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Celebrating Singapore’s Lab Professionals: The Unsung Heroes Who Make A Difference

These specialists were recognised for their significant contributions to the advancement of science at the 2021 Asian Scientist Lab Tech of the Year awards.

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Laboratory professionals are known for their role in diagnostic setups, facilitating work in a variety of environments including hospital laboratories, research institutes, pharmaceutical, vaccine and food industry, as well as labs set up for public health concerns. These unsung heroes have played a critical role in facilitating clinical and technical support for the diagnosis of COVID-19, alongside clinicians and scientists.

The 2021 Asian Scientist Lab Tech of the Year Award honours 15 laboratory professionals who are making waves in Singapore’s research and innovation ecosystem. Held on 18 March 2022, the awards ceremony was graced by Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and Ministry of Trade and Industry. Among the 15 awardees were seven A*STAR lab specialists, each of whom have made significant contributions to their labs within their respective fields. This year, a special category "MiRXES COVID-19 Hero Award" was also introduced to celebrate the individuals who have valiantly contributed to the fight against the pandemic.

Join us in congratulating the winners as they reflect on their journey and achievements thus far, and share what lies ahead for them.

MiRXES COVID-19 Hero Awards

Celebrating Singapore’s Lab Professionals The Unsung Heroes Who Make A Difference Xueqi

Koh Xueqi

Senior Specialist
Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE)

Xue Qi obtained her Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Chemistry from the National University of Singapore (NUS) before joining IMRE in 2012. She is currently a Senior Specialist in the Droplet Lab, where she develops her expertise in different atomic force microscopy (AFM) techniques as well as in aerosol science.

Xue Qi is a highly motivated lab professional who has contributed greatly to Singapore's collective fight against COVID-19. She contributed actively to develop novel protocols for PPE testing of various mask designs for different respiratory activities. Her work is published in the Journal of Aerosol Science. She also worked on other collaborations, including a bioaerosol box that protects healthcare workers by containing aerosols from COVID-19 patients. Xue Qi is an unsung hero who worked long hours and is critical to the success of the projects the lab is pursuing.

Congratulations to the winners from A*STAR's IMRE and other organisations who have scored accolades at Asian Scientist's Lab Tech of the Year 2021 awards! I’m truly appreciative of your unique expertise, resourcefulness and dedication as lab professionals, and wish you great success in the journey ahead.

Prof Loh Xian Jun, Executive Director, IMRE

Celebrating Singapore’s Lab Professionals The Unsung Heroes Who Make A Difference Naqiah

Siti Naqiah Amrun

Project Manager
A*STAR Infectious Disease Labs (ID Labs) 

Naqiah started her career as a research officer in A*STAR seven years ago under the tutelage of Prof Lisa Ng. She has a strong interest in infectious diseases, particularly in the areas of understanding host antibody-mediated immunity as well as therapeutics and vaccines evaluation.

She was heavily involved in the various research collaborations with both local and overseas hospitals and institutions during the Zika outbreak in 2016. Similarly, she has made significant research contributions and played a key role to bridge communal efforts between A*STAR ID Labs, NCID, NUS and local hospitals by coordinating various COVID-19 projects led by MOH.

Naqiah’s management, leader and mentor skills, perseverance, and willingness to accept new challenges earned her an important promotion as the Project Manager of A*STAR ID Labs. She currently has an ongoing appointment as a Secretariat in the MOH’s COVID-19 Therapeutic and Vaccine Expert Panel.

In her free time, she enjoys quality time with family and friends over a hearty meal and is currently learning to play tennis.

I am super proud and happy of Naqiah’s journey and achievements. Her well-deserved win of the MiRXES COVID-19 Hero Award reflects Naqiah’s valiant efforts in undertaking crucial public sector COVID-19 projects throughout the course of the pandemic.

Prof Lisa Ng, Executive Director, ID Labs.

Celebrating Singapore’s Lab Professionals The Unsung Heroes Who Make A Difference

Zheng Zi Hao

Research Officer
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB)

Zi Hao is a biomedical researcher who aims to alleviate diseases and improve understanding of ageing through molecular biology. He has been working on deciphering genes critical for embryogenesis through multi-omics approach for his PhD while he assisted in managing the lab.

During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zi Hao was involved in setting up the Stronghold Diagnostic Lab, which aims to rapidly boost Singapore’s COVID-19 screening capacity through A*STAR’s research capabilities. He encouraged his friends with relevant skills to join the lab and shared his scientific knowledge with people around him. During his deployment at SDL, he worked with the team around the clock and took on multiple leadership roles and responsibilities. He extended his role at SDL twice to ensure smooth transition of the operation to new hires, and readily rendered his help during emergencies even after he returned to his regular responsibilities.

Zi Hao was also among a group of volunteers who maintained IMCB’s core facilities during the circuit breaker, ensuring the sustainability of research activities during that critical period. On top of his research and management role in the lab, he also participated in the filming of a COVID-19 educational video by MOE to share his knowledge.

I am very proud of Shi Jie and Zi Hao for their awards. They and other lab specialists in IMCB are important contributors to the exciting research programs in IMCB, as they have the skillsets, capabilities and commitment to our research, development and innovation.

Prof Hong Wanjin, Executive Director, IMCB.

Celebrating Singapore’s Lab Professionals The Unsung Heroes Who Make A Difference Zi Lin

Science Communicator Award

Lim Zi Lin

Research Officer
Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS)

Zi Lin is a research officer working in the Laboratory of Women’s Health & Genetics at GIS. She started as an intern during her final semester of undergraduate studies and subsequently joined the team full-time. Her work encompasses the use of clinical data to predict the causes and outcomes of breast cancer.

The Science Communicator Award is given to the lab specialist who is passionate about raising awareness on science-related topics. Other than research, one of the largest parts of Zi Lin’s job is to communicate her findings with various clinical collaborators as well as other individuals in the industry. Zi Lin’s work is deeply inspired by group leader Dr Li Jingmei’s participation in science outreach and communication. Zi Lin knows that communication and knowledge sharing is essential for informing, decision-making, and ultimately, creating changes. As a novice in the industry, she aims to continuously improve her skills and push boundaries in science and healthcare.

Zi Lin goes one step further to inform and inspire the public about scientific findings—from the heart. She is certainly someone I can envision moving mountains in the fields of science and public policies in the future.

Dr Li Jingmei, Group Leader, GIS.

ASTAR_Celebrating Singapore’s Lab Professionals The Unsung Heroes Who Make A Difference _Shi JieMountain Mover Award

Teo Shi Jie

Research Office
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB)

Shi Jie was presented with the Mountain Mover Award and credits her achievement to the support of Dr Sherry Aw and her lab group in IMCB.

She is excited to share that she was given much guidance and opportunities at A*STAR, and learnt many valuable lessons regarding her project. This has led her to further her research on a proprietary RNA sensing technology. She discovered and optimised specific motifs on the molecule that enhance the sensitivity and specificity of the sensor, which now opens the door to exciting potential translational applications such as treatments of diseases.

Celebrating Singapore’s Lab Professionals The Unsung Heroes Who Make A Difference Wei Wei

Walking Encyclopedia Award

Loh Wei Wei

Senior Specialist II
Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE)

Wei Wei is currently Senior Specialist II at A*STAR’s IMRE. Apart from being a research specialist focusing on advanced polymer technologies, she is also IMRE’s Biosafety Lab’s lab manager and procurement scientist.

Wei Wei’s years of experience and resourcefulness have made her an invaluable asset to the team of researchers. As the lab manager of IMRE’s Biosafety Lab, she is in charge of the biosafety certifications, export control of microorganisms, lab-access training for researchers, purchase of consumables and maintenance of essential equipment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she used her unique expertise on biohazard waste management to manage the treatment of potentially-contaminated waste materials.

ASTAR_Celebrating Singapore’s Lab Professionals The Unsung Heroes Who Make A Difference _Jian Wei

Innovator Award

Chai Jian Wei

Senior Specialist III
Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) 

Jian Wei is currently Senior Specialist III at IMRE, specialising as a lab professional focusing on the growth of functional thin films and maintenance, vacuum systems, as well as characterisation of material properties.

Jian Wei is a committed lab professional with a keen innovative spirit and strong expertise in physical vapour deposition (PVD) systems and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) characterisation, who goes the extra mile to enhance R&D efforts and make significant contributions in research projects. Among his many innovations, he has recently designed an ultra-high vacuum chamber and piezoelectric thin film deposition work process, testament to his strong capability in designing new PVD systems. Jian Wei is a main inventor for several patents in sputtering technologies that enhance the quality of thin films. His contributions are also reflected in his co-authorship of many prestigious scientific papers.