Natalie Ngoh

Natalie Ngoh (NJC)
Q: Share something about yourself.

Hello, I am Natalie Ngoh. I graduated from National Junior College (NJC) in 2020 and am about to embark on a Bachelor’s Degree in Materials Science and Engineering at Imperial College London from October 2021. I have always gravitated towards the sciences and especially enjoyed doing research. Hence I decided to take up Higher 3 (H3) Research as an A-Level subject in JC1, which led to my attachment at A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) from June to December 2019. 

I went into the attachment with an open mind and found it a very enriching experience overall. I definitely felt intimidated by the technical jargon and software when I first started, but after some time I found fulfilment in my 
work. In fact, I did a second attachment from January to June 2021 to gain a clearer understanding of the work environment and career prospects of being a researcher at A*STAR. 

Q: Tell us about what you do at IHPC?

At IHPC,I used the Lumerical Finite-Difference Time-Domain (FDTD) method to model electromagnetic interactions between dielectric gratings and the visible light range. Getting myself familiarised with the software was a challenge, but I am thankful that my mentor, Dr Khoo Eng Huat, Senior Scientist from Electronics and Photonics Department, guided me through the process. Albeit frustrating at first, I later realised that there was no better way to fully understand the workings of every parameter through testing and comparing results. 

My project also entailed a touch of creativity where I was aiming for a novel grating design that could effectively at control light intensity for agri-tech farms. One thing about software modelling is that there are no fabrication restrictions so I was free to use my imagination to the fullest. By the end of the attachment, I produced a polycarbonate double-axis grating that could reduce light intensity step-wise up to 10%. Taken at face value, 10% seemed relatively insignificant, but polycarbonate (the material often used for spectacle lenses) is known for extremely high transmittance, and the fact that the 10% drop in intensity was purely due to modifications to the surface structure was notably intriguing to me. 

Q: What/Who is your inspiration in life?

I am inspired by opportunities to learn, and this is how I cope with challenges and deal with failure. One memorable moment was facing my public speaking fear and conducting an English class to migrant workers. I managed to speak to a few of them and learnt about their jobs, family and ambitions. Even though I was there to teach the migrant workers, I ended the session feeling they had given me much more knowledge than what I could have given them. 

Being inspired by learning opportunities has spurred me to challenge myself further in my CCA - Track and Field, where I  transferred from sprints to jumps. My discouraged self eventually discovered that jumps are a highly technical event with a steep learning curve, leading to a sense of incompetency. I knew I had much to catch up on compared to my more experienced competitors, but I started to see this challenge as a chance to improve myself. Instead of comparing myself to them, I celebrated the little improvements and new skills acquired. This mindset helped me get through the toughest training sessions and competitions until I finally found my confidence in jumps. 

IHPC Intern - Natalie
Immersed with birdwatching at a nature reserve, Taiwan

Q: Describe a typical work week.

Usually, the bulk of my work week involved running FDTD simulations on my laptop. As each simulation could take a long time to run, I would spend a good amount of time planning and checking the simulation settings before each run. The simulations are parameter sweeps of my grating design which allow me to study the effects of each parameter on the transmittance and reflectance of the grating. In addition, I would spend time doing literature reviews on subwavelength gratings, polarisers, polycarbonate thin films or crop propagation under artificial light while waiting for the simulation results. Afterwhich I would compile the results into presentation slides to share with my mentor and fellow interns during our weekly meetings.

I always look forward to spending time with my fellow interns during our lunch break (pre COVID-19) and our friendship has grown closer throughout our attachment. Although I tried to establish a weekly routine, every week presents new challenges and opportunities and kept things afresh and exciting.  

Q: How has this internship benefits you?

Through my internships at IHPC, I have gained a more thorough understanding of the nature of research. The process of research is a long and rigorous journey, requiring patience and dedication. However, seeing the direct impact of research on improving the lives and well-being of people is very fulfilling. This internship showed me the authentic experience of a typical life as a researcher, and it would impact me in making decisions about my further education and career. 

Furthermore, analysing large amounts of data and sharing it with an audience has honed my analytic and presentation skills. It is advantageous in the fast-paced data-rich environment we live in now. Last but not least, the internship has provided me with an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals. It was a unique and interesting experience learning from them and their work, and I am truly grateful for their support.