A*Star scholar Dr Juliana Chan never stops questioning and sheloves exploring the unknown as a research scientist.
As a molecular engineering research scientist, Dr Juliana Chan focuses her time on tissue engineering. Her job involves growing in vitro(in an artificial environment) small blood vessels called capillaries, which may some day be used to form heart or bladder tissue. Another test-tube product that she grows is arteries, to test the efficacy of atherosclerosis drugs.
“What I like about my job is that it allows me to dream up things,” she says.“Science is the perfect job for dreamers. We are expected to think creatively and in an unorthodox manner.”But when an experiment she has carefullydesigned fails, she feels like she is “in a dark tunnel with no light at the end of it”.“Nevertheless, as a scientist, Iam aware that failure is a steppingstone to success. To overcome these hurdles, I try to stay focused on the scientific goal and constantly seek advice and help from colleagues and mentors,” says Dr Chan, an Agency for Science, Technology and Research(A*Star) scholar. The CHIJ Katong alumna had originally wanted to apply to medical school but decided to pursue a career in research as it allowed her to nurture her creative side. Explaining the link between research and creativity, she says: “In research, one is expected to do things differently to get different answers.”She has won numerous accolades and awards for her contributions to science.
Last year, the 28-year-old was honoured through the L’Oreal Unesco for Women In Science Fellowship
Awards, where she came in tops in the Life Sciences category. In 2010, she was also named one of the Women’s Weekly Great Women Of Our Time for her contributions to science. In that same year, she earned her PhD in biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) within three and a half years — half the time typically taken to complete the programme. She did that by clocking in more time and putting in more effort compared her peers.“I was eager to do well as a scientist and prove myself at MIT. I also had wonderful mentors,” says Dr Chan, who obtained a first class honours degree in natural sciences from Christ’s College at Cambridge University in 2005. What also helped, she says, washer willingness to seek help.“I would talk to anyone who had time to spare when I had problems with my research,” she says. Her overseas studies were supported by the A*Star National Science scholarships.
Last November, after spending a year as a post-doctorate fellow t MIT, she returned to Singapore to take up her current position at A*Star’s Science and Engineering Institutes’ molecular engineering lab. For those aspiring to follow in her footsteps, she says: “Prospective scholarship applicants may feel like they have to come from a very prestigious school to receive an A*Star scholarship. They may also feel the pressure to have doctors, academics and surgeons as relatives and friends. I would like to reassure them that this is not required.“Instead, a love for deciphering questions and all things unknown is more important.“I enjoyed asking ‘why’ and ‘why not’ to everything I read in the textbook. Were we that confident and sure? Could we be wrong?”What is also important is to choose a scholarship that will help to develop one’s desired career path.“If you choose a job that you have a passion for, you will never have to work a single day of your life.“When preparing for your interview, read up about the management, the mission of the organisation and why they are recruiting talented individuals.“Also, reflect on how you can contribute to the organisation some day, and let your interviewer know how you intend to play a part in this,” she says.
Author : Geraldine Ling from The Straits' Times Scholars Choice 3 Supplement , Jul 2012