The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery
Mark Van Doren
Our scientists spend most of their time looking for the next scientific breakthrough- but did you know that many of them are also dedicated mentors to the next generation of researchers?
This Teacher’s Day- we catch up with two mentors in the A*STAR family to hear about their journey in imparting lifelong knowledge.
Teaching has always been my Passion
Ms Pooja Chaturvedi- Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC)
Ms Pooja (centre) with her staff and interns at ARTC
Ms Pooja leads a team of young engineers at the Metrology Laboratory where they provide measurement services to all the groups at ARTC. Her team regularly takes in students and interns from junior colleges- polytechnics and universities as part of A*STAR’s Research Attachment Programme.
Q: What motivates you to be a mentor?
Ms Pooja: "My whole mission is to instill the love of science and technology to the next generation. Singapore really needs good- hands-on engineers. ARTC is a beautiful platform with so many new technologies for the next generation of engineers to learn about.
Teaching has always been my passion - both my parents are teachers but they are retired now. Hopefully- the students that we impact will become engineers in the near future.
Ms Pooja with her staff and interns outside the Metrology Lab
Q: Can you tell us more about your mentorship process?
Ms Pooja: "I assign the students to the engineers in the laboratory where they work together on real projects with real industry partners. They are taught how to operate complex machinery here at ARTC – not everyone has the chance to access such equipment every day!
I instill scientific curiosity in the interns by asking specific questions which may be related to the measurement methodology adopted or suitability of a particular measurement tool. I also give them a bigger picture where their work contributes to the project goals.
I must also give credit to my team of engineers. They are so accommodating to the students- constantly sharing knowledge and creating a conducive learning environment for them. There is a lot of bonding. The students become so good that they start contributing to the projects. It’s a win-win for us.”
Ms Pooja’s efforts garnered her a Best Mentor Award as part of A*STAR’s Student Research Attachment Programme in 2015. She was nominated by her students- a true testimony of the impact she has made on nurturing the next generation of engineers.
Transforming an Unpolished Stone into a Gem
Dr Adrian Teo (Mentor) and Larry Loo (Mentee)- Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB)
Mentor Dr Adrian Teo (left) with his mentee Larry Loo (right) at their laboratory in IMCB.
Dr Adrian Teo’s team at IMCB strives to understand the genetic causes of diabetes. They actively differentiate stem cells into pancreatic beta cells to come up with a form of treatment for the disease. Larry is Dr Teo’s first PhD student at IMCB.
Q: Larry (mentee)- what drew you to become a researcher?
Larry Loo: "My late grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes- so I saw how crippling the disease was for an elderly person. It further strengthened my resolve to be a scientist who can contribute a small part to science. Ultimately- I hope to translate basic clinical findings into meaningful therapeutic applications for diabetic patients. To me- that is so much more meaningful!”
Q: Why did you choose Dr Adrian Teo’s laboratory for your doctorate degree?
Larry Loo: "I was awarded the A*STAR Graduate Scholarship (Singapore) in 2015- and was trying to choose a laboratory after meeting with numerous professors. I eventually went for Dr Adrian Teo because I could tell that he was a very committed and results-oriented person through my conversations with him. He replies to my emails even in the middle of the night!
He does not micro-manage- and encourages his students to network outside of work and broaden our horizons in various fields.”
Dr Adrian Teo and Larry Loo.
Q: Dr Adrian Teo- what was your experience mentoring Larry?
Dr Adrian Teo: "I mentor Larry in various aspects from technical skill sets- scientific knowledge- to goal setting- and even career advice amongst many other matters. I knew from the onset that Larry was keen to explore translational research. As a mentor- it is very important to position them well and see them grow- building up a stronger CV for themselves.
Each year- you try to help them differently. Every student is different- so you need to use a different approach with every individual. So that has been a very enriching process for me.”
Q: How do you feel about mentoring the next generation of scientists?
Dr Adrian Teo: "It has been a wonderful and humbling experience for me to have the opportunity to work with budding scientists/ researchers like Larry.
It is gratifying to see the transformation of an individual- from an unpolished stone with potential and deep interests in science- to a gem who exudes scientific expertise and professionalism- and who represents our laboratory’s philosophy and values.”