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Vol 20, No. 02, February 2016   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
Inspirations from 2015 FWIS L'Oréal Winners

We must turn the spotlight not only on the work of all these exceptional women, but also their personalities, their career histories, their passions, their challenges and their joys. This is L'Oréal mission with this programme, and we will continue, year on year, to recognize and reward outstanding young, female scientists in Singapore,” stated by Mr. Vincent Ong, General Manager, Corporate Affairs of L'Oréal Singapore in his speech during the award ceremony.

We met up with female scientists who won the 2015 L'Oréal Singapore For Women In Science (FWIS) National Fellowships. They are passionate and find a lot of joy in their work. While working hard to achieve success, they also find time to enjoy life. Let’s get to know them better…

A Lovely Chat with Dr. Neo Mei Lin (ML)

Dr. Neo Mei Lin was awarded with 2015 Life Science Fellowship. She is a research fellow of St. John's Island Marine Laboratory, at Tropical Marine Science Institute, National University of Singapore. Dr. Neo put herself in developing the conservation priorities which include three important aspects: phylogeny, threat level and functional diversity, especially for the endangered species lineages, giant clams. She made comprehensive assessment of the giant clams in Singapore, investigated their ecological significance on coral reefs.

Q: You won Life Science Fellowship for your work in “A Trifecta Integrated Assessment for Prioritizing the Conservation of the Giant Clams”. Could you tell us more about this amazing project?

ML: I am trying to combine 3 different ecological parameters that are related to conserving giant clams. Giant clams are the largest bivalves (subfamily Tridacninae) in the world. The largest species can go up to 1 meter long, and weigh over 200kg. Besides, they are popular as a source of food and materials for people who live around where the giant clam can be found, because it is a very good sustenance for villagers. They can actually eat a giant clam for days, by cooking the dried meat. Unfortunately, people are extracting or harvesting them too rapidly, which depletes their natural parent population. Only very small giant clam population remains around the regions, not just in Singapore, probably due to rapid harvesting, historical exploitation or habitat loss. In one of my first surveys we only found about 50 giant clams of 2 species in Singapore. Even though they are such iconic animals, there are very few studies on their ecological roles. Therefore, I want to try to use 3 ecological parameters (i.e. phylogeny, threat level, and functional diversity) to prioritize which population or species we should conserve first. Using that similar technique from my senior’s work on hard coral’s prioritizing conversation, and also adding other parameters, I try to identify which species we should prioritize first. Since we have limited resources, we will go for the more endangered species lineages. The phylogeny plays a very important role here. From phylogeny aspect, we are able to look at how the lineages are related, not just how the species are inter-related but within the species itself, and how they are geographically related as well.

I started one of the project aspects, which is the threat level. I am hoping to use the assessment framework of EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) which they have started out with groups of species like mammals, amphibians, birds, and very recently corals. I felt that biodiversity in that sense is more than just these groups. I would like to try applying new groups of invertebrate and of iconic marine invertebrates. I think there are several advantages as well because they are fairly small group, and we know the species very well. In terms of genetics, we have to figure out the technique to extract the sequences fairly easily. Therefore, technical challenges are not a lot, but more on physical challenges - whether we will be able to collect enough specimens to put into analysis. I hope to get collaborators to work together and quickly sample them before we lose even more of them in time. The threat level actually relies a lot on the RUCM category assessment or classification. The current RUCM classification for clams is very outdated. If I can get my works published this year, it would be exactly 20 years since the last publication in 1996.

In terms of being able to reclassify them based on what we know about their distribution, density abundance and how threatening they are based on global assessment, we can apply RUCM to see if this classification can be accepted as an update. That is also half of what EDGE means as that aspect is actually for globally endangered assessment part. The phylogeny fails under the evolutionally distinct part, so there is where the score comes in. When you combine these 2 scores, your score will actually be the EDGE score. The higher the EDGE score, the more endangered it is. As it is a multiplying effect of ED x GE score, some scores might be even higher than expected. There are a lot of matrices available these days to allow users to combine more than just two parameters, so the other third one that I hoping to combine is functional diversity. Simply put, functional diversity is referring to the ecological importance of giant clams on the reef. We can also quantify it based on a ranking system by ranking the species based on their importance on reef.

The toughest part is to combine a lot of critical data together and see if we can come up with something usable and easily understood by, not just the researchers and scientists, but also conservation managers. The ultimate goal of this project is to translate these information that we have collected so far into something that can be used by the local conservation managers. I think a lot of time they may not understand these numbers, but basically the outcome can be easily translated and communicated to them. Then they can actually use it to explain to their own local government.

Q: Is it true that only 2 species of giant clams can be found in Singapore?

ML: Singapore used to have 5 species, 2 of them we are fairly sure that they are locally extinct, which are the Giant Clam and Horse’s Hoof Giant Clam. We still have three species which are Small Giant Clam, Boring Giant Clam and Fluted Giant Clam, but we encounter the latter two more frequently. The Small Giant Clam we might radically find one or two. But one or two individuals can’t really make a population, thus they are actually considered more critically endangered than those species that we could still find at least in tens. On the global scale, we have 12 giant clam species in total. They live in different geographic areas along tropical quarries. I think on the whole, it is quite obvious that the largest giant clam species, the Tridacna gigas also fairly endangered all over the world, not just completely gone here (Singapore), their number is also very low in a lot of places.

Q: Which species will you prioritize to conserve?

ML: Ah…that’s a very interesting question. For this work, we actually combine the analysis for all species. How this project work is, firstly, to build a phylogenetic tree, and not just a tree to tell me where the species positioned on, and also how population of the same species are related across the geographic occurrence. The collection of genetic sequences also depend on which species is available for sampling. In the past, there are some other techniques that would require sacrificing the animals, but our sampling method only involves taking a small portion of the tissue samples for molecular sequences. That is a critical component of this project because without this phylogenetic tree, we can’t really match it or overlap it with the relevant ecological parameters. Just taking the largest species as an example, their geographic region is actually getting more limited, and more of them are harvested, so it is actually harder to even sample them. I will still try to identify which population will require prioritization with the smallest set of sequences. I think the prioritization is also to help to maintain the genetic pool of that population for a slightly longer term. There are many ways in maintaining genetic diversity, for example, we can actually create a cryo-bank. In NUS, we are starting a large scale cryo-preservation project to store our specimens and tissue samples. Currently, I am hoping to collect as many species as possible to build up a database to understand how each of them are related, but it is definitely challenging, because some of the species are much rarer than others. Actually there are some data available on GenBank, but there are still unknowns; and what is also interesting for this research is there are pockets of places where people never thought of about giant clams such as Taiwan, southern Japan, etc.

Q: How long will it take for giant clams to reach their reproduction stage?

ML: These animals have a long life. It takes at least 8-10 years to reach sexual maturity, but only a few minutes are needed to eat all of them. In addition, there are actually two stages of sexual maturity for the giant clams. They are very unique in this aspect because they are simultaneous hermaphrodites - which means they have both female and male sexual organs, but at different stages of their life. They will be more male-matured, which means they can actually contribute their sperms at about 2-3 years old. But to become female-matured to produce eggs, giant clams need at least 8-10 years. In fact, there are still a lot of things we don’t really know about them, but that is the interesting part. I have been studying, culturing and producing them, hopefully in a larger number so that we can put them back onto the reef. They don’t seem to follow any reproductive pattern. They are so strange, they are just born whenever they want to.

Q: Can you track their growth, movement or reproductive pattern by putting some sensors on them?

ML: I think that would be next step, using technological advancement, and hopefully the instrument can last in seawater much longer than just one week. The current problem is any kind of loggers living in the wild could got filed up and destroyed by seawater very quickly. I think some people may try different methods, but these methods sometimes cause mortality, accidentally. In some places where the water clarity is high, the scientists survey frequently to see the animal’s reproductive cycle, but still very rare are natural spawning event, but most of it is actually induced. We trigger a response in them by injecting them with a neurotransmitter serotonin solution, which triggers their nerves channels to lead them to muscle contraction. In other words, it forcefully contracts their sexual organs to expel the gametes into the water. It’s an artificial trigger for them to think it is time for them to spawn. The challenge is to be able to inject without puncturing the other parts of their organs.

Q: Besides the conservation project of giant clams, what other projects are you working on?

ML: I mainly do clams-related works. Two species that we are potentially looking at, Boring Giant Clam and the Small Giant Clam, are quite unique, they will literally fix their position in life forever. As a young clam, once they find a position, and they are going to stay be there forever. They will grow bigger and bigger in this space, but they will not be able to move away. If you think about it, it really does makes them a really good indicator for potential fossil record. If they cannot change their position, that means their footprint will always there.

There is a paleontological professor based in Hungary is so keen to come by here to see the clams as he is always wondering whether the giant clams can be a type of fossil that can be used as an indicator for previous sea level changes. Every time we see a clam, we will take a picture and share with him, and he is trying to figure out if the footprint is a good fossil. It is like a synergy between fossil scientist and ecologists - try to explain what we see and what we think based on two different perspectives. Another biochemistry professor based in NUS has been looking at the mineralization process of the calm shells. It is made up of fairly hard material, mainly calcium carbonate. Synthetically it is very hard to create it as well, so for the animal to produce that much carbonate over their lifetime is an amazing fit. As a synthetic material scientist, he is very intrigued by how it works. For us, we are mostly contributing the materials to him now, but I think I am learning a lot from him as well. We are hoping to plan a mini study to try looking at the their life cycle. For instance, giant clams actually have thin shells at some stages of their life which are veligers and pediveligers. We are hoping to figure out whether the early processes are different from the later processes. Beyond my job, I helped in local nature groups, doing reef and sea grass surveys, and monitoring the reefs.

Q: Do you usually share your pictures at your blog?

ML: Yes! I’ve been keeping a nature blog since I was in my undergraduate. It kind of started out as a request for field trip participation, to blog about your experience and your trip. It started out that way but as time went on, it became the platform for me to share pictures and my experiences. I think it is quite interesting for me because I looked through my pictures, I see I had improved taking pictures over time. More recently, I also talked about the environment as a whole and what are the impacts that our local seashells faced as well. Just to highlight that, despite the fact that we are very urbanized, there are quite a lot of marine biodiversity here in Singapore.

Q: How did you feel when you received the L'Oréal FWIS Life Sciences Fellowship 2015?

ML: I was very excited like “Oh my goodness, I cannot believe it!” All the works of the fellow finalists are very really high in scientific impact and they are very well established female scientists. I actually feel very happy and even having this opportunity, I felt like maybe I have done enough to be recognized at least as a finalist. Being a finalist is really very encouraging, sort of acknowledgement to the things I am doing, because I see it as a very prestigious award. It is a motivation to me that I want to continue doing the good work that I have done. By winning the award, it is a bigger motivation and encouragement for me and my colleagues, who also are doing the same biodiversity work, telling them that “Hey, we are all doing the right things!” We should all continue what we love to do. I think about what we do is about passion as well, to really stay in this field. I always wonder whether I should try something different, by using techniques I’ve learnt, for different applications. I try to get others to look at giant clams as a model organism, because they are very unique and fairly common. Using them as key indicator/key organism, we may actually find out certain events or aspects such as global warming. I am hoping this year I might to do some works with respect to ocean acidification and warming.

Q: Based on your experience, what would be the best practices we need to take in conserving the environment and to save our Earth?

ML: I felt that what we have done so far is raise a lot of awareness. People are aware, but I think the next step is more to be able to influence and change their mindset, and probably even daily habits. Being aware now is not enough. If people don’t put what they aware of in action, it won’t really help in pushing that difference or that change. So I think that is more critical in terms of just making good habits and good practices to be able to conserve the general aspect of the environment.

Q: What drives you in studying Biology? What makes you interested in marine conservation and experimental design?

ML: Since I was young, my parents had always brought me outdoors. Environmental biology, just has been fascinating for me. I always like to hang outdoors. People don’t really believe me, but I actually used to like plants and trees. I spent a lot of my time in the car, reading my books and pointing to the tree that I know. Those are my fond memories and I just continue pursuing it. In terms of marine biology, it was through my project as well. I knew I wanted to do ecology-based project, but I wasn’t too sure what type of project, so this came out as one of my first. If it wasn’t suited for me, I would have changed to another field but it was something that I felt like “Wow, this is what marine biology about.” The interesting thing is when I took up my project, it requires me to be a diver, but I wasn’t diver at that time. So I have to convince my supervisor to take me in and ask seniors to help me dive on my behalf. I am an official diver now because I took up diving classes after I graduated from my B.Sc.

Q: What was your dream when you were young? Did you always know that you wanted to be in the field of Life Science & Biology?

ML: As best as I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher. I like to interact and talk to people. Therefore I always thought that I want to be a teacher but I realize that I am not very far from that dream. I feel that I am still teaching because of the opportunity to mentor students, and it is always a two-way thing especially at the university. I learned a lot from my students and my students learned a lot from me. I realized that really like sharing what I learned and also through research. Research is very fluid in that sense that you never know the outcome until you have done with the observations. I think that really excites people. I don’t really started out telling myself that I want to be a marine biologist, ecologist or scientist, they just came to me as I grew along that way, and what really cemented where I am now is the people I met who really influence and inspire me to be what I am doing today.

Q: Being so involved in these projects, what do you like to do in your spare time?

ML: I do a lot of diving, it kind of makes me feel I am in my zone. When you are diving, it is very peaceful, quiet, if you hear people calling you then it is a bit weird. In that environment, you are sort of looking at what happens daily in the reefs, what the fishes like to do in their free. Apart from that, I go out to do nature walks, nature photography, and blogging as well. I spent quite a lot time templating around my blog, photography and diving. All is still very nature related, I do play sports but I think the sport I like the most is still diving.

Q: What are the possible developments in your field of work that you would like to see in the next few years?

ML: I am hoping to expand the research network, not just within Singapore but neighboring countries as well. One of the things about working on giant clam, I am very proud to say that we are one of the more active research group, publishing and being the pioneer of the experimental research. In the past few years, we have been published a lot on just the giant clam itself, but I am hoping to see more of these works. I have been seeing quite a number of newer publications relating to clams as well, but I am hoping to see some published works coming out from the places where you rarely see or think of clams.

Q: There is a traditional misperception that women do not require higher education especially in Asia region, or maybe unconscious gender bias in the science field. Would you advice young women to pursue a career in science?

ML: I was believe in choice. So in a sense to answer this question, yes, I would encourage young women to take up a Ph.D. degree if they are fairly sure of their future career path. Even for myself, I find it tough because sometimes you don’t really know where you will end up. There are a lot of uncertainties in the scientific career or academic field. It is a lot dependent on your availability on research funding and also other factors. My advice is how do you see yourself in the next 5 years? Do you see yourself still doing what you do? Do you see yourself being able to persevere in this career path? In a lot of cases, I think you have to believe in yourself that you can do it. It scares people sometimes because it is a very big question.

Q: What is your current goal in life?

ML: In terms of what I am doing, I am hoping the people will be able to change their perceptions over certain things and really adopt some good practices. I think that is something that I would like to see. People really need to not just appreciate, but also be able to make some changes to their lifestyle too, to protect what they are seeing now. This environment didn’t come overnight or it is not as it is in a couple of years, which is a very long process of not just evolution, and also a lot of environmental changes. A lot of people don’t even believe we have coral reefs in Singapore and other things that worth protecting, but I actually talked to people who are very enthusiastic about it and they themselves are actually furthering that cause, or telling more people, that is the cascade effect that I would like to see. That is very encouraging.

A Casual Conversation with Dr. Ling Xing Yi (XY)

The 2015 Physical and Engineering Science Fellowship was awarded to Dr. Ling Xing Yi, for her work in studying plasmonic colloidosomes surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) sensors for rapid and sensitive on-site detection of environmental pollutants. Dr. Ling is currently an Assistant Professor in the division of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry (CBC) , School of Physical and Mathematical Science, Nanyang Technological University.

Q: Your lab has developed ultasensitive “plasmonic colloidosome” SERS platforms which are designed to achieve quick on-site detection of the environmental pollutants at trace level. What is the working mechanism of the sensing platform?

XY: Basically it is a molecular spectroscopy. With our metallic nanoparticles, they can significantly enhance this molecular spectroscopy. This is not a chip-based method, it is actually an emulsion method whereby our analytes or interests would be surrounded by our particles, and then immediately can be used for detection. Then you can skip the fabrication step, by that the fabrication cost can be lowered. To make it clearer, if you want to make it into a SERS chip, you need to do like layer-by-layer or other fabrications, but there is no additional process needed for our case. All we do is just put a droplet of our analyte solution onto the nanoparticle powder, then roll them around, then the mixture will form the colloidosomes already. Then we can directly use them for detection. We use Raman to detect the environmental pollutants, like metallic nanoparticles which can significantly enhance the sensitivity of the Raman signal. We are using silver nanocubes as our nanoparticles. Due to that, they are single crystals which give much stronger Raman scattering as compared to other polycrystalline particles. That’s why this one is a good candidate as compared to some exotic shape which is not necessary.

Q: The nanoparticle synthesis is done by your lab also?

XY: Yes, everything can be done in my lab from step 1 synthesis of particles to the making colloidosomes to the Raman detection.

Q: This nanoparticle synthesis is designed by your lab or it was done by another lab?

XY: It was performed back in my postdoc group, so then we just continue using the same recipe to make this particle, but we have to remake our particles ourselves, even now, we have a lot of undergraduate students, they are making the particles themselves. If you move from a place to another, the synthesis of nanoparticles need to be modified, as the humidity, temperature and everything changes.

Q: Will different type of nanoparticle synthesis affect the outcome?

XY: Yes, if you don’t get nanocubes, there are a lot of other side products such as nanowires, polyhedral shape of the particles, etc. All of those will give different plasmon resonance or different responses to the Raman signal, so we have to make sure that there is uniform shape to the nanoparticles. They can give the same response to achieve the plasmon consistency.

Q: Can the SERS sensitivity reach single-molecule detection level?

XY: Yes, it had been shown in several groups already. Then the current problem is that when it reaches single molecule level, it is only at a very localized area, and not uniformly distributed over the entire area. The way to do it would be to get to the near single molecule level, but very little trace amount. For example, what we can achieve is we are detecting tens or hundreds of molecules but having a very uniform platform, not the localized single molecule platform. When they say there are single molecules, it is like the one chip one SERS platform, then only this particular area they can see. It based on statistics but what we want to do is more on commercial purposes. You can consistently detect this trace amount of molecules.

As it is very hard to achieve single molecule, we are using several particles in our case in the form of colloidosomes to get high sensitivity. Our platform is highly sensitive and reproducible that it is able to give rise to very uniform signal throughout the platform. Wherever you see the particle then you will see very strong Raman signal, because the sensitivity is based on the particle surface, so I would say it is a very uniform and homogenous SERS platform.

Q: What is your motivation in doing your research?

XY: I think interest and curiosity. Otherwise you will not go too far, I mean if you are not interested then why do it? You will not spend more effort or more time investigating these things.

Q: How do you find your interest specifically in this field?

XY: I find it very interesting. Basically when I started the group, I have a lot of choices to do what I want to do, so based on literature, knowledge and all the stuff, I can pick something that I am interested in. I just find this one is not commonly tackled. While SERS is very common, but using a substrate-less platform is not very common. So I thought why not we try this? In fact this project started with a summer student testing out a few things, then we found some surprising results then we expand more and more different projects. Right now, we have several people working in the colloidosome projects aiming or targeting at different goals.

Q: You mentioned that you want to let people know the fundamental nanomaterial chemistry is capable of solving real-world problems. Can you explain what fundamental nanomaterial chemistry is?

XY: I remembered when I talked to my high school friends a few years ago, they are asking questions like “What exactly are you doing?”, “What is your contribution to society?”, etc. At that time what I did was very fundamental, basically making particles and sampling them and did nothing on the application part. However, we have a mix of both right now, we still make particles, still sample them to this kind of colloidosome shape, and we also use them for sensing. For example, we use a different platform with same principle to apply on detecting industrial toxins such as Sudan I, food colorants and other stuff. I guess this one has immediate use for commercial world.

Q: Are there other examples of the applications of your work?

XY: There are also people using nanoparticles for plasmon field but most of them are using gold and silver nanoparticles to enhance reaction rate. It is also a new field called plasmon-enhanced catalysis. There are some of my colleagues using them for drug delivery, use laser to kill cancer with the particles, etc. I think there are plenty of applications because the trend now is everything must have a certain connection with real life applications. Our government encourages the use-based science and research. We are encouraged to apply our science knowledge into application as well. Singapore is a very small country, the government is spending so much on us, the scientists. For example in A*STAR, a few years ago, they have a lot of fundamental science but now everything is industrial-based. I think the trend is shifting towards industrial application or at least apply what we learned in our lab into real-life.

Q: How do feel when you know that you get the L'Oréal FWIS fellowship award?

XY: I was shocked because I didn’t expect it, it is my second time applying it. I just thought to have fun participating no matter the outcome. So I totally didn’t expect anything, so it is a pleasant surprise let’s put it this way.

Q: How are you going to utilize your grant from L’Oreal Physical and Engineering Science Fellowship?

XY: Basically we are thinking of starting up a company using what I was just described you as our commercial products. So this would be the seed money for the company. (Q: Are you starting up the company soon?) Hopefully this year or next year. We intend to sell the products to industry either locally, regionally or internationally. A friend of mine sell only particles to all around the world, they make particles in the lab and then they sell and his company is doing well. In a way I got some inspiration from him, because he started small, I wanted to do the same, we start up and try and learn from our mistakes.

Q: What are the possible developments of SERS sensing platform you would like to see in the next few years?

XY: Achieving higher sensitivity and wider application. Because most of the literature are only doing the detection of analyte molecules currently. However, there are a lot of fascinating new things that are ongoing. For instance, some people are using tip-enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (TERS) to study reaction. So I hope that SERS can also achieve the sensitivity level of the TERS, and to be used for more dynamic detection such as in the catalysis reaction. I feel that SERS can give a very dynamic information on this exactly what is happening on the reaction. Because firstly, it gives molecular information or molecular spectrum; secondly, if you can monitor reaction in real-time, you basically know what is the intermediate, the final product, and how can you play with your particles, in order to tune the reaction to the optimum. This is something that we are trying to do in the lab at the moment using our platform.

Q: Besides being involved in research field, what do you like to do in your spare time?

XY: When I was in Singapore, I work all the time. But my husband and I like travelling. So usually we like to go to more nature thing kind of places. We do hiking, like recently we went to Hawaii, we went this volcano national park and we did some hiking. We like to do hiking, we did quite a bit when we were overseas, but then back here, no many places for hiking, and it is too hot. I like cold weather. Sometimes we also go to Japan for hiking. So I make a plan like when I am here, I focus on work all the time, and then when I go holiday, I can totally refresh and recharge myself.

Q: Did you always know that your passion would be in the R&D field? Did you grow up knowing that you want to be a scientist?

XY: No, this is like, by chance. I was trained as an engineer, and then after I graduated with my first degree (Chemical Engineering), I started to work in Singapore as a Process Engineer. Then my husband and I found out that NUS actually offers research-based master’s degree with scholarship. I think it is quite a good chance to upgrade yourself and learn new skills and stuffs. Only then I got involved in the research field. I like the environment that everything is different every day. We meet with different problems or we create a new project and stuffs. It is more interesting to me. We also have a teaching component, and we have to teach about one course per semester. So in January last year, I developed a nanotechnology module in CBC and spent a lot of time and energy on it. For this course, I was nominated for the teaching award and I got it. Teaching is very fulfilling, you learn things yourself, because you read more carefully to make sure nothing is wrong; and I like interaction with students a lot. I feel it is a good thing for both me and the students.

Q: What is your current goal to achieve in your work and your life?

XY: Get more funding, get my tenure. I feel like in Singapore such a small country, we need a tool that can give you instant result, so I feel that our tool is a good tool for such kind of application. For example, if someone discharges their toxins into Singapore river, then we need an immediate tool to know what is happening, and what are the chemicals. So I feel like our product can be used for that one, it fits the frame in Singapore and also international research field. There are some commercial products available, but there are substrate-based, chip-based, the performance is not good, so we feel that is a room for our invention in this market. The selling point of our product is that it is very sensitive, can detect up to 3 µL and trace amount of 10-16 Molar.

Q: There is a traditional misperception that women do not require higher education especially in Asia region, and also an unconscious gender bias in the science and engineering field. Would you advice young women to pursue a career in science or R&D field?

XY: If you are passionate, then why not? Yes, I would encourage people to do that. When I was in Netherlands as a student, they have special scheme to encourage women to get to assistant professor position and higher, but here we are competing with our male colleagues in the same platform. For a lot of women, because of family commitment etc., they do not pursue studies further. I think more incentives for women to have a career in science should be encouraged by government. But having said that, I have seen a lot of women scientists in places like A*STAR, so I think slowly it takes time but more incentives will help to encourage more number. We should encourage more women to be involved in higher levels to lead the science field.

The following interviews were conducted by APBN editors Carmen J.W. Loh & Catherine D. Ong on 5th Jan and 6th Jan 2016 respectively.

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