Since joining A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) in 1998- Dr Ramam Akkipeddi has taken on multiple roles in research- rendering services on materials characterisation- and scientific laboratories management.
While he undertook a myriad of responsibilities in his professional capacity- he also had to endure several life-changing events personally.
Dr Ramam and his youngest son from a 2013 Sunday Times story. Through Make-A-Wish Foundation Singapore- his son was able to meet his favourite band at a concert.
"My youngest son was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease at the age of two- which concluded into an end-stage kidney failure. Now 24- he still requires dialysis on a regular basis- and has to undergo surgery every two to three weeks when complications arise due to blood clots."
It is not an easy task for a parent- especially when Dr Ramam unfortunately lost his wife to cancer in 2011.
"Many of the doctors I encounter on my son’s regular visits to the hospital often ask me—how are you doing this? How do you cope?"
For Dr Ramam- he lives his life with three guiding principles: commitment- loyalty- and acceptance. His principles apply both to his family and to his work.
"I’ve never once asked- why me? Life is fleeting; nothing’s ever permanent. Once you have a bigger picture of life- you realise how small your problems are. If I retreat into my cocoon because of my setbacks- how am I supposed to carry out my duties?"
While grappling with personal challenges- he received A*STAR’s "Star Employee Award" in 2011. "The award recognises staff who best embody A*STAR’s corporate values of Action- Speed- Teamwork- Agility- Resolve and Integrity."
Dr Ramam started his IMRE career in semiconductor research- being deeply involved in the development of LED technology that we see today in traffic lights- billboards- and other displays. Today- he is the go-to person for scientific laboratories management at IMRE- taking care of standard operating protocols- health & safety and technical aspects of new scientific equipment procurement.
His eldest son- 28- did a major in semiconductors for his undergraduate and post-graduate studies in the USA- most likely influenced by his father’s scientific job.
When asked about the one thing that kept him working in an organisation for over twenty years- Dr Ramam said it was fulfilling to be able to contribute to A*STAR’s journey of creating real-world impact.
"Very few places in the world house such a comprehensive suite of analytical capabilities for materials science—from mechanical- chemical- physical- thermal- to high-end microscopy. And being able to offer these to benefit the R&D community and the industry is truly satisfying for me."
He is also thankful for his supportive colleagues and bosses who are understanding about his family situation- even if Dr Ramam is consistently adamant about keeping his professional and personal life separate.
No stranger to hard knocks- Dr Ramam had to confront yet another health scare in 2015—a heart attack. He pulled through by telling himself that he had to continue living for his son.
Dr Raman and his sons
Today- Dr Ramam tells us that he keeps to a strict routine to ensure he maintains the delicate balance between work and life- and that he is healthy for himself and his family.
He is a certified yoga teacher- and for years- has held free classes for his A*STAR colleagues.
"My day starts at 4.30am with yoga and meditation. After freshening up- I have my breakfast and prepare my lunch to bring to work. I’m a vegetarian and rely on homemade food. I’m at work usually by 8.30am. After work ends- I will go home and take care of my younger son- and go for long walks around 7pm. I’ll have my dinner at 8pm- catch up on some TV shows- and am in bed before 11pm. I routinely clock 10-000 steps daily."
A tip that Dr Ramam wishes to pass on to fathers and parents alike: "Don’t do things just to look forward to the ‘fruit of labour’ or a desired outcome. Perform your rightful duty as a parent and as an employee. When you’re loyal to your family- you also tend to be loyal in other things you do- including your work."
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