Faces of A*STAR



The A*STAR Graduate Academy provides scholarships and fellowships to enable young aspiring scientific talent to pursue their passion in science and prepare them for a rewarding career in research and development (R&D).

Meet our scholars and find out how an A*STAR scholarship has helped them in their R&D careers.

Dr Ooi Chin Chun, Scientist, A*STAR's Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC)

Dr_Ooi_1000x650px World Knowledge Dialogue Symposium in 2008, Switzerland

Q: Tell us more about your work at A*STAR.

A: My current work at A*STAR's Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) focuses on developing techniques to accelerate and improve numerical simulations for diverse engineering problems. These techniques, if successful, can be applied to various engineering modelling and design problems, such as the simulation of environmental flows for understanding natural ventilation and particle-based dispersion or the design of different industrial systems, including for renewable energy.

As a co-lead in the Innovation Technology Area, I'm also working with other scientists to explore how we can integrate prior knowledge into artificial intelligence (AI) models to address some fundamental challenges in the current state of AI. For example, we are interested in incorporating prior knowledge such as physics-based laws to help AI models generalise better, become more robust to noise in data, or learn from sparser data sets.

Q: What inspired you to pursue this field of research?

A: I had the good fortune to meet and work with several inspirational mentors, who introduced me to a whole new side of science and engineering. They showed me how exciting and intriguing engineering problems can be, which led me to pursue a PhD in Chemical Engineering.

Dr Ooi Chin Chun_laboratory team_1000x650px
                                                           My PhD laboratory team

After graduation, I explored various programmes and projects in A*STAR. IHPC, in particular, resonated with me both for the wide range of impactful work and the positive connection I felt when talking to the individual scientists.

Q: What are some of your most notable achievements?

A: I am honoured to work on an airflow modelling project as a part of the IHPC-IMRE COVID-19 team. We ran multiple simulations and experiments to provide science-based guidance to support the safe reopening of our economy. This project is probably one of my most cherished achievements in A*STAR to date.

Dr Ooi Chin Chun_modelling team _1000x650pxThe COVID-19 airflow modelling team from both IMRE and IHPC

Q: What does the A*STAR scholarship mean to you?

A: I am very grateful to A*STAR for the scholarship and the opportunities it has afforded me. It allowed me to interact with and learn from many experts worldwide and broadened my horizons. The scholarship also gave me the opportunity to contribute to solving national challenges.

Q: What was your first research project?

A: My first research project involved using magnetic fields to control nanorods' alignment, with potential applications to material self-assembly and liquid crystal displays. It was particularly memorable as a series of multiple firsts. I experienced working in a research lab and cleanroom for the first time, designing and setting up my experimental procedure for the first time and so on.

Dr Ooi Chin Chun_MagCarriers _500x500px
                      MagCarriers2014: 10th International Conference on the Scientific and Clinical Applications of                                             Magnetic Carriers, Dresden, Germany

Q: How are you contributing to Singapore's R&D ecosystem?

A: One of the best parts about being in A*STAR is the numerous opportunities to interact with young and enthusiastic students in Singapore. I am energised by their excitement when working with these motivated students on various projects.

Just as my previous mentors were so kind and understanding when working with me, I hope to pay it forward by attempting the same and guiding these students through what may be one of their first experiences with research. Hopefully, their positive experiences will lead to a future generation of Singaporeans who are excited by R&D and appreciate the good that R&D can bring about.

Q: What are your thoughts on solving global issues and responding to national contingencies?

A: Like many scientists and engineers, we are constantly looking for ways to translate our work to the real world, whether it's a new solution in MedTech or creating a more sustainable future. This vision for a better future is what I believe drives and motivates many of us.

Hence, it's gratifying to be able to contribute in some small ways to global and national challenges. These experiences can be serendipitous, for example, when I contributed to A*STAR's COVID-19 R&D efforts in the past year. I'm grateful to A*STAR for providing the platform for us to develop our technical skills and help in such a meaningful way.

Q: If you could invent something for the betterment of the world, what would it be?

A: It would be a program that can instantly convert people's ideas into computer code for quick prototyping, even beyond simple scripting languages. I never fail to be amazed by people's ingenuity and knowledge in response to roadblocks and problems. However, these brilliant ideas are often not realised because of the time and effort required for implementation. Just as 3-D printing is often seen as a game-changing solution that allows prototyping in the physical domain, this equivalent in the software space will help further unleash people's creativity.

Q: What would you say to your younger self?

A: I would remind my 16-year-old self to stay curious about any and everything. I realised that all kinds of interesting and exciting things can come about from people asking each other questions.

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                       Conference location of International Conference on Materials for Advanced
                      Technologies (ICMAT) 2009, Singapore


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