Passionate about Sleep

Although he now eats, sleeps and breathes sleep research, Derric Eng used to have lofty ambitions of working in advertising. A second-time recipient of the Christian Guilleminault Young Investigator Award which is presented to encourage new investigators in the field of sleep, the 35-year-old Senior Research Coordinator with SICS shares his journey into sleep medicine with us.

Derric Eng

You're currently pursuing a PhD with the thesis "The role of chronotype on sleep and downstream sequelae in children", but your interest wasn't always in sleep. What did you study previously? 
I did a Diploma in Mass Communication from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, a BA in Psychology from the Nanyang Technological University, and a MSc(Med) in Sleep Medicine from the University of Sydney.

What inspired you to pursue sleep medicine/research after studying mass communication and psychology? 
After studying mass communication in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, I was actually more interested in marketing and advertising. I entered university with the intention of focusing my studies on consumer psychology and subsequently pursuing a career in advertising. However, the curriculum exposed me to the broad range of sub-fields within psychology, including health psychology. It was then that I first started developing an interest in sleep research, as I found it fascinating how sleep impacts our lives so much despite it being a stage when our bodies and minds are at rest.

What were your career aspirations when you were young and how have they changed through the years and why?
I envisioned myself working in the creative industry or doing something sports-related, and never thought I would wind up in research. In fact, I found research daunting as it is such a demanding field, so it is definitely surprising to find myself where I am now. I think my perception started to change when I realised how rewarding it is to be able to bring about far-reaching, positive impacts on people’s health and wellness.

How has your career progressed since joining SICS seven years ago? 
I am very fortunate to have received many opportunities to pursue my research interests at SICS and publish my findings in journals and conferences. I am also grateful to my supervisors for not only accommodating but supporting my studies while I work concurrently.

You are a member of SICS Principal Investigator Dr Cai Shirong’s team. How has her mentorship and supervision impacted your journey here? 
Dr Cai’s mentorship has definitely played an instrumental role in ensuring my growth as a researcher here. The work accomplished by our team would not have been possible without her nurturing supervision and I am confident that we will continue achieving progress under her tutelage.

Can you share more about the A*STAR Sponsorship Award you received?
It is a scholarship awarded by the Leadership & Organisation Development (L&OD) group in A*STAR. As part of the sponsorship, I am allocated a lump sum covering the costs of my [PhD] studies which I aim to complete in 2026, and also given the opportunities to work with the excellent staff and resources at SICS.

What are your professional aspirations after you achieve your PhD? 
I hope to continue my career in research with the aim of informing public policies on the importance of sleep for well-being, functioning and health. Ideally, I would also like to formulate an app/device that provides suitable interventions for poor sleep while also promoting good sleep hygiene.


Sleep in Pregnancy and Maternal Hyperglycemia: a Narrative Review.
Curr Diab Rep. 2019 Nov 27;19(12):150.doi: 10.1007/s11892-019-1259-6.

The association between chronotype and sleep problems in preschool children.
Sleep Med. 2017 Feb;30:240-244.doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2016.11.015.Epub 2016 Dec 5.

A behavioural study comparing the effects of 2D & 3D on holistic and featural face processing.
Vision Res. 2017 Sep;138:78-85.doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2017.06.004.Epub 2017 Aug 4.