Winners of the 2016 L’Oréal Singapore for Women in Science National Fellowship Awards Announced

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The L’Oréal Singapore for Women in Science National Fellowships programme is aimed at recognizing ambitious and talented women in science and encouraging young women to confidently pursue research. This event is organized annually with support from Singapore National Commission for UNESCO and A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research). The fellowship awards two different grants of SGD 30,000 each, one in the field of Life Sciences and the other in the field of Physical and Engineering Sciences.

Here are the winners of the national fellowship:

2016 Life Science Fellowship

Wan Yue
Dr Wan Yue, 33, Winner of 2016 Life Science National Fellowship

The 2016 life science fellowship was awarded to Dr Wan Yue, 33, from the Genome Institute of Singapore, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Dr Wan’s research is about the identification of functional ribonucleic acid (RNA) elements in transcriptomes through genome-wide detection of RNA structures. She studies how RNA shapes in drug-resistant bacteria and in RNA viruses such as Dengue and Zika cause infection. Through the analysis of the RNA shapes, Dr Wan aims to develop therapies that combat these diseases by discovering molecules that can target the RNA structures to inhibit pathogen growth.

During an interview with her at the event, she mentioned that “Resilience is a key factor in science as results can fail multiple times”.

She also pointed out issues pertaining to the lack of women at top positions in multinational corporations, insecurities that young girls may face in classroom environments and a lack of confidence to pursue research in science that she has personally seen. “The topic of women in science is very close to my heart and it is important to impart resilience and strength in young girls to become top scientists”, she mentioned while giving her acceptance speech.

When asked about how she plans on using the award money, Dr Wan Yue said she wishes to use it for her baby’s childcare expenses.

2016 Physical and Engineering Science Fellowship 

Shao Huilin
Assistant Professor Shao Huilin, 32, Winner of 2016 Physical and Engineering Science National Fellowship

The physical and engineering science fellowship was awarded to Shao Huilin, 32, who is currently an Assistant Professor at the Department of Biomedical Engineering & Principal Investigator at the Biomedical Institute for Global Health Research & Technology (BIGHEART), National University of Singapore. She also holds the position of Joint Investigator, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

Exosomes are nanoscale vesicles actively secreted by cancer cells into the circulation. They represent a rich repertoire of molecular information. Integrating expertise in device engineering, materials science and molecular biology, Assistant Professor Shao’s research aims to overcome these technological challenges by developing new generations of nanotechnology-based biosensor platforms for sensitive, fast and cost-effective diagnostics and in order to learn whether patient respond to treatment. In the long-run the ultimate aim is to be able to cure diseases such as cancer and neuro-degenerative diseases.

When asked about her motivation to work in this subject area, she said, “The first talk about biomembranes during my bachelor’s degree in Cornell University struck me very hard, which inspired me to read more about biophysics and solve real life problems”. While the topic of women in science was approached, she mentioned that “The women population in the role of physical scientists is very low and I hope that this fellowship encourages more girls to pursue this field”.

When asked on how she will be using the award money, assistant professor Shao Huilin plans on using fifty percent on travelling to conferences and meetings and the other half with family.

The Managing Director at L’Oréal Singapore, Henric Sark, said, “We are proud to welcome Wan Yue and Shao Huilin into the ‘For Women in Science’ family. They join 16 other National Fellows, and three International Fellows from Singapore, a small but growing network of young, talented and inspiring women who, like L’Oréal, believe that ‘the world needs science and science needs women’.

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(L – R): Shao Huilin, Wan Yue, Professor Leo Tan and Henric Sark

From a handful of women scientists in 2009, we now receive more applications – 42 this year – from host institutions as diverse as Yale-NUS, Duke-NUS, National Eye Centre, National Dental Centre and the traditional research hothouses of A*STAR, NUS and NTU. The diversity also shows in the areas of research that the women scientists are working on and the depth of their research.”

Here is the list of runner ups of the national fellowship (in order of no merit) :

2016 Life Science Finalists 

  1. Kathy Su (35), Lee Kuan Yew Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore

Research topic: Dissecting the Origins of a Morphological Novelty in Sepsid Flies

2. Astrid Irwanto (31), GIS Innovation Fellow, Genome Institute of Singapore, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

Research topic: Providing Personalized Medicine for Leprosy through Genetic Testing

2016 Physical and Engineering Science Finalists

  1. GE Tong (34), Senior Research Fellow, School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Nanyang Technological University

 Research topic: Invisible Headphones – A New Generation of Personalized Audio Devices

2. TAN Yen Nee (35), Program Manager, Biomimetic and Biomedical Materials, Institute of Materials Research and Engineering Adjunct Assistant Professor, Faculty of Science, Department of Chemistry, National University of Singapore

Research topic: Bioinspired Materials and Nanosensors for Molecular Diagnostics and Biomedical Applications

The fellows are selected by an esteemed jury, consisting of members who are former L’Oréal Singapore national fellows; and professors from A*STAR, the National University of Singapore, and the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

2016 Jury Members 

 1. Professor Leo Tan, Advisor to the Jury

Chairman, Science Sub-Commission Singapore National Commission for UNESCO
Director (Special Projects), Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore

 2. Associate Professor Christina Chai, Jury Member

Head of Department, Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore;

3. Associate Professor Ho Ghim Wei, Jury Member

2014 L’Oréal Singapore For Women in Science Physical and Engineering Science Fellow Associate Professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, National University of Singapore

4. Associate Professor Low Hong Yee, Jury Member

2010 L’Oréal Singapore For Women in Science Material Science Fellow; Associate Professor, Engineering Product Development, Singapore University of Technology & Design

5. Dr Mark Phong, Jury Member
Asia Director Advanced Research Labs and Business Development, L’Oréal Research & Innovation

18 Years of Supporting Women in Science

Created in 1998, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowships were established by the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation as the first international awards dedicated to women scientists around the world. 18 years later, the programme continues to be a benchmark of international scientific excellence and an invaluable source of motivation, support, as well as inspiration for women in the fields of science. Since it was founded in 1998, the program has honoured 92 Award Laureates (including two who went on to win the Nobel Prize), and supported more than 2,438 Fellows from over 110 countries – women who are making contributions in every field of research.