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A*Star Talent Search 2018 recognises research excellence in cardiology, gene therapy and mathematics

AStar Talent Search 2018 recognises research excellence in cardiology

, about 200 young researchers gathered in Biopolis to celebrate future
innovations at the  A*Star Talent Search
(ATS) and Singapore Science and
Engineering Fair
(SSEF) Awards Presentation Ceremony 2018.

The SSEF and the
ATS are flagship science outreach programmes jointly
organised by A*STAR, Science Centre Singapore and the Ministry of Education. Both competitions
have provided students with opportunities to showcase their research
work and encouraged them to further explore science and technology for over a
decade now.

The SSEF is an annual competition for students in secondary
schools and junior colleges to showcase their research projects. Selected
winners go on to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering
Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest pre-college science competition. Selected
students will represent Singapore on an international stage, where they will
compete with 1,800 students from over 75 countries, regions and territories to
showcase their independent research.

This year, more than 620 projects tackling real-world
problems were submitted for the competition. According to the press release, the
submissions demonstrate innovative and critical thinking skills in finding
solutions to pressing needs and debunking precepts in established areas of

This year’s submissions include research on the use of
alternative gene Cpf1s for Type II CRISPR system in the fight against viral
infections, new precise biosensors to maximise production of useful
biomolecules such as antibiotics, and innovation in the electrochemical
treatment process of sludge.   

A total of 123 awards, including 24 Gold, 27 Silver, 32
Bronze and 40 Merit awards were given out at SSEF 2018. These SSEF award
winners were eligible to proceed for ATS, which recognises student projects
that excel in scientific research across multiple disciplines.

The ATS is the pinnacle award that shortlists from SSEF
participants and identifies top young scientific talents from amongst students
aged 15 to 20 years old with a strong aptitude for science and technology. The
projects are reviewed by an extensive network of scientists from local and
international universities, defence and medical research organisations, and
A*STAR research institutes. The 8 ATS finalists present their work in
biomedical engineering, environmental sciences, materials sciences and medical
sciences to a distinguished panel of judges, headed by an internationally
eminent Chief Judge.

This year’s Chief Judge of the ATS 2018 is Professor Arieh
Warshel. Professor Warshel was a joint winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
in 2013 for pioneering the development of multiscale models for complex
chemical systems.

The judging panel consisted of distinguished scientists and
researchers from A*STAR, Science Centre Singapore and universities including
Singapore University of Technology and Design President Prof. Chong Tow Chong,
and Science Centre Singapore Chief Executive Associate Professor Lim Tit

According to Professor Ng Huck Hui, Executive Director of A*STAR
Graduate Academy, “the projects displayed a high-level of critical thinking,
problem-solving abilities, and maturity beyond the years of the young

“A*STAR Talent Search and Singapore Science and Engineering
Fair are key platforms where we seek to ignite curiosity and solidify resolve
in solving pressing challenges among budding scientists. Through these
competitions, students can interact with like-minded compatriots in their
pursuit of knowledge, future careers in science and technology, and contribute
to Singapore’s future economy,” he added.

The first prize for the Student Category was awarded to
Vijayakumar Ragavi from NUS High School of
Mathematics and Science
. She designed a humanised Hypertrophic
cardiomyopathy model that recapitulates the disease phenotype. The subsequent
findings lay the foundation for gaining insights into disease pathology and
therapeutic intervention.

In the School Category, NUS High School of
Mathematics and Science clinched the top position.  Schools are ranked and
awarded based on a points system tied to the results of their students’

Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore, said
initiatives such as SSEF and ATS with a strong research focus “not only
celebrate the ability of our youth to find solutions to real-world challenges
but also help us to identify and nurture our next generation of scientists and

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