What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work?
Our research aims to identify the transcriptional and metabolic switches in stem cell renewal and during cell-fate reprogramming. Through it we hope to develop novel tools, technologies and innovations for deriving high-quality stem cells and tissues for future therapeutic applications. The most rewarding part is the “Aha” moment that comes with the understanding of how processes work within the cells.
What led you to become a scientist and to stem cell research?
In the early 2000s, two emerging fields caught my attentions, Genomics and Stem cell. Thus, it was not surprising that my PhD research, under the mentorship of Dr Ng Huck Hui, was to use the latest genomic technologies to map the transcriptional network of the master regulators in Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs). I then went on to do a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard Medical School under the tutelage of Dr George Daley. There, we pioneered the use of human blood cells for reprogramming to induced pluripotent stem cells.
How do you spend your free time?
I enjoy nature (on top of the journal series), so I like to take a walk in the woods near my place whenever I have free time. Besides that, I find it relaxing to read books, working out in the gym and spending time with my family. I also volunteer my time at the Singapore Association for the Advancement for Science (SAAS) where we design outreach activities and programme for young children.
What is something your peers would be surprised to learn about you?
Peers would be surprised that I co-authored a book on topic outside of Stem cells. The book entitled “A Nation of Skilled Talents” was my gift to Singapore for its 50th birthday back in 2015. The book highlights the importance of skilled-based STEAM education (STEM refashioned with the addition of Arts). The foreword was written by the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam. It was launched by our Minister for Education Mr Ong Ye Kung on the 30 Dec 2015, just in time for Singapore’s birthday bash. That project has got to be the tightest of datelines I have ever worked on.
What do you most value about your membership with the ISSCR?
ISSCR is a great forum to know about the latest happenings in the field of Stem cells. The annual symposium is also a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones.