The Sweet Taste of Passion
Guo Wei Mei
Senior Research Officer, Taste Receptor Lab, Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation
I enjoyed every stage of my career because I was exposed to different areas and opportunities and had many accomplishments in different A*STAR’s research institutes.
From immunology to cancer research, molecular and tissue engineering, and now food science, Wei Mei’s career path has gone from strength to strength over the years, allowing her to experience, explore, and master the entire breadth of science. Now happily settled at the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) as a Senior Research Officer at the Taste Receptor Lab, Wei Mei is grateful to have finally found a lasting passion.
The intrepid scientist’s first job out of university was in an immunology lab at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), where she provided antibody services to researchers. After a fruitful three-and-a-half-year, she had the opportunity to work at the Molecular Engineering Lab (MEL) of the late Nobel Laureate Dr Sydney Brenner, where she spent nearly the next five years.
Despite Dr Brenner’s high international standing, the atmosphere at the lab was always open and casual, without any pressure. “Everyone worked closely together and communicated transparently. The research fellows were always willing to guide, teach and push the boundaries of science! – a legacy of Dr Sydney Brenner.”
The experience at MEL was warm and inspiring, but Wei Mei was soon searching for something different. She yearned to work beyond an academic setting, perhaps through working with industry partners.
From lab to the real world
Her wishes were soon answered with her current position at SIFBI.
In SIFBI, Wei Mei’s role is to identify and evaluate compounds with active taste properties, and screen natural products to discover and produce desired bioingredients for food, nutrition and agricultural technology. One of her current projects involves producing novel sweeteners from food-grade bacteria.
From multinational companies (MNCs) to small-medium enterprises (SMEs) and startups, Wei Mei’s work requires her to meet founders from all walks of life. And it is such interactions that she thoroughly enjoys.
Just as importantly, Wei Mei finds greater meaning with her work as she actively contributes to Singapore’s food security and sustainability goals, or 30-by-30 vision—Singapore’s goal to locally produce 30% of the country’s nutritional needs by 2030.
With her passion for food science, Wei Mei was spurred to pursue further studies with a Masters in Food Science and Nutrition at the National University of Singapore, which helps her sharpen her critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
“I am very thankful to have the support from my bosses and A*STAR to pursue and develop my career goals. Through the course, I gained a better understanding of the challenges and innovative ideas in the food industry. I was able to share this information with my colleagues and engage in meaningful discussions to be better prepared in bridging the gap between academic science and industrial innovation,” Wei Mei shared.
A sensorial perfume making workshop with BioTrans colleagues in 2019
Reminiscing her journey thus far, Wei Mei beams with positivity about her future: “I enjoyed every stage of my career because I was exposed to different areas and opportunities and had many accomplishments. It has come full circle for me. I found my passion, and it is doubly rewarding to be able to contribute towards the development of sustainable food for Singapore at the same time.”