137 get A*Star scholarships for science studies

Ask scholar Audrey Lee what inspired her in her studies, and the 19-year-old points to television.

The self-confessed lazy student got interested in the hit series Crime Scene Investigation five years ago and found herself drawn to science.

On Tuesday, the Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) graduate received a scholarship from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*Star, along with 136 others. She will read biology at Imperial College in London, then go on to attain a doctorate in - she hopes - the field of virology.

"CSI showed me so many laboratory techniques, and in one of the episodes a post-mortem revealed that a lady had green-coloured blood," she said of the series, which follows a group of forensic investigators as they use science to solve grisly murders.

Then a Secondary 2 student, she began spending her free time in Kinokuniya bookstore browsing through books about forensics.

By the time she was due to sit her O levels, she decided against the junior college route and enrolled in NP to study biomedical science. "That was the closest thing I could find that suited my interest," she recalled.

At Tuesday's ceremony at Biopolis, Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran urged the new scholars to "constantly reflect" on how their research could "benefit the lives of Singaporeans and the broader community".

Ms Lee hopes to find more ways to protect people from the common cold, which according to the World Health Organisation kills up to half a million people a year.

"Flu viruses are always mutating, so new vaccines have to be constantly developed," she said.

Since 2001, A*Star has given out more than 1,200 scholarships for Singaporeans to pursue doctorates, aiming to develop a strong core of local scientists. By 2011, foreigners made up 30 per cent of the science industry ranks, up from 22 per cent in 2008.

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