Students get chance to pick brains of Nobel scientists

Students get chance to pick brains of Nobel scientists

SINGAPORE - Singapore's signature chilli crab dish has not only put the Republic on the world's food map - it is also the inspiration for a first-of-its-kind robotic arm built by scientists here.

This nugget of information was dished up by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday, at the opening ceremony of the eighth Asian Science Camp, which aims to inspire young people to engage in scientific research.

The scientists behind the robotic arm, said Mr Heng, had "wondered how they could re-create crab claws into mini, pincer-like robotic arms", which could reach a patient's stomach via his throat to remove tumours without invasive surgery.

Addressing more than 300 students aged between 15 and 21 from 29 countries, including about 40 from Singapore, Mr Heng said that for young scientists, the example highlights the importance of learning from various sources, such as nature and other disciplines.

This is the first time Singapore is hosting the annual international camp, which was held in other countries in previous editions. Last year, it was held in Japan.

During the five-day camp at the Nanyang Technological University, participants will get to listen to and take part in lectures and discussions chaired by scientific experts, including five Nobel laureates.

They include Professor Aaron Ciechanover, a 2004 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, and Professor Sydney Brenner, who won in 2002 the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

The experts will speak on a range of topics, from "personalised medicine" - treatment that is tailored to a patient's medical profile, instead of a one-size- fits-all approach - to structural biology.

"I hope to inspire more young students to take up science because it is important to boost the potential capacity of scientific research in Asian countries," said Professor Makoto Kobayashi, chairman of the Asian Science Camp and a 2008 Nobel Prize winner.

Participant Nadia Irwanto, 17, said she is looking forward to learning more about research from the Nobel laureates.

Said the student from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science: "I want to hear from them about what motivates them, and how they overcome obstacles, for example, if they don't get results or if another researcher beats them to a discovery."

This article was first published on August 26, 2014.
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