Tan Hwee Hwee | HOMECOMING SCIENCE HERO
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HOMECOMING SCIENCE HERO

I’ve published an article on Jackie Ying in “Singapore” magazine, which is published by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF).

Jackie is an Asian-American professor who left a successful career at MIT to start the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

You can read the article at

https://singaporemagazine.sif.org.sg/homecoming-science-hero

Below is an excerpt from the article:

Asian-American professor Jackie Ying left behind a stellar career in the US to come to Singapore to start the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. She shares why she is happy making Singapore her home.

n 2002, Professor Jackie Ying was teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when she was offered the chance to head the new Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore.

Aside from the challenge to be able to contribute to the then burgeoning biotech scene in Singapore and shape the world’s first multidisciplinary research institute dedicated to bioengineering and nanotechnology, the 50-year-old American was excited by the opportunity to be back in the country she grew up in.

Taiwan-born Prof Ying moved to Singapore in 1973 at age seven when her father took a job teaching Chinese literature at the then Nanyang University. “I had a very happy childhood in Singapore,” she says, professing that her school days in the country were the best days of her life. She fondly recalls having a wonderful time at Raffles Girls’ School, an independent girls’ secondary school. She participated in the school’s track and field team and joined youth uniformed group the National Cadet Corps.

Her family moved to New York when she was 15, and she went reluctantly. She completed her PhD at Princeton University and joined MIT as a faculty member at the age of 26. At 35, she was already a full professor at MIT’s chemical engineering department – the youngest to do so in the history of the department.

Despite having built a very impressive academic career in the United States, her fond memories of Singapore fuelled her desire to return in 2003. To move from a country she has called home for over 20 years and start life anew in another was not the easiest of decisions to make, but Prof Ying relied on the strong emotional attachment she felt for the country. When she left MIT in 2003, some people thought she was crazy, she recalls.

“Coming to Singapore to start IBN was a great leap of faith, but I have had no regrets,” says Prof Ying, who is now a Singapore permanent resident.

Singapore’s commitment to cutting-edge research that would impact society gave Prof Ying the room to grow as a nanotechnology researcher.

Under her stewardship, IBN has made a significant scientific impact, with more than 1,211 papers published in leading scientific journals. In terms of technological and commercialisation impact, IBN has registered over 609 active patents and has spun off 11 companies. The institute has also trained over 120 PhD students.