Strategic and focused investments in Singepore
Author: Helene Halkjær Jensen, editor, BioZoom, postdoc, Aalborg University, email@example.com
Interview: Rohan Williams, Head, Integrative Analysis Unit, Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE), National University of Singapore, LSIRBHW@nus.edu.sg
In South East Asia, the Republic of Singapore has made a massive investment in their higher education and research from the mid-1990s onwards, building on their established university sector dating from the early decades of the 20th century. This investment has paid off dramatically, with universities such as the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) now being highly ranked globally. This expansion also involved the creation of a series of autonomous research institutes under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE), a research precinct for international partner institutions, among other developments in the higher education and research sector. These investments and planning have led to Singapore becoming a dynamic international centre in the life sciences.
Singapore and Denmark
SCELSE: Strategic world class research
“Singapore is an extremely stimulating place to live and work as a scientist and I am also excited about a lot of regional developments and challenges in this part of the world” says Rohan Williams, Head of the SCELSE Integrative Analysis Unit (Figure 1). He has worked in Singapore since 2011 when he relocated from the Australian National University in Canberra. SCELSE was established to specifically study biofilms and microbial communities, and Williams’s work as a computational biologist fits very well with this topic. With him, a number of other leading scientists were recruited from around the world in areas such as basic and applied microbiology, environmental engineering and genomics.Figure 1: Rohan Williams (middle) and his group walking in Bukit Chandu, Singapore.
The Asian science scene
Coming from a western country involves adaptation of one’s work style and culture. “Communication styles here tend to different to Western workplaces,” Williams explains, “where people will quite openly raise their concerns if they are unhappy with a situation or outcome, often quite forthrightly. In contrast, such opinions are transmitted here far more discreetly, often privately and obliquely”. Readjusting working styles can take some time. “There is often a lot of one-on-one communication to resolve problems before things go public, which took some adjustments.” In many research groups each member may be from a different ethnic or national background. Williams continues: “This forces you to actually do things differently and to create some new ground in communication and working styles. I really feel this positively impacts scientific and technical thinking”.
Benefits of a long term outlook
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