The Tempinis diaries

March 31, 2008

Top Researchers in Singapore

Filed under: education, singapore — Tags: , , , — toru @ 11:44 am

Whatever one can justifiably say about Singapore – Disneyland with a death penalty, soul-less place, cultural dessert, repressive country etc – at least they got their research agenda of their universities right. Another big boost for the research sector in the country.

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Top scientists to lead research
TWO leading international scientists have been roped in to head key organisations being set up here to study cancer and earthquakes.

The cancer facility at the National University of Singapore (NUS) will be headed by Prof Daniel Tenen of the Harvard Medical School, a world leader in cancer research.

The earthquake centre at Nanyang Technological University will be helmed by California Institute of Technology geologist Kerry Sieh.

Both researchers and their universities declined comment pending official announcements.

The centres, which could each receive over S$100mil (RM231mil) in funding, will come under a scheme to set up a number of world-class Research Centres of Excellence (RCEs) at local universities, each to be led by eminent scientists to do research with global impact.

Cancer has been earmarked as a key area of research here, and Singapore has so far attracted some big names, including renowned specialists David Lane, Edison Liu, Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins.

Prof Tenen was in the team which identified a mutation in the gene associated with a major type of lung cancer. Better drugs to fight the disease could follow.

In a recent interview on the NUS News Portal, an NUS news website, Prof Tenen said that while the university was doing outstanding cancer research, more could still be done.

“You need a much bigger mass of activity to get to the level where you really start to have first-class opportunities for students,” he said.

The university has already begun recruiting for his centre, advertising for postdoctoral researchers whose strength lies in tumour and stem cell biology, for example.

The other scientist headed this way, Prof Sieh, said on his website that his current main research interest was the plate movement that produced the devastating Sumatran earthquakes and Indian Ocean tsunamis of 2004 and 2005.

He wrote: “That research suggests that the megathrust is poised to produce yet another giant earthquake in western Sumatra.”

During his sabbatical here this year, he will work on a proposal to create an earth observatory that would study earthquake, volcanic, coastal and climate hazards.

A five-year budget of S$750mil (RM1.73mil) has been set aside by the National Research Foundation and the Education Ministry to fund centres like these for cancer and earthquake research.

The first such centre, an NUS facility studying how light and atoms can be used to store information, has been allocated $150mil (RM346.3mil). It will have the latest equipment and employ up to 200 scientists. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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