SCHOLARS OF A*STAR: Dr Xinyi Su, IMCB
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 Xinyi Su, Senior Principal Investigator & Director of Innovative Technologies Division, A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB)
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a PhD in Molecular Biology?
A: I was fascinated with cancer biology and wanted to understand how genomic instability drives cancer formation. Thus, I pursued a PhD in Molecular Biology under Professor Ashok Venkitaraman (Formerly the Ursula Zoellner Professor of Cancer Research at University of Cambridge and Director of Medical Research Council Cancer Unit).
In addition, mentors like Prof Wong Tien Yin and A/Prof Gopal Lingam, who have been stalwarts in Ophthalmology research, have inspired me to go into retinal research and be a clinician-scientist.
I fully expect her to be a future leader in the retina research not just in Singapore, but also globally. I should add that it remains extremely challenging for young women physicians in Asia (even in Singapore) to balance clinical, academic successfully, research and leadership roles. However, her passion, enthusiasm, intellectual abilities, a strong commitment to clinical care and academic research, and the quality of her published work make her eminently suited for future research leadership positions.
Professor Wong Tien Yin, Arthur Lim Professor in Ophthalmology, Medical Director & Chairman, Singapore National Eye Centre, Chairman, Board of Directors, Singapore Eye Research Institute,Vice-Dean, Duke-NUS Medical School, National University of Singapore
Q: What are some of your most notable achievements?
A: I am honoured to have received several academic awards. These awards include the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology (APAO) Young Ophthalmology Award (2019 and 2020), NUHS Innovation Summit (Best Oral Presentation, Disruptive Technology), and the Grand Challenge for Global Vision Innovation at World Young Scientist Summit (Silver Prize, 2019) for my work on developing the next generation of a vitreous substitute.
Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology (APAO) Young Ophthalmology Award Ceremony in 2019
My work on developing vitreogel was also featured in the Inaugural NUS’ yearbook “Developing a novel vitreous substitute” (2019) and video showcase - A Day in the life of a clinician-scientist.
As a testament to my global presence, I am happy to have received international appointments, including Roche TAE Leadership and Surgical Excellence Advisory Board Member (Mar 2020) and Associate Scientific Advisor of the prestigious journal - Science Translational Medicine (Jan 2020).
Q: What does the A*STAR scholarship mean to you?
A: The A*STAR scholarship has been a tremendous blessing for me. The scholarship funded my 9-year MBBS/PhD course at the University of Cambridge and allowed me to pursue my dreams to be a clinician-scientist. It enabled me to do the things I enjoy most in life: translational research and impacting healthcare outcomes.
Q: What keeps you motivated in your career?
A: Knowing that my research will make a difference in patients undergoing complex vitreoretinal surgery, and lead to novel therapeutics to prevent blindness in patients with degenerative retinal conditions – keeps me going!
I enjoy the thrill of an adrenaline rush whenever I discuss exciting scientific ideas or discover new, unexpected experimental findings in the lab.
Research is my passion! I am super blessed that my work and hobby are one-and-the-same-thing.
Based on her impressive track record and her potential to bring ophthalmic research in Singapore to greater heights, Xinyi is a role model for women in science.
Prof Chong Yap Seng, Executive Director of Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS),
Lien Ying Chow Professor in Medicine, Dean, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore
Q: How are you contributing to Singapore’s R&D ecosystem?
A: Develop research capabilities: I have been appointed as the Divisional Director of Innovative Technologies at IMCB since 2020. The focus of our division is to develop globally competitive technology platforms to support A*STAR and the R&D ecosystem.
Education: As a clinician-scientist, I am committed to developing the next generation of clinician-scientists. Awarded NUHS Research Mentor Award in 2018, I am actively mentoring more than ten A*STAR’s scholars, NUS PhD students and NUHS Ophthalmology clinician-scientist residents.
Clinical Service: In addition to my research program, I worked closely with my ophthalmology colleagues to set up the Inherited and Rare Retinal Diseases (IRD) clinic at the National University Hospital (NUH). Together, we laid the groundwork to enable comprehensive genetic screening of retinal diseases to be readily available within Singapore. This effort is crucial to enable rapid translation of newly developed retinal stem cell and gene therapy for our patients in Singapore.
Q: How do you juggle your career and personal life?
A: It is indeed challenging to balance the heavy clinical commitments of being an ophthalmic surgeon, running a lab, managing research programs and being a mum. As they say, it takes a whole village to raise your children. I am blessed to have the support of my husband and extended family, helping out in child-rearing. I’m proud to be a mother of three adorable kids (Matthew - 7 years old, Nathaniel - 4 years old, Sophie - 9 months old).
Our family photo taken at the botanical gardens in 2019 with my two sons, Matthew and Nathaniel. Sophie joined the family in Sept 2020
Q: Any words of advice for budding clinician-scientists?
A: Being a clinician-scientist is a calling as it takes passion, dedication and perseverance. Don’t give up when the going gets tough, as there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Keep on dreaming. Dream the impossible and make it possible.
I would like to inspire the next generation of clinician-scientists in Singapore and be a role model for women in science.
Q: What would you say to your younger self?
A: You’re on the right track. Keep on doing what you’re doing. Don’t give up!