Besides, FoS offers research opportunities such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in Science, which I had also participated in. It is an excellent platform for novice scientists to build up fundamental research and experimental skills, as well as to develop a critical mind and a keen sense of observation. In sum, I am grateful towards the FoS for providing undergraduates invaluable chances to take a glimpse into the real research world.
Neo Wei Teng
Individual Category Winner, AY2011/12
Project Title: Device Fabrication and Electronic Property Study of Novel Donor- Acceptor Electrochromic Polymers
The estimation and projection of child mortality, in particular the under-five mortality rate (U5MR), are important for assessing socioeconomic progress on both global and national scales. This is particularly so as we approach the deadline of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal 4 to reduce U5MR by two thirds between 1990 and 2015. However, constructing U5MR estimates and projections is challenging because of inadequate and imperfect data. In my project, I carried out a systematic data quality assessment of U5MR data and the results were subsequently used to construct uncertainty bounds for U5MR estimates. I also developed an alternative U5MR estimation approach, which was able to give reliable estimates while overcoming the limitations of the lack of both objectivity and uncertainty assessment associated with the current approach employed by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.
It is an immense honour to be awarded this prize, and I am very glad for the recognition of my personal progress and hard work. I am also extremely grateful for the invaluable and inspirational mentorship of my Final Year Project supervisor, Assistant Professor Leontine Alkema, who introduced me to the field of statistical demography and has been instrumental in helping me to develop as an undergraduate researcher with her patient and encouraging guidance.
This award marks the end of my four years in the Faculty of Science, which has been a very rewarding experience. I have greatly benefited from the rigorous education, support of both the faculty members and my peers as well as the wealth of opportunities offered to students. The knowledge and skills I have acquired in my time here are serving me well in my current position as a consultant in UNICEF and will, I believe, continue to do so in the future.
New Jin Rou
Statistics & Applied Probability Major
Individual Category Winner, AY2011/12
Project Title: Child Mortality for All Countries
Isoxazoles are common functional groups in many nature products and synthesized drugs. This increases the importance of the development of simple, safe and economical methods for the synthesis of useful isoxazole-containing intermediates. Current synthetic methods are however plagued by the lack of selectivity and without the use of expensive and specially developed rare metal catalyst, these methods are usually either low yielding or require harsh conditions. Our project eliminated the use of metal catalysts by using enamines as reactive intermediates in a 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition reaction. This resulted in a development of a totally new method for the synthesis of 3,4-disubstituted isoxazoles that is both high yielding and requiring only very mild conditions. As this is the first reported high yielding method for the metal-free synthesis of 3,4-disubstituted isoxazoles, it allows for the development of more useful drugs.
I would like to give special thanks to my supervisor, Assistant Professor Wang Jian for always encouraging me to think further and to become a more independent researcher. His patient guidance and continuous supervision has taught me that research is always unpredictable and is about probing deeper into apparent “failures”. Without this resilience to accept failure and question everything, new and amazing discoveries will not be possible. Being awarded this prize gives me the confidence that the research I did in my final year was indeed significant to both the University and to the development of science. As a future scientist, teacher and educator, I hope to be able to inspire others to be always thirsty for new knowledge and constantly enquire about their surroundings.
This research opportunity provided by the Department of Chemistry was indeed an extremely enriching one. Through this experience, my love for Chemistry was heightened and I realized that doing research gave studying science a lot more meaning. I would advice my juniors to take up any offer or opportunity to do some research, as it will greatly enhance your knowledge, thinking skills and broaden your perceptive of science.
Pooi Ming Shurn, Benjamin
Individual Category Winner, AY2011/12
Project Title: Synthesis of 3,4-disubstituted isoxazoles via enamine-promoted cycloaddition reaction
Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2010/11
Halolactonizations is a fundamentally important class of organic reactions that involves the conversion of unsaturated carboxylic acids into a product with both a halide and lactone function. Intriguingly, the asymmetric version has not been reported until recently. Molecules that are non-superimposable mirror images of each other (enantiomers) often have very different biological activities and pharmaceutical products can be harmful when enantiomerically impure. This project is part of the Yeung group’s efforts in the pioneering discovery of an efficient asymmetric halolactionization, with particular focus on synthesizing enantioenriched butano-/butenolide structures – which are found in more than 13,000 natural products.
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my supervisor, Assistant Professor Yeung Ying Yeung, who has always been very patient and encouraging throughout my entire undergraduate research life. I will always remember his one-to-one teachings during my early days as a UROPS student 2 and half years ago, guiding me through even the most basic experimental techniques and research ethics, never failing to give me timely and invaluable advice, encouragement and hope. He has been most patient even when I committed the gravest errors. I have learned to think independently for my research and work considerately, caring and watching out for all my colleagues when in the laboratory. These experiences are the most crucial to a researcher and I do hope that I could one day be able to pass on Prof. Yeung’s teachings to my juniors. I am indeed blessed to have Prof. Yeung as my supervisor.
Education in NUS Science has been a very enlightening experience. The people at the Chemistry and Biological Sciences departments have imparted me an immense amount of knowledge, quenching my thirst for the Sciences, and at the same time empowered me with the skills of a scientist to uncover the vast pool of information unknown, yet beneficial, to Mankind. My opportunities in overseas programs such as the China Immersion Program (CHIP) and the Student Exchange Program (SEP) to the University of California, San Diego have allowed me to explore the very diverse cultures of the East and West, greatly enhancing my undergraduate experience and bringing me lifelong friends from all over the world.
Er Jun Cheng
Individual Category Winner, AY2010/11
Project Title: Amino-Thiocarbamates in Asymmetric Halolactonizations
Communication security can be achieved by using various cryptographic ciphers, all of which require cryptographic keys. Unlike other means of key generation, Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) offers a sustainable framework for distribution of secret keys between distant parties. Most of the QKD protocols require alignment of the parties' reference frames; a few schemes have been proposed in the past to avoid this step, but they require quantum states that are hard to implement. An elegant and practical solution has been put forward by my supervisor and coworkers, with the introduction of the reference-frame-independent QKD protocol for two level systems. I further extend the protocol to any arbitrary d level system, making it substantially faster and more robust with respect to noise in the channel or third party's attacks. The techniques and ideas used to generalize the protocol also serve as a guideline in the development of other reference-frame-independent protocols.
Receiving the award is an absolute honour and an affirmation of the hard work and effort from me and my supervisors, Assoc. Prof. Valerio Scarani and Dr. Lana Sheridan. I am indebted to them for their guidance, opportunities to be exposed to overseas research experience and also the friendly learning environment in the ConneQt group at the Center for Quantum Technologies. I am also thankful to FoS for the various opportunities in learning and research.
Le Phuc Thinh
Individual Category Winner, AY2010/11
Project Title: Reference frame independent quantum key distribution with qudits
Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2009/10
The prospect of quantum computers has always been a hot and interesting topic of discussion due to its great processing power as compared to computers that we know today. However, like many other quantum applications such as quantum cryptography, the realization of quantum computers is greatly hindered by the effect of decoherence, which introduces unwanted evolution of quantum states. This serves as our motivation in this project, where we have proposed a theoretical scheme which can successfully and efficiently preserve a known quantum state and protect it from environmental interactions. In such a scheme, we extend the application of Uhrig's Dynamical Decoupling (UDD) to preserve a known quantum state from one-qubit systems to two-qubit systems and even to any general multi-level systems. With this extension, it is now possible to preserve a known entangled state, a result which is very useful in quantum information. Our results also pave the way to the ultimate goal of preserving a totally unknown quantum state.
This project is the culmination of the Special Programme in Science (SPS) modules which, among other things, provided us with the opportunity to experience the full process of research - from literature reviews, seminars to writing a research report. It had been a very fulfilling experience for us and it was during our early days in SPS that we have acquired a solid foundation of the theoretical knowledge needed for this project. Without the help of our SPS mentors, this would not have been possible.
We are also very grateful to our supervisor, Assoc. Prof Gong Jiangbin, for his guidance and support throughout our project, as well as making time for weekly discussions, which were immensely helpful to us. During this research experience, we have benefited a lot and have acquired many intellectual skills which could not have been learnt in a classroom setting.
Once again, we thank the Faculty of Science for presenting us with this award and SPS for providing us with the opportunity to do research.
Musawwadah Mukhtar, Physics Major
Saw Thuan Beng, Mathematics Major
Soh Wee Tee, Physics major
Group Category Winner, AY2009/10
Project Title: Theoretical Extension of Uhrig Dynamical Decoupling (UDD) in Preserving Quantum Coherence
Quantum entanglement is often viewed as a resource in quantum information theory. One way to study entanglement is to look at optimal decompositions of a quantum state into two parts, the first one containing only classical correlations, and the remaining part containing quantum correlations. Such decompositions were known only for a few classes of two-qubit states. In my project, I borrowed the tool of semidefinite programming from optimization theory, and showed how to use it to obtain the desired decomposition for any two-qubit state. This essentially answers the question "How quantum are qubit pairs?", completing a study that began over ten years ago.
Grigori Perelman famously declined the Fields Medal because he was "not interested in money or fame". While I admire his stance, a budding undergraduate researcher is in a very different situation. For instance, he is very likely to be at a crossroad in his life, having to decide whether to pursue research as a career. Awards such as the OURP serve as a form of recognition for the countless hours of effort put in by the student. It also provides encouragement and a confidence boost for the student who is undecided about life in research. I speak as one such grateful student.
Of course, I am indebted to my project supervisor Prof. Englert for his guidance, and for the various opportunities to broaden my experience overseas. I must also mention Dr. Raynal for his assistance and helpful discussions. Generally, I have found that the Science Faculty provides ample learning opportunities for its students, and would strongly encourage students to be proactive in seeking these opportunities.
Thiang Guo Chuan
Individual Category Winner, AY2009/10
Project Title: Optimal Lewenstein-Sanpera Decomposition of two-qubit states
Before I started my Honours year of studies, I have always had the impression that research involves spending long hours in the laboratory doing repetitive work. However, this impression changed for the better after I started on my research project. I realized that there was more to research than I thought. Research requires us to think logically and analytically while being creative at the same time. It trains our tenacity to never give up when faced with adversity and failures. My Honours project was entitled 'Development of an improved asthma model using novel BT-II cell receptor transgenic mice'. Asthma is a complex inflammatory disease of the lung which is responsible for considerable morbidity, mortality and financial burden worldwide. My project sought to polarize and characterize asthma-causing Th2 subset of T cells and to determine their roles in the disease using a novel mouse model of asthma in hope to better understand the pathology of the disease.
It is of great honour and privilege to be able to win the award and I am grateful to the Faculty of Science and the University for their continued efforts to facilitate, recognize and reward students who have performed well in their areas of research and course of studies. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to my Honours supervisor, Professor David Michael Kemeny. It was his constant encouragement and guidance that motivated me to persevere despite the many failures that I have faced. Winning this award would have been impossible without him, and of course all my friends and mentors from the DMK lab.
To conclude, my journey through NUS has indeed been a very fulfilling and rewarding one. My education in the Faculty of Science has definitely provided me with the resources and opportunities to build a very strong foundation in my field of study. It has also allowed me to optimize my potential and passion in immunology and research. Therefore, I sincerely hope that the OURP will continue to recognize and reward outstanding budding scientists in future.
Ler Say Siong Shaun
Life Sciences (Biomedical Sciences) Major
Individual Category Winner, AY2009/10
Project Title: Development of an Improved Asthma Model Using Novel BT-II Cell Receptor Transgenic Mice
This project focuses on epitaxial graphene (EG), a highly anticipated material fabricated by thermal annealing of Silicon carbide (SiC). To date, research on EG has typically been focused on nanoelectronics. This work demonstrates the application of EG as an electrode material, charting a new direction in its short history. An electrochemical sensing platform based on EG was subsequently constructed, for DNA biosensing as well as selective detection of dopamine. We found that this novel material provides for not only excellent sensing performances, but also highly desirable characteristics such as label-free detection, simple assembly, user-friendliness and low-cost detection. Thus, this EG biosensor could play a significant role in new drug research and development, environmental sciences and the diagnosis of nervous and inherited diseases.
Receiving this award is a fantastic form of recognition for an undergraduate researcher. I am grateful to many people who have lent helping hands throughout the course of the project. My supervisor, Associate Professor Loh Kian Ping, has constantly provided useful feedback and suggestions, which are vital to a student just beginning to embrace research. His belief and confidence in me allowed me to grow and develop valuable research skills. Of course, insightful discussions with the many experienced researchers in the lab also proved to be rewarding.
During these four years of education at NUS Faculty of Science (FoS), I feel that have developed from being an inquisitive Science student to an independent researcher. Weekly laboratory sessions at the junior undergraduate levels allowed me the opportunity to hone experimental techniques and be exposed to a variety of equipment widely used in research. Laboratory reports after each session also instilled in me the importance of reporting findings and conveying insights in a professional manner. Such skills are undoubtedly beneficial to a fresh graduate seeking to make an impact to society.
Being a part of FoS, I was also given the chance to participate in a semester-long exchange programme at the National Taiwan University under the Student Exchange Programme (SEP) and also a 3-week immersion at Eastern Europe under the European Immersion Programme (EURIP). These overseas stints have broadened my horizons as I was able to experience first-hand how Chemistry is learnt and research is done in other parts of the world. I will definitely bring all these valuable experiences with me into the classroom to cultivate interest in Science among the younger generation in my future career as an educator.
Lim Cheng Xiang
Individual Category, AY2009/10
Project Title: Epitaxial Graphene: Preparation, Characterization and Development Of An Electrochemical Sensing Platform
Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2008/09
The project I submitted for this competition is titled Finite Key Analysis for Quantum Cryptography. It deals with a technical aspect of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), which is about using quantum physics to distribute secret codes between distant partners. Thanks to the fact that measurements modify the state of a system, the knowledge of an eavesdropper can be quantified and removed from the data, in order to obtain a perfectly secret code. Until recently however, the estimate of this knowledge was available only for codes of infinite keys, obviously impossible to achieve in practice. Essentially then, I had to further develop existing finite-key formalism for implementations of QKD, including realistic light sources (lasers), losses in the transmission lines, imperfections of the apparatuses etc. The goal was reached. The notions and formulas developed in this project can now be applied by experimental groups around the world.
Definitely, I feel excited and happy winning this competition. Receiving this award is an affirmation of my hard work and is also a rewarding and memorable experience for having studied this very abstract science. It is no doubt that FoS has prepared me with good analytical and problem solving skills for the real world. I am also thankful to my supervisor, Associate Professor Dr Scarani and the Centre for Quantum Technologies for the numerous exposures to renowned researchers through attending workshops, both local and overseas, as well as through the many seminars and colloquiums.
Cai Yongqin Raymond
Individual Category Winner, AY2008/09
Project Title: Finite Key Analysis for Quantum Cryptography
Little is known about the animals that scavenge invertebrates in the tropics and the impact human activities have on such communities. I studied the scavenging process of five types of dead invertebrate in six habitats along an urbanization gradient in Singapore: primary forest, old secondary forest, young secondary forest, recreational park, mown grassland and impervious surfaces. Ants were the dominant scavengers. Ant species richness decreased and bait survival time increased monotonically along the urbanization gradient, suggesting that these two parameters could be used as indicators of habitat quality.
To me, winning this award is indeed a great honour. The field of Ecological Sciences is becoming increasingly important as the world realises that conservation efforts are critical for the sake of our future generations. This award has given recognition to the importance of such conservation works and has built my confidence and resolve as an aspiring ecologist. Of course, this would not have been possible if not for my supervisor Professor Richard Thomas Corlett. I wish to thank him wholeheartedly for his caring supervision and critical research insights.
I have felt and experienced personally how the Faculty of Science provides for learning from multiple disciplines and allows for one's mind to be broadened on a global scale. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROPS) coupled with the Global Clinic Programme jointly organized by Faculty of Science and Harvey Mudd College, U.S., gave me the opportunity to integrate the knowledge gained from scientific research into engineering new inventions for the benefit of mankind. As a student in the Special Programme in Science, my biological knowledge has been enhanced with a deep appreciation of the other fields in Science. The Life Sciences Programme has definitely equipped me with a wide range of skills and has given me a broader perspective, enabling me to take on future challenges in my career.
All in all, it certainly had been a wonderful experience to be a student from the Faculty of Science; it is no doubt that the faculty had provided me with many opportunities to uncover and develop my potential in scientific research.
Cedric Tan Kai Wei
Life Sciences (Biology) Major
Individual Category Winner, AY2008/09
Project Title: Scavenging of Dead Invertebrates in Various Habitats of Singapore
There is always uncertainty in research work. We explore the unknown, in hope to understand more of that which we do not know. And through our collective efforts, we strive to stretch the known boundaries of Science, for the betterment of mankind.
Of course, this was not what I had in mind when I first started out on my Final Year Project (FYP). My project, titled The influence of carbon nanotubes on enzyme activity and structure: investigation of different immobilization procedures through enzyme kinetics and circular dichroism, was a great personal challenge to say the least. To summarize very briefly, my project explored the possibility of conjugating amyloglucosidase (AMG) onto carbon nanotubes. In what we believe to be the first of its kind, the various methods of enzyme conjugations were performed, with the enzyme kinetics and structural changes of the enzyme then evaluated.
Although being a Pharmacy student has taught me much with regards to research work, there was so much more to learn. Having little experience with enzyme kinetics meant countless hours just reading up on the basics. Carbon nanotubes have been around for more than a decade, yet there is still much that we still do not understand. These factors, compounded with the workload from other modules, lead to long nights and entire weekends spent in the lab. Despite the numerous difficulties and time constrains faced, my FYP supervisor, Assistant Professor Dr Giorgia Pastorin, and myself managed to complete a manuscript and submitted it to Nanotechnology for publication in early March 2009. Our article was accepted in early April, and eventually got published online in June. The rest as they say is history.
I am extremely flattered to have received this award, and my sincere thanks goes out to Dr Giorgia and everyone who has helped me in this project. For without them, winning this award would have never been possible. Thank you NUS, Faculty of Science, and Department of Pharmacy. It is my sincere hope that OURP will continue to benefit future recipients, and bring more glory to the realm of research work.
Teng Cang-Rong Jason
Individual Category Winner, AY2008/09
Project Title: The Influence of Carbon Nanotubes on Enzyme Activity and Structure: Investigation of Different Immobilisation Procedures through Enzyme Kinetics and Circular Dichroism Studies
The project I submitted for this competition lies within the arena of stochastic operations research, which aims to find optimal strategies when the available information contains some uncertainty. As suggested by the tile of the project, Mixed Zero-One Linear Programs under Objective Uncertainty: A Cross Moment Model, we focus on the type of the optimization problems that can be formulated as a mixed 0-1 linear program, and we consider the data uncertainty described by the first and second moment information (including the cross moment information). These problems are generally very hard to solve, and to the best of our knowledge, there does not even exist a good way to estimate the solutions. Based on the recent development in the copositive programs (COPs), we develop a Completely Positive Cross Moment Model (CPCMM) to tackle such problems. The beauty of our model lies in the generality since it extends some of the work in this area significantly. Moreover, the model possesses a wide range of applications, because most of the real life optimization problems can be expressed as mixed 0-1 linear programming problems, such as portfolio selection problems, transhipment problems, facility location problems, etc.
It has been my great honour to receive the award, and it is really heartening to know that my effort and contribution to this project are being recognized and appreciated. I would like to take this opportunity to once again express my deepest gratitude towards my project advisor, Dr. Karthik Natarajan, who has guided me into the world of research and been a great friend of mine. I am also very thankful to the committee in our department and faculty in supporting the project, and I have received many valuable suggestions from our dear faculty members throughout the project.
With a sound training in science, especially in mathematics, I am very confident to confront any challenges that might appear in my research journey in future.
Applied Mathematics Major
Individual Category Winner, AY2008/09
Project Title: Mixed Zero-one Linear Programs under Objective Uncertainty: A Cross Moment Model
When I was 10, an article about Alfred Nobel and the Nobel prizes sparked my passion for research and set my ultimate dream: to win a Nobel Prize. From my first investigative project at 14 to an in-house research project during my junior college years, I found the motivation fueling my passion: to serve mankind through the study of nature and making discoveries to help people afflicted by illness. The initial spark has since turned into a raging passion for research.
My journey in research with NUS Faculty of Science started when I was a NUS Science Research Programme (SRP) student. In SRP, I picked up the ropes, completed my first research project and wrote a paper for a congress. Then as an undergraduate, I re-learnt and honed my skills under the Special Programme in Science. The multi-disciplinary, guided and structured approach of SPS trained me well in research. The experience gained taught me to be more humble, pro-active and independent.
NUS Science has always been with me in my pursuit for excellence in research even beyond my SRP days. My stint in Nobel Museum's Exhibition as well as the opportunity and funding for my exchange in Karolinska Institute (KI) not just made me stepped out of my comfort zone and gain research experience overseas; it brought me closer to my dream. It is also in KI that I found my research interest in Natural Killer cells (NK) which eventually lead to my receipt of OURP. I truly thank NUS for giving me the chance to pursuit my dreams which contribute to my success.
Upon return from KI, I found Dr Garnet Suck from Health Science Authority (HSA) to further my study on NK cells. Under Dr Suck, I worked on generating highly potent NK effectors by culturing white blood cells in media containing a cytokine IL-15. I optimized various GMP-compliant IL-15 culture conditions. The culture conditions produced numerous highly cytotoxic NK cells of comparable efficiency to that of IL-2, commonly used in treatment of leukemia. These NK cells are sensitive and specific despite increased expression of inhibitory surface receptors. I also found that these NK cells upregulated CD56 expression and represented the novel phenotype CD56bright-CD16bright, which had not been well studied by other researchers. The study is currently continued with the aim to be clinically translated for the treatment of patients suffering from haematological malignancies in the near future, involving the state-of-the-art GMP-facility at HSA.
By doing my research in HSA, I have done what my peers have never done before and I sincerely thank FoS and my project supervisor A/Prof Schwarzv for their support. My greatest gratitude to FoS was the Science Student Overseas Exposure Fund (SSOEF) award. By partially funding me for a meeting in Perth I gain greater understanding and experience NK research which contributed to my success in receiving the OURP. I am really grateful for the support and education from NUS that has brought me this far. The OURP has certainly been a timely morale booster for me who has come such a long way in research.
I am also grateful to HSA and my co-supervisor cum mentor Dr Garnet Suck. It was in her lab that I was given respect, trust and confidence to work on this piece of research. Her guidance and nurturing has taught me a lot beyond what I have learnt in NUS. I feel that such frequent intellectual discussions with supervisors to work out various problems in research are essential for training undergraduates to become good researchers, and I sincerely hope that more and more undergraduates can be given such opportunities.
Vincent Oei Yi Sheng
Life Sciences (Biomedical Science) Major
Individual Category Winner, AY2008/09
Project Title: Generation of Highly Potent NK Effectors in Novel GMP-Compliant Culture Conditions Involving IL-15
Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2007/08
The project which we submitted for this competition was titled 'Designing and Validating a Low Cost Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction Instrument (RT-PCR) for Secondary Schools'. RT-PCR is a biotechnology used to amplify and quantify a targeted DNA molecule. The current RT-PCR instrument is above US$70,000 which is only affordable by research institutes and universities. Sponsored by Applied Biosystems, we designed and built a low cost (US$400) RT-PCR instrument together with three other undergraduates from Harvey Mudd College (California). The novel design consists of a moving heater cum cooler and stationary optical detection system. The NUS team worked on the optical detection system to detect fluorescence from dyes that bind to DNA.
Our team is greatly honored and elated to receive this award. Being awarded this prize gives recognition to the excellent job done by all the students of the team as well as the sponsor company, Applied Biosystems. It also serves as an encouragement to the next Global Clinic team to strive hard to continue the success of the project and has certainly built up our confidence to pursue a career in research.
We are also grateful to the Faculty of Science for giving us the opportunity to venture abroad during the Summer Exchange. This invaluable experience has indeed broadened our horizons and gave us the chance to learn more about other cultures. Moreover, being able to work with other faculties as well as overseas colleges was certainly challenging and has truly helped us to maximise our full potential as future scientists and engineers.
Cedric Tan Kai Wei, Life Sciences (Biology) Major
Chang Ci'En Sharon, Physics (Applied Physics) Major
Sui Xiaodi, Bioengineering, Faculty of Engineering
Group Category Winner, AY2007/08
Project Title: Project Greenwich: Designing and validating an optical sybsystem for a low-cost real-time polymerase chain reaction instrument aimed at Secondary Schools
(All 3 students were the first batch of FOS students to team up with students from Harvey Mudd College in USA to work on a year-long Global Clinic project sponsored by Applied Biosystems, under the Global Clinic Programme.)
My passion and excitement for research was first ignited when I participated in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in Science (UROPS). UROPS pushed me out of classroom learning into the real world of research where results are not always predictable. Nevertheless, the insatiable desire to test out new hypotheses and the passion to design something which will make a difference in the lives of mankind constituted my driving force for research.
The experience gained from UROPS has given me an edge in my Honours Year research project, which was submitted for this competition. This 2-part project transcends the boundary of chemistry into biophysics and engineering. It is long-believed that diamond is biocompatible with living cells. However, a recent investigation revealed that diamond-coated surgically implanted biomaterials stimulated chronic inflammation. The mechanism of such a response is not yet fully understood. Through a novel approach incorporating state-of-the art fluorescence techniques and an optically transparent diamond, I have proven that the main factor contributing to foreign body reaction is the micro-roughness of implanted biomaterials. The second part of the project involves the construction of a novel lipid-bilayer-on-diamond field effect transistor (FET). The principle of this device can be extended to the making of a miniaturized sensor that responds sensitively to a wide spectrum of membrane-disrupting agents for biomedical research and defence against terror attacks.
The conquest to unravel the secrets of nature is made possible because the NUS Faculty of Science (FoS) offers multi-disciplinary programmes, coupled with outstanding professors, to nurture intellectual, inquisitive and innovative minds. This not only trains students to think critically and theoretically, but also equips them with intellectual capability, through state-of-the-art research facilities, to deploy theoretical knowledge into creative real-life research- the true lifeline of knowledge production. FoS has provided me with not just an all-rounded education but also a fun-filled varsity life where there were opportunities to engage in invaluable academic exchange of ideas through local and overseas conferences.
I am very grateful to NUS for awarding me the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Prize (OURP), which not only brings my undergraduate research experiences to a nice closure, but also gives me a thrust to challenge myself to greater heights as I embark on my post-graduate studies in NUS. I believe this competition will continue to stimulate students as they cultivate their interest in Science and develop an inquisitive attitude to discover new exciting things that will revolutionise the scientific world of knowledge.
Ang Kailian Priscilla
Individual Category Winner, AY2007/08
Project Title: Assessing the biocompatibility and biosensing of supported lipid bilayer on diamond
My interest in Biology was the reason why I chose to pursue a Diploma in Biotechnology at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. This subsequently earned me a placement in NUS to study Life Sciences. I did two year-long (8 MCs each) Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in Science (UROPS) projects under Dr Wong Siew Heng (Laboratory of Membrane Trafficking and Immunoregulation, Department of Microbiology), after which I stayed on in his lab to do my Honours Project.
The project which I submitted for this competition was on the regulation of bacteria-uptake (phagocytosis) by a protein known as VAMP-8/endobrevin in dendritic cells. VAMP-8 belongs to a class of protein (SNAREs) essential for the docking and fusion of membrane vesicles. We found that VAMP-8 was recruited to phagosomes during bacteria ingestion. Despite its faithful association throughout the phagocytic pathway, we unexpectedly observed that the knockout (gene deletion) and knockdown (gene silencing) of VAMP-8 enhanced bacteria uptake, while over-expression of VAMP-8 inhibited it. These data suggested that VAMP-8 negatively regulates bacteria-uptake in dendritic cells. Our finding is the first on a SNARE protein that functionally inhibits phagocytosis in phagocytic cells, and has been published in the top-tier journal, The Journal of Immunology (180:3148-3157).
Receiving the OURP is recognition to the efforts I have put into research. I would like to take this chance to once again express my gratitude to my supervisor, Dr Wong Siew Heng, for giving me the chance to learn under his guidance. I am also very thankful to my lab-mates for their companionship and for sharing their knowledge. Three years of research work in Dr Wong's lab has filled my NUS life with excitement and satisfaction.
Ho Yong Hou Sunny
Life Sciences (Molecular and Cell Biology) Major
Individual Category Winner, AY2007/08
Project Title: Interactive functions of endosomal SNARE molecules in regulating phygocytosis in dendritic cells
Research has always been intriguing and yet intimidating for me in my early days in NUS. The fear of being too ignorant or incapable kept many of us from approaching our lecturers for a glimpse into the research world. The UROPS program provided an excellent chance, at least for me, to take a peek into this exciting and rigorous field. I took up the challenge and never looked back since.
My project submitted for this award is on the competitive field of stem cell biology. Embryonic stem (ES) cells have received much attention in the scientific field for its potential in the field of regenerative medicine and in this project, my work focused on dissecting the function of a crucial transcription factor Klf4 in ES cells. In 2006, Yamanaka and colleagues amazed the field by reprogramming terminally differentiated adult tissues back into pluripotent cells with the mere introduction of four transcription factors. Klf4 was one of the four crucial factors used. However, knock down experiments have shown that the factor was not essential in the maintenance ES cells. In this project, my work serves to reconcile the function of Klf4 in ES cells with its reprogramming capabilities by studying possible molecular redundancy between Klf4 and other members of the Klf family of transcription factors. With the collaborative efforts of other lab mates, this work was published in an international refereed journal Nature Cell Biology.
It has been an honour to receive this award and it has also been heartening to know that the varsity appreciates and recognizes students' hard work and achievements in the research arena. This award has definitely helped to spur undergraduate researchers towards achieving greater heights and I sincerely hope to see much more exciting research work coming from fellow science undergraduates. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my supervisor, Dr Ng Huck Hui for the opportunity to work in his lab in the Genome institute of Singapore and his guidance in this project. Special thanks to Jiang Jianming, a Phd student under DBS for his mentoring during the course of the project. The curriculum in the faculty of science provides much opportunity for students to engage in the field of research and the honours project provides vigorous training for future researchers. My journey in the faculty has been a fruitful one and the program has indeed prepared me well for my upcoming graduate studies.
Chan Yun Shen
Life Sciences (Molecular and Cell Biology) Major
Individual Category Winner, AY2007/08
Project Title: Functional dissection of Klf transcription factors in ES cells
Science OURP Winners' Testimonials - AY2006/07
Since childhood, I have always been fascinated by the mysteries and intricacies of the natural world. My insatiable curiosity about how life forms functioned was probably why I chose to major in Life Science, and why I chose to work as a researcher after graduating.
My Honours project submission for this competition looks at Syntaxin 16 (Syn16), a protein which I found in higher concentrations in brain cells (neurons) compared to other cells of the body. I investigated if this protein might be important to neuronal development using two techniques. The first is known as a 'knockdown', which decreases the Syn16 levels in cultured neurons. The second technique was to put truncated Syn16 proteins into neurons and observe if neuron growth was affected. In both cases, I found that lack of Syn16 or certain forms of truncated Syn16 did indeed inhibit the growth of neurons. This suggests that Syn16 is important to neuronal development and may be one reason why Syn16 is found in high levels in the brain.
Receiving this award was a big boost to my confidence in my decision to pursue a career in research. Although the thrill of exploring the scientific horizon should be sufficient gratification for the hours spent in the laboratory, every researcher would also appreciate an occasional nod of encouragement from fellow scientists, acknowledging that the work done was worthwhile! I am also extremely grateful to my project supervisor for encouraging me to submit my project for consideration, during a time when I was preoccupied with preparing my honours project thesis. Every student and budding researcher should have a mentor who is willing to spend time cultivating their interest in Science and believing in their ideas.
I feel that studying Science promises a rigorous training in logical and critical thinking, something which is essential in a world where information is constantly being churned out and needs to be processed and selectively absorbed. At the same time, a training in scientific research means that the mind is stimulated to think laterally and creatively- after all, invention and discovery all require the ability to form cross-disciplinary links between a wide range of fields and specialisations. An education in Science has given me the best of both worlds!
Christelle Chua En Lin
Life Sciences (Biomedical Sciences) Major
Individual Category Winner, AY2006/07
Project Title: Syntaxin 16 in the Brain
My project submitted for this competition is titled "Non-cyclic Phase of 4-flavor Neutrino Oscillation". Let me just first introduce what neutrinos are. They are one of the lightest particles known in Science, so light and so un-interactive that we know very little about the physical parameters describing it. It is known that neutrinos come in three flavors and because they travel from the sun, (which produces a large amount of neutrinos during nuclear reaction), their flavors change, and this is described in the theory of neutrino oscillation.
It is this phenomenon that I have studied in my research project. Developments in quantum mechanics involving the physical phases (geometric phases) of changing quantum systems and it's application to neutrino oscillation, together with the experimental results from the LSND group (which did experiment on neutrino oscillation and some suggests that it supports a theory which proposes four neutrino flavors), provided the motivation for our project; which is to calculate the explicit expression for the geometric phase in 4 flavor neutrino oscillation. This may be useful for the interpretation of future experiments. In the process, we also made predictions concerning the masses of neutrinos, by postulating that the CPT symmetry of quantum field theory must also hold in the geometric phases of neutrino oscillation. My research results have since been published in the journal, Physics Letters B. Receiving this award has been a huge encouragement to me and had dispelled some of the doubts I once held, about being inexperience in research and about the validity of my work. Winning this competition had certainly boosted my confidence to make future discoveries in Physics research.
My four years of studies in NUS not only provided my first formal education in Physics, it also helped me to build up the foundation necessary to pursue further studies. I will be staying on in NUS to continue my graduate studies, which hopefully will lead to a P.H.D. at the end of 4 years. This period will open up more opportunities for me to find out original discoveries that are to my satisfaction, and will also be a transition from merely studying existing knowledge in Physics to creating knowledge, which I feel, is what Physics is all about.
Individual Category Winner, AY2006/07
Project Title: Non-cyclic phase for 4-Flavour Neutrino oscillation
The project which I submitted for this competition was my Honours year project, titled "Characterization of Quadratic Convergence of Newton's Method on Semidefinite Programming". This research project has successfully characterized the concept of strong regularity for semidefinite programming (SDP). In particular, the equivalence between the non-singularity of the Clarke's generalized Jacobian and the B-subdifferential, of the optimality conditions for SDP, is proven. This comes as a surprise because this equivalence generally fails to hold in most cases. The project adeptly utilised the unique structure exhibited in SDP problems to prove the above equivalence, and consequently, quadratic convergence of non-smooth Newton methods can be achieved easily. In addition, the project also established quadratic convergence of smoothing Newton methods without assuming strict complementarity, which as far as we know, is a common condition assumed in all known smoothing Newton methods for solving the SDP problem.
Major parts of my Honours thesis has since been re-formatted into a journal paper entitled "Constraint Nondegeneracy, Strong Regularity and Nonsingularity in Semidefinite Programming", co-authored with my supervisor Associate Professor Sun Defeng. I was very glad to know that the paper has been accepted for publication in the SIAM Journal on Optimization, a top tier journal in the field of optimization. I am also very grateful to my supervisor, Associate Professor Sun Defeng, for his guidance and patience in supervising my project, notwithstanding his busy schedule. This project would not be possible without the advice he has given throughout this period of research.
Being awarded the prize, I felt that all the efforts and hard work that I have put into this project have paid off. Furthermore, it signifies that my work has gained the support and recognition of the Faculty.
The four years of my undergraduate studies in Faculty of Science has been an enriching experience. I have met many professors who are very passionate about their research but are also equally dedicated to their teaching duties. This has certainly spurred me to continue to follow research trends and updates even as I embark on my teaching career in the future.
Chan Zi Xian
Applied Mathematics Major
Individual Category Winner, AY2006/07
Project Title: Characterisation of Quadratic Convergence of Newton's method on Semidefinite Programming