Little love for A*Star scientist's bond gripe

THE scientist and dancer who is protesting against her six-year scholarship bond because her job is "not aligned with her interests" has drawn flak for her remarks in a blog post.

The Straits Times reported last week that Eng Kai Er, an Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) scholarship holder, had criticised the bond in a blog and set up a grant to give $1,000 a month from her salary to support arts projects for a year.

The newspaper has since received several Forum letters and more than 860 comments, likes and shares on its Facebook page about the story. Most felt that the 30-year-old's actions smacked of a sense of entitlement and ingratitude after she received funding for two university degrees.

George Er posted: "Why deprive others who deserve the scholarship more and who are willing to serve? Spending so many years graduating and then sweep it off as 'not my interest'?"

Many readers also said she ought to honour the scholarships by serving the full bond before she goes on to pursue another interest.

Lee Hock Seng, a Forum letter writer, said: "Scholarship holders are very fortunate people who were given financial support by their fellow citizens to further their studies, in view of their desire, commitment and potential capability to serve as leaders in specific fields, either in public service or in the private sector.

"Not keeping their end of the bargain after successfully completing their studies is not merely a breakdown of a transaction between the scholarship holder and the Government, but also a grave affront to the trust, honour and respect that we normally reserve for recipients who served our society humbly and dutifully."

Some, like Loh Wai Poon, wondered why she went on to do a second degree in science if she was not interested in it.

He said: "When she took the first one, she might be naive, inexperienced, unsure of what she wanted, but to take up a second scholarship in science which now she says she hates is just too incredible to believe."

However, several readers were more sympathetic.

Kairin Simo said: "Wow, the amount of anger from comments here is astounding. Instead of seeing her (Dr Eng's) action as a constructive thing, people are quick to judge her."

Ace Kindred Cheong wrote to the Forum page, saying: "I do not approve of her actions, but I can understand her predicament of having to work in a field in which she has no interest. Instead of simply criticising her, it is better to help her find a career she can contribute to."

Dr Eng, who has served two years of her bond, works in an A*Star research institute studying infectious diseases. She previously did an undergraduate stint at Cambridge University and a PhD in infection biology at Swedish medical university Karolinska Institute.

In a blog post last week, she wrote: "Eng Kai Er is not interested in science at all, but has to serve her bond or pay, as of 30 September 2014, around $741,657.37 in order to quit her job.

"Since she understands the pain of having a paid job that is not aligned with her interests, she wishes to change the world by having more instances of paid jobs aligned with people's interest."

It is believed she had unsuccessfully tried to transfer her bond to the National Arts Council.