Top scientific minds converge at the Global Young Scientists Summit 2016 in Singapore



(L-R)President of SUTD and Moderator of the panel discussion, What will the World be like in 50 years?- Prof Thomas Magnanti; Richard Karp; Jerome Friedman; Sir Anthony Leggett, Andrew Yao; David Gross; Cedric Villani(Fields medal,2010) Photo:

Singapore hosted the recently concluded Global Young Scientist’s Summit (GYSS) (17-22 January 2016) which brought together some of the world’s most brilliant minds for a multi-disciplinary summit themed “Advancing Science, Creating Technologies for a Better World.”

The speakers invited to the GYSS@one-north were globally recognised scientific leaders, who are recipients of the Nobel Prize, Fields Medal (for mathematics), Millennium Technology Prize (for ground-breaking innovations), Turing Award (considered the Nobel equivalent for computing) and IEEE Medal of Honour.

This year around 21 eminent scientists gathered in Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) along with 270 young researchers aged 35 and below who got a chance to interact with their research heroes and have meaningful discussions with them.

Mr Teo (right) with speakers of the Global Young Scientists Summit 2016, Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Professor Jerome Friedman (left), and Turing Award winner, Professor Richard Karp, at the opening ceremony. Credits: Straits Times PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Speaking at the launch of Singapore’s fourth GYSS 2016, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean said investing in R&D is essentially an investment in Singapore’s future. The $19 billion budget set aside for R&D over the next five years will create economic value and jobs for Singaporeans, change lives through science and technology, and allow scientists to collaborate with others all over the world, added Mr Teo.

Sir Anthony Leggett, Nobel Prize in Physics (2003) Photo:

One of the summit’s speakers, Sir Anthony Leggett, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2003 for his work in superfluidity, said that while the amount set aside was “truly impressive”, young scientists must also be given free rein to engage in pure curiosity.

“Most major technological advances have their origins in science, which is purely or mainly curiosity driven, so in funding research, it is a mistake to look too closely at the bottom line,” he pointed out.

Among the many plenary lectures and small group sesssions that took place over the course of five days, there were interesting panel discussions too such as “What will the World be like in 50 years?”

Most of the esteemed panellists agreed that the progress in science has been stupendous in the past 50 years notwithstanding the population boom, the age of cold war and other issues. There is an increase in life expectancy, better treatment of diseases, we understand the working of brain better, we know more about cancer, and there is a gradual realisation that earth is not an infinite resource.

The scientists urged the world nations to start unifying, work together, share resources in order to mitigate the environmental disasters that we are facing.

Sir Anthony, also reiterated that the phobia over some issues like nuclear energy and GMO’s need to be overcome for science to progress.

Many challenges were highlighted and to solve it, the world governments need to work together and there should be a right political will. They urged citizens to think and address issues, and fight the pseudo science that is rampant everywhere.

There were other interesting panel discussions like “The PhD Degree: Commodity or Commonplace?,” that was chaired by Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, president of the National University of Singapore. The general consensus was that it is not the volume of PhD students graduating that is a problem, but the quality of the training provided during the course of their PhD. The ability to work independently must be promoted, rather than hand-holding as it could lead to “scientific inbreeding” where the students continue to pursue their mentor’s area of research rather than venturing out to new and different research areas. They concluded that though certain areas in the job market are saturated, a little bit of initiative, a self-starter attitude and reaching out to industry people before graduating can go a long way in improving job prospects.

At the closing ceremony of the fourth Global Young Scientists Summit 2016 on 22nd January 2016, President Tony Tan Keng Yam, the Patron of GYSS presented the Singapore Challenge 2016 prize, themed “Sustainable and Liveable Cities”, to Mr Carlos Duarte-Guevara, a fifth year PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

President Tony Tan presenting the Singapore Challenge 2016 prize to Mr Carlos Duarte-Guervera, a fifth year PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Courtesy: Dr.Tony Tan’s facebook page

Mr DuarteGuevara proposed a biosensing system that could detect harmful food-borne pathogens in eight hours. As existing food testing systems require specialised expertise and facilities, this system, which could speed up diagnosis during outbreaks, without the need for a trained technician, was judged the best research idea. Shortlisted from 48 proposals, it topped the eight submissions in the final round of selection.

Finally, speaking at the closing ceremony of the summit, President Tan said, “Singapore needs to develop in our youths the curiosity to discover, the desire to experiment, and respect for people who set out to develop new knowledge”.

He said that out-of-the-box solutions developed through interdisciplinary application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are required to tackle global challenges and problems.

GYSS@one-north is organised by the National Research Foundation (NRF), a department within the Prime Minister’s Office.

All the photos are courtesy: unless specified otherwise.