Enterprising graduates pave the way for a brighter future

NUS is a place for higher learning and nurturing entrepreneurial skills. Recent graduates from the Class of 2023, Ding Ning Ke, Rishab Patwari, and Du Hao, share inspirational stories of how their journey at NUS allowed them to realise their potential for entrepreneurship.

From finding green solutions for recycling medical waste to solving manpower shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic to using artificial intelligence (AI) for diagnosis of breast cancer, these three fresh graduates from NUS are budding entrepreneurs hoping to make the world a better place with their innovative solutions.

Ding Ning Ke: Engineering green solutions to protect the environment

A keen nature lover and problem solver, Ding Ning Ke, 23, found she could indulge in both passions when she enrolled in NUS Environmental Engineering in 2019. The tenacious student also took up a second major, the Innovation and Design Programme (iDP), which allowed her to use her primary engineering discipline to create products and solve environmental problems.  

In her second year at NUS, she put what she learnt to the test when the National University Hospital (NUH) approached her department head, who came to her with an important task – promote recycling in the pharmaceutical and medical industry. 

Ning Ke and her course mates discovered that there was a lack of recycling technology for medical blisters, the aluminium and plastic sheets that contain pills, leading to a huge amount of wastage. So, they acted on their hypothesis, which proposed using a green solvent to separate the plastic and aluminium, so that both could be recycled.

After proving it worked, Ning Ke together with three other founding members also from NUS Environmental Engineering, launched a start-up called Green Doctors Programme in September 2021 to develop and commercialise the technology. 

Ning Ke, who received her Bachelor of Engineering (Environmental Engineering) degree with Honours (Distinction) on 10 July 2023, is currently working full-time to bring the technology to market. “We have been progressing well,” said Ning Ke. “The technology is maturing, we have been given grants and have even collaborated with NUH and Guardian Health & Beauty to collect medical blisters from the public. The next step is to create a prototype that can be sold.”

Rishab Patwari: Addressing manpower shortage in the cleaning sector

For many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic was a dire threat, ravaging the economy and forcing many to shutter. Rishab Patwari, however, took the opportunity to venture into business. 

“There is no better time to start a company than during a recession,” said the 26-year-old. “Recessions mean that there are important problems in the world that need to be solved, and start-ups can offer some of the solutions.” 

This mindset led the robotics fanatic and NUS Computer Engineering cum iDP double major to use his skill sets to solve a unique issue – manpower shortages in the toilet cleaning industry. 

“After hearing my friend in the industry lament about manpower issues, I realised that current human resource management solutions were not enough,” said Rishab. “Replacing the manpower with autonomous robots seemed like a better solution.”

This idea formed the basis of Rishab’s project work under iDP in 2020, and together with his team, they successfully developed an autonomous toilet cleaning robot that could do repetitive tasks, like cleansing urinals and toilet bowls, efficiently. In July 2022, HiveBotics was incorporated. 

Another highlight in Rishab’s undergraduate experience was the NUS Overseas Colleges programme in Silicon Valley, where he honed his soft skills while studying at Stanford University and interning as an iOS Developer at a Silicon Valley start-up, Vida Health. Although COVID-19 cut short his stay, the three months Rishab spent in the United States offered him a wealth of new perspectives. The entrepreneurial zeal sparked by NUS and Stanford also played a key part in leading Rishab to co-found his own start-up.

“NUS was instrumental in HiveBotic’s success,” he said. “We were given financial help like grants, and there were plenty of training resources. The network we had access to at NUS was also very strong.” 

As the CEO of HiveBotics, Rishab is currently working to improve the design and functioning of the cleaning robot for commercialisation. Rishab will be receiving his Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Engineering) degree with Honours (Distinction) on 13 July 2023.

Du Hao: Enabling life-saving impact using AI

With a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Du Hao’s PhD degree in Public Health from NUS’ Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health may come as a surprise. After all, the two disciplines seem disconnected. 

“I knew I wanted to use my engineering experience in healthcare applications,” explained the 30-year-old. “Healthcare matters the most to humans, and machine learning and deep learning can do so much for us. That is why I wanted to pursue my further studies in public health.” 

During his PhD studies, Du Hao and his team developed an AI tool for detecting breast cancer. After their model won a global challenge, they saw its true potential – and so did NUS. 

He was selected for the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP) in 2019, a programme that helps PhD candidates and researchers build their own start-ups. 

“With GRIP, we saw a chance to really help people with our technology,” he said. “GRIP helped us build our technology into a product. It also trained us in all aspects of creating a start-up, from pitching to building value.” 

Thanks to GRIP, Du Hao’s start-up FathomX was founded and incorporated in 2019. Its flagship product FxMammo is a diagnostic AI tool that doctors can use to detect early signs of breast cancer in mammograms more accurately and efficiently. 

As Chief Technology Officer of FathomX, Du Hao is now planning a prospective trial with three Singapore hospital clusters and the Health Promotion Board to evaluate the value of incorporating an AI solution to the Breast Screening Singapore programme.

FxMammo has been approved for diagnostic use in Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific. He added, “My wish is for it to keep expanding, so that it can help as many people as possible.”

Du Hao received his PhD degree in Public Health on 6 July 2023.

This story is part of NUS News’ coverage of Commencement 2023, which celebrates the achievements of our more than 14,700 graduates from the Class of 2023. For more on Commencement, read our stories and graduate profiles, check out the official Commencement website, or look up and tag #NUS2023 on our social media channels!