Top honours conferred for research excellence

Outstanding scientists from NUS have received top national honours for their excellent accomplishments and contributions to the science and technology landscape. Professor Hong Wanjin from NUS Medicine was conferred the prestigious President’s Science and Technology Medal (PSTM), the top honour of the President’s Science and Technology Awards which are bestowed on exceptional research scientists and engineers in Singapore.

Assistant Professor Koh Ming Joo from NUS Chemistry received the Young Scientist Award (YSA) which recognises the accomplishments of researchers under 35, who have shown strong potential to be world-class experts in their fields.

Both awards were conferred at a presentation ceremony at the Istana on 9 December 2022.

President’s Science and Technology Medal

Prof Hong was recognised for his outstanding contributions in building up the biomedical sciences research ecosystem in Singapore, particularly through strengthening public sector, academic and clinical research partnerships, nurturing scientific talent, and promoting innovation to support Singapore’s economic development.

Prof Hong is an internationally renowned leader in molecular and cell biology. He is currently Honorary Joint Professor at the Department of Biochemistry at NUS Medicine and the Executive Director of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB). Prof Hong has dedicated over 30 years of his career to supporting the development of Singapore’s biomedical research ecosystem. In addition to pushing scientific excellence at IMCB, he has forged strong ties with institutes of higher learning, the academic medical centres and hospitals, and industry partners, creating greater synergies across Singapore’s biomedical research ecosystem. He has also nurtured many local talents, who have gone on to become a critical part of Singapore’s scientific talent pool today.

In the area of molecular and cell biology research, Prof Hong has contributed significantly to the global scientific community’s understanding of membrane transport in the secretory and endocytic pathways, and the Hippo signalling pathway in human cancer. His contributions extend to editorial board appointments for top scientific journals like the journal of Biological Chemistry, Traffic, and Science Signalling; and he has been consistently invited to speak at international scientific symposia by Keystone and the American Association for Cancer Research.

Prof Hong said: “In the over 30 years I have been [at IMCB], it has been very rewarding to watch the biomedical community grow and mature as Singapore built up the biomedical sciences sector into the economic pillar it is today. I am very proud that our research contributions have contributed to the growth of Singapore.”

Read the Citation here.

Young Scientist Award

Asst Prof Koh was recognised for his research in sustainable catalysis and radical chemistry. His work has led to the discovery of cheaper, energy-efficient catalysts and reagents that significantly enhance chemical synthesis efficiency. Asst Prof Koh and his team have leveraged these innovative catalyst systems to transform cheap and abundant feedstock chemicals into value-added functional products with less energy consumption, less waste production and lower environmental footprint. This is expected to revolutionise the way important chemicals are prepared, and make a difference in many areas including agriculture, therapeutics and plastic waste upcycling.

Asst Prof Koh also co-owns a number of patents, some of which have been licensed by XiMo AG, a Swiss-based company that develops catalysts for use across various chemical sectors. Beyond research, Asst Prof Koh has a keen interest to promote chemical science as a way of contributing back to society. He participates in local and international science forums as well as outreach programmes to share his research work and experiences with young science enthusiasts, inspiring them to pursue their interests in science.

Read more here.