Why SLoT Forum 2016 was the best event I ever attended

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It started off with a bang, quite literally since there was a thunderstorm raging outside on the morning of the inaugural Singapore Leaders of Tomorrow Forum 2016 on October 19th, 2016. Undaunted by the ominous weather, my colleague and I sat at the registration table eagerly waiting to greet our applicants, the Leaders of Tomorrow. How could we not be excited? These people have stepped up to take on some of the greatest challenges on Biotechnology whilst the rest of the population laments while lounging on the couch. These applicants on the other hand may one day become extremely successful leaders in their respective fields.

Leaders of Tomorrow at the SLoT Forum Credit: GBR
Leaders of Tomorrow at the SLoT Forum Credit: GBR

More importantly and also a major plus point of the SLoT Forum is that, you get to meet like-minded peers (networking isn’t as hard as it seems!) which is a tantalizing aspect for people who need better company to feed the ‘science-geek’ in them. Have you ever felt alone even when you were surrounded by people? It’s probably because you didn’t have much in common to begin with and when you want to talk about something interesting *science*, everyone else is discussing Kim K. So it’s only natural that you start to wonder if there are more people like you out there (cue emotional songs about teenage angst).

The people that fall into the category of “Someone who is crazy enough to try and tackle the world’s problems instead of assuming it will magically solve itself” Or “Someone who gets energized listening to others talk about their favourite field of science.” That’s the kind of people I want to spend my day hanging out with too but it seems like those people are few and far in between. You probably fall into that category if you’re reading this, that means you’re probably wondering “So what do I do now with my new ‘rare species’ classification?”

Attend science-related events! People just like you are attracted by the same things you like. It’s pretty simple: You should look for dancers in a dance club, bibliophiles at the library and science geeks at the next science/biotech event. Birds of a feather flock together. So get out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there, you’ll soon feel like yelling “I have found my people!”

Before you throw yourself into the next event, you should do some research into what biotech events are like.

So what was the Singapore Leaders of Tomorrow Forum like?

Structurally it was split into 3 main sessions, the main focus of the first session being the morning panel discussion on Asian Phenotypic Diseases between clinicians, researchers and industry experts about the relevance and importance of dealing with these issues.  While the second session i.e. the afternoon session had a panel discussion consisting of representatives from the industry, startups, VC community and the Government. They ideated and discussed about how we could collectively tackle the issues and how is the current landscape in Singapore, suited for that. Lastly, it ended off with the highlight- the biotech business pitching competition “Voices of Tomorrow” based on the 5 gaps that we had identified in biotech that needed to be solved. You can check out who spoke at the event and the other highlights at the event website.

Panellists of the morning panel discussion, Asian Phenotypic Diseases - A Real Phenomenon Credit: GBR
Panellists of the morning panel discussion, Asian Phenotypic Diseases – A Real Phenomenon Credit: GBR
Afternoon Panel Discussion - Ideation, Insights..and Imagination Credit: GBR
Afternoon Panel Discussion – Ideation, Insights..and Imagination Credit: GBR

Ok, so now you know the breakdown but what was it REALLY like?

Saying it was an insightful experience is so cliché but it honestly was. Just listening to the panellists talk about their own experiences in the field really provided a new perspective and they weren’t holding back on the advice either even if not everyone agreed with it.

For example, Dr Rosemary Tan, CEO of Veredus Laboratories, the keynote speaker for the afternoon session shared with the audience that she strongly felt that “scientists can be trained but entrepreneurs are born”. Something interesting that our afternoon panel had in common was that all of the members of the panel were at some point in time, scientists. However, they all decided they would be able to have a greater impact on science from outside of academia.

Common reasons mentioned include that there are already many smart and capable scientists but very little of their research reaches commercialization. There is a largely untapped pool of brilliant ideas and research that never make it to the market either due to an inability to raise funds or the projected benefit being too far into the future. So if you don’t feel like a superstar in the lab and have an innate sense of business acumen, it might just be time for a career change.

As someone who actively promotes and advocates for outreach and competitions, I was extremely satisfied by the outcome of months of hard work that went into the production of the Singapore Leaders of Tomorrow Forum 2016. I would definitely love to see a bigger and better SLoT Forum in the future with even more wonderful and capable applicants.

I was inspired by the ideas and thoughts presented at the forum and hope that similarly, all the participants and even the panellists, left with a burning desire to get out there and change something for the better through biotechnology.

resizedSelina TA was the Publicity and Marketing Head at the Singapore Leaders of Tomorrow Forum and is a scientific writer at biotechin.asia. She is a fervent advocate for the advancement of science and science outreach for youths. Main interests lie in the field of stem cells , regenerative medicine & tissue engineering. She also writes under the pseudonym of Zack Hades.