Q: Share something about yourself.
Hi, I am Justin and I took my bachelor degree in National University of Singapore (NUS), Material Science and Engineering (MSE). Upon graduation, I went on to take up a PhD degree, also in NUS-MSE, which I have completed in November 2020. Currently, I am a post-doctoral research fellow in NUS working primarily on polymeric materials. It was during my time as an undergraduate that I have the chance to work with A*STAR's Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) on my Final Year Project (FYP).
Q: Tell us about what you do at IHPC?
During my stint in IHPC, I had the opportunity to work under Dr Mehdi Jafary-Zadeh, who is an amazing mentor. He spent time to guide me patiently on a topic that I have little knowledge and zero experience with. More importantly, he showed a strong passion in Science, which he vividly expressed in our discussions and conversations. I remembered our project was on amorphous metals, also known as metallic glasses, which is one of the topic at the frontier in metallurgy research. Amorphous metals behave differently from the typical metals that we see in our daily lives, and some of the extraordinary properties could very possibly be exploited commercially. One key advantage of using computational techniques (molecular dynamics) to study such materials is the ability to characterize them at an atomic-level, which cannot be easily achieved through experimental techniques such as microscopy.
Q: What/Who is your inspiration in life?
The range of people that inspired me is too wide to be discussed in specific. They include mentors/supervisor in my academic career, friends, comrades in National Service, unacquainted accomplished individuals (academic/non-academic). Some in a small way while some are more significant. Basically, everyone I met and everything I see influences me a little.
(From the left): Lunch celebration with Dr Mehdi Jafary-Zadeh and Dr Souvik Chakraborty upon successful publication of a research paper
Q: Describe a typical work week.
There is no typical work week for me. "Sometimes I would be waiting for the computational results to be out, sometimes I have to analyse the results for the entire week, sometimes I would be preparing to present the research that I have achieved". So it’s pretty dynamic for me, and I guess it's the same for many researchers as well.
Q: How has this internship benefits you?
Even though I move on to experimental research subsequently, the FYP tour in IHPC has served me well in my PhD (and most likely beyond). Not many experimentalists understand the capabilities of scientific simulations well, as they do not have such experiences. So, at times when I faced some experimental phenomenon/behaviour that I cannot explain through experimental characterization, computational techniques always would come to my mind. And of course, Dr Mehdi (and IHPC) has become part of my network in scientific research.
In fact, there was once I approached Dr Mehdi for simulation help on polymeric materials during my PhD studies. He enthusiastically introduced Dr Souvik Chakraborty (also from IHPC) to me, based on his strong expertise in the area of polymeric materials. And finally, we went on to publish a paper# together and went for a lunch celebration (picture above). Amazingly, this happened 4 years after my FYP stint in IHPC.