Three researchers awarded inaugural NUS Emerging Scientist Fellowship

Three early career researchers from NUS have been awarded the University’s inaugural Emerging Scientist Fellowship to further their research careers. The scientists are Dr Tang Chi Sin, Dr Nicholas Yap and Dr Zeng Yiwen.

Established in 2022 by the NUS Office of the Deputy President (Research and Technology), the NUS Emerging Scientist Fellowship is a three-year programme aimed at attracting research fellows with less than six years of postdoctoral experience to work with, and move between, multiple institutes, faculties, and schools within NUS.

Recipients of the scheme are provided with benefits to kick-start their research careers. Such benefits include funds to support the recipients’ academic and research travel and publications.

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Dr Tang Chi Sin

Dr Tang Chi Sin is a Research Fellow at the Singapore Synchrotron Light Source (SSLS), a university-level Research Centre at NUS.

Dr Tang’s research focuses on synchrotron-based techniques to study the fundamental properties of materials. By accelerating electrons within 99.999 per cent of the speed of light, we can produce electromagnetic radiation over a broad spectral range and utilise it for research in many scientific disciplines ranging from nanotechnology to pharmaceuticals, catalytic materials to biological imaging.

Studying a material’s fundamental properties, such as superconductivity, could shed light on certain questions like how electrons behave in two-dimensional materials.

In a recent study, Dr Tang and his team discovered insights into the new Kagome superconductor, CsV3Sb5. Superconductors are materials that can conduct electricity without any resistance and they typically occur at very low temperatures. Apart from the unique superconductive properties, the exquisite atomic arrangements into a basket weaving pattern known as the Kagome superconductor has added artistic elegance to the scientific investigation on the origin of the superconductive properties in this system.

By unravelling how the constituent atomic components in the Kagome lattice interact and distort the structure to form periodic patterns (charge density waves) at low temperatures, these findings could provide important clues on how the patterned lattice and charged particles interact at the atomic level. This in turn could reveal the mystery as to how superconductivity is induced not just in Kagome superconductors, but also other types of high-temperature superconducting systems. The findings were published in Advanced Materials.

On receiving the Fellowship Dr Tang said, “The Fellowship allows for greater collaboration and it gives me a greater latitude to study fundamental properties of quantum systems and how we could possibly translate them into applications related to next-generation electronic systems, computing devices and even highly-efficient clean energy applications.”

Dr Tang is also particularly interested in scientific communication, stemming from his previous days as a teacher.

“Scientific communication plays a key role in letting the public understand what we are doing. In the case of the synchrotron, it is the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of scientific research and both the scientific community and the community at large must understand that it is a vital scientific tool that propels Singapore forward as a multi-disciplinary research ecosystem,” he said.

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Dr Nicholas Yap

Dr Nicholas Yap is a Research Fellow at the St John's Island National Marine Laboratory, which is managed by the NUS Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI).

Dr Yap’s primary research is focused on the taxonomy and systematics of sea anemones and jellyfish, in which the identities of these enigmatic animals are notoriously difficult to ascertain positively.

Without knowing their identities, our understanding of the distribution, prevalence and ecology of these animals in Singapore and the neighbouring regions remain poor. Looking to rectify this, Dr Yap is undertaking efforts to put missing faces to known species names, and vice-versa, in the region.

In one recent publication, Dr Yap led a team to clarify the identity of a sea anemone that, for more than half a century, was known as two different species. They examined morphological, historical, and molecular evidence gathered from over 150 specimens that was collected across the Indo-West Pacific, from Egypt to Australia. It was revealed that the reason it was thought to be two different species was a result of the way it reproduced asexually. Providing an accurate delimitation of this species’ identity will pave the way for future, robust ecological studies. The findings were published in Contributions to Zoology.

Presently, he is part of an ongoing study that investigates the impact of climate change on tropical jellyfish blooms. With the number of rising incidents involving humans being stung by jellyfish, especially in local waters, findings from this project will be useful to formulate strategies to mitigate such events.

Dr Yap is pleased to be awarded the NUS Emerging Scientist Fellowship. “It is certainly exciting, and I am also grateful to be part of this pioneer batch. I think that this fellowship provides an essential scaffold to kick-start, and aid in developing the professional pathways of early career researchers like myself,” he said.

Funding from the NUS Emerging Scientist Fellowship will support Dr Yap’s research at NUS and abroad, and at the same time, present new opportunities to build collaboration.

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Dr Zeng Yiwen

Dr Zeng Yiwen holds a joint appointment as a Research Assistant Professor at the NUS TMSI and Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions (CNCS).

“It is an enormous honour to be part of the pioneer batch that is awarded the NUS Emerging Scientist Fellowship. I feel incredibly thankful and appreciative that I have been given this chance to further my research on forest conservation within Southeast Asia with this award. Awards like this are especially important to early career researchers like myself because it gives us the opportunity to continue exploring exciting research frontiers and make an impact,” he said.

A spatial-ecological modeller, Dr Zeng is focused on finding ways to scale up conservation efforts across Southeast Asia, that are both socially responsible and ecologically sound. His goal is to develop research that can directly inform and shape conservation and sustainability policies.

Southeast Asia’s forests are some of the most biodiverse habitats in the world. They store large amounts of carbon in their aboveground biomass, however, they also experience high rates of deforestation. Finding better ways to protect these forests will have huge implications not only for biodiversity conservation, but also our ability to combat climate change. Dr Zeng’s work aims to better understand how land-use management and conservation policy decisions can impact species and ecological processes.

A big part of this is through the reduction of barriers to implement nature-based carbon projects, which can be achieved by improving maps of forest carbon stocks in the region. Additionally, understanding how various forest management strategies can lead to differing biodiversity conservation outcomes is also important.

Recently Dr Zeng led a study on the potential and limits of carbon markets in supporting the conservation and protection of mangrove forests around the world. His research found that approximately 20 per cent of the world’s mangrove forests can be protected by funding through carbon financing. This work was published in Current Biology

For more information on the NUS Emerging Scientist Fellowship, please contact dprbox46@nus.edu.sg