Young talents from NUS shine on global stage

From left: Asst Prof Tee and Asst Prof Loh at the WEF's recent Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, China (Photo: Benjamin Tee)

Assistant Professor Loh Huanqian from NUS Physics and the NUS Centre for Quantum Technologies, and Assistant Professor Benjamin Tee from NUS Materials Science and Engineering and NUS iHealthtech were among 21 young scientists from 10 countries selected by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to be in the Class of 2019 Young Scientists. 

The Young Scientists community was created in 2009 to convene rising-star scientists and engage them in the work of the WEF to integrate scientific knowledge into society for the public good. The community consists of extraordinary scientists from across academic disciplines and geographies, under the age of 40. 

Asst Prof Loh and Asst Prof Tee were invited to the recent WEF’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions, held in Dalian, China, where they participated in discussions alongside business, political, media, academic and civil society leaders.

"I am extremely grateful and excited for the opportunity to bounce ideas off senior decision makers, particularly on quantum physics. This engagement is timely given the increasing worldwide attention people are paying to quantum science research and its applications,” said Asst Prof Loh, whose research focuses on the quantum control of ultracold molecules at the single-molecule, single-quantum-state level. 

The microscopic-scale behaviour of most advanced materials like superconductors remains poorly understood due to strongly interactive quantum particles with dynamics that are impossible to calculate even with powerful computers. Nonetheless, Asst Prof Loh has demonstrated the first steps towards recreating models of these materials from the bottom-up using ultracold molecules with quantum properties that can be precisely controlled by lasers and laboratory-applied fields.

“I hope to use this control to create new materials that could lead to better electronics and faster computers,” shared Asst Prof Loh.

As for Asst Prof Tee, his research interests lie in exploiting novel materials and fabrication techniques to create flexible and stretchable electronic sensor devices. Earlier this year, his success in creating a transparent, stretchable, touch-sensitive electronic skin with self-healing properties in aquatic environments was featured as the front cover of the journal Nature Electronics.

“One of the challenges with many self-healing materials today is that they are not transparent and they do not work efficiently when wet,” he explained. “What makes our material different is that it can retain its shape in both wet and dry surroundings. It works well in sea water and even in acidic or alkaline environments.”

Asst Prof Tee feels honoured and grateful for his recognition as a WEF Young Scientist, and at the same time excited at the prospects ahead. 

“This cross-country and cross-interdisciplinary platform really enables me to be plugged into a strong network of passionate individuals from diverse fields. I look forward to meeting new friends, and participating in more WEF meetings as a representative of NUS and Singapore,” Asst Prof Tee said.

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Asst Prof Loh (1st row, 3rd from right) and Asst Prof Tee (2nd row, far left) with the other delegates of the WEF’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions (Photo: Benjamin Tee)