Budding student scientists impress Nobel laureate

Budding student scientists impress Nobel laureate
Dr Ada Yonath (left), 74, a director at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, led a 10-member judging panel that included Nanyang Technological University president Bertil Andersson (top right) and Science Centre Singapore chief executive Lim Tit Meng.

SINGAPORE - They may be teenagers, but their science projects ranged from studying a gene linked to bipolar disorder to creating a new material that could help Singapore save energy.

Yesterday, eight students were lauded by 2009 Chemistry Nobel Prize laureate Ada Yonath, who said that "compared to students around the world, Singapore's are at the top".

The eight were finalists of the annual Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) Talent Search, which concluded yesterday with awards for them.

Dr Yonath, 74, a director at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, led a 10-member judging panel that included Nanyang Technological University president Bertil Andersson and Science Centre Singapore chief executive Lim Tit Meng.

Students from the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science (NUSH) swept the top three awards, with the other finalists from the same school, Raffles Institution and Anglo- Chinese School (Independent) taking commendation prizes.

Seventeen-year-old Way Tan, a Year Six NUSH student, won the top prize of a trophy, a certificate, cash and a sponsored overseas trip to a science conference worth $5,000 in total.

"During the holidays, I spent many sleepless nights," he said of his work unravelling the mathematical properties of polygons, which are plane figures with at least three straight sides and angles.

His schoolmate Ong Jun Yi, 18, also in Year Six, won second place with his genetic screening project for patients with bipolar disorder.

Jun Yi's team-mate Jeremy Goh, also 18, said the disorder was frequently misdiagnosed as, say, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder because some symptoms were similar.

The finalists were shortlisted from participants at this year's Singapore Science and Engineering Fair. The talent search and fair was organised by A*Star, the Ministry of Education and Science Centre Singapore.

The annual fair is a competition for secondary school and junior college students to showcase their research projects. This year, a record 572 projects were submitted and 279 selected.

Some students from the fair will be representing Singapore at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world's largest pre-college science competition.

This year's Intel edition takes place in Los Angeles from May 11 to 16.

zengkun@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 24 in The Straits Times.

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