Clare Xie Yijia

Tell us about what you do at IHPC?

As a research engineer in the Materials Science and Chemistry Department at A*STAR's IHPC, I am part of the team developing an automated workflow for the high-throughput screening of heterogeneous catalysts under the Accelerated Catalyst Development Platform (ACDP). Passionate about the mission for a sustainable future, I aspire to use automation and programming to discover greener catalysts for industrial processes. Currently, I am working on screening better catalysts for the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide to renewable fuels and chemical feedstocks. 

What are your motivations for getting into this field of research?

As a chemist with an engineer's heart, I am passionate about fundamental research with practical applications. Through my academic training and research internships, I discovered my passion for materials research, where I am most excited to work at the nexus of chemistry, physics, and material science to solve real-world problems. Driven by my expanding interests in automation and programming, I aspire to develop accurate theoretical models and efficient simulation methods to accelerate materials research and discovery. 

What does being a woman in science today mean to you?

Being a woman in science today is very exciting, empowering, and purposeful for me—I am very grateful for the opportunities I have been given to work in the research areas I am passionate about. I feel challenged by my work and excited about the fascinating problems I get to tackle. I also feel a strong sense of responsibility and motivation to support my fellow female colleagues and improve diversity & inclusivity in science. 

Women are still vastly underrepresented across scientific fields. I feel incredibly fortunate to have many extraordinary female scientists as mentors and role models. Hence, encouraging and supporting women in science is a cause close to my heart, and I derive a sense of purpose from my volunteering work in science outreach and communication. I hope more scientists could actively engage in mentoring and community outreach. Together, we can help drive progress in equality & accessibility for STEM education and improve diversity in science.

How do you handle stress and pressure?

I personally find that a moderate amount of pressure helps me stay focused, motivated, and productive. When there are multiple assignments or upcoming deadlines, I manage stress by being organised, prioritising the important tasks, and sticking to a plan. If I ever feel the stress becomes overwhelming, I would go for a jog and then get a good night's sleep. Exercise and ample sleep always allow me to clear my head and resume the task with a fresh slate. 

What is your most outstanding achievement(s) to date?

I am still at a very early stage of my science career, so I think I have yet to make a truly outstanding scientific achievement. Nevertheless, I always strive to do my best in every stage of my education and career. As of now, I am proud to have graduated from Imperial College London as the top BSc Chemistry student in my cohort and forged lasting friendships in college. I am beyond excited to further explore my passion for computational materials research during my PhD studies. In the years to come, I look forward to contributing to research discovery and bringing value to society. 

Share something about yourself – favourite pastimes outside of work.

Swimming and running are some of my favorite activities at the end of a workday. Over the weekend, I love trying out new recipes and cooking with friends and family.   

How does some of your research work create impact to industry or societal benefits, or help companies improve products / process / services?

At IHPC, I am working to leverage atomic-scale modelling with data science to accelerate computational catalysis screening and development. The automated workflow I am currently working on with my supervisor and colleagues could have the potential to considerably shorten the discovery and development timescale for industrial catalysts.

Clare Xie, cooking recipes
Photo credit: Clare's favourite pastime - brushing up her cooking skills

What advice would you have for young people, especially women who aspire to be a leader in their field(s)?

In your science journey, try to challenge yourself with something outside your comfort zone, such as embarking on a research project in an exciting yet unfamiliar area or picking up some new research skills. These experiences will build confidence in yourself and broaden your perspectives and skillsets. Furthermore, besides passion, persistence and grit are also crucial in pursuing research excellence. So persevere when the going gets tough, don't give up easily!

IHPC is a great place to work towards your academic goals and career aspirations. As an aspiring young scientist, I found that IHPC provides me with a stimulating work environment and challenging problems to tackle. IHPC also has a diverse and collaborative community where colleagues are friendly and generous in giving career guidance and advice. There are also many seminars and training opportunities for skills upgrades and keeping abreast of the exciting scientific developments in Singapore and abroad.