A*Star Scientist And National Athlete - Lance Tan Wei Sheng

Lance Tan from A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) has both brains and brawn. He was a former Singapore Track and Field athlete and cyclist, representing our country in the South East Asian (SEA) games.

Find out how Lance juggles his passion and work, and how his experiences have shaped his character and outlook on life. 

1. Tell us what you do at A*STAR.

I’m a Senior Specialist at A*STAR’s IMRE, Structural Materials Department. Since joining the organisation in 2012, I was involved in numerous projects, ranging from electroplating, lithography to nanostructures. My primary tasks are currently in infection prevention through technology, focusing on UVC LED germicidal irradiation and disinfection systems. 

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

My interest lies in material and product engineering, specialising in fluid dynamics. But as you can tell from above, my work spreads over a wide range - which is a good thing as I am learning new knowledge each day, adapting and solving different problems along the way. My work requires critical thinking and encourages innovative solutions. It is also vital that my work has a real-world impact, providing practical solutions and commercial products.

2. We hear that you were a SEA Games medalist. How has this experience influenced your life and shaped your career?

Being a successful sportsman requires a high degree of discipline, time management and the ability to adapt to the tasks at hand. It shaped my personality over the years and taught me life skills, including handling success, and managing and bouncing back from defeats. To that end, sports has also taught me that there are no short cuts to success. One must work hard and work smart.

Lance Tan at the 2017 SEA Games. Photo by Sports SG.

In the world of competitive sports, athletes, coaches, and teams always strive to be better, faster, smarter and stronger. It involves using the best equipment, executing effective strategies, and extensive preparations to get ahead of the competition.

Similarly, in research, I look at how we can improve a specific product or feature. I focus on tangible areas, which the team can research on and eventually discover, create or redefine a particular product field or understanding.

3. What are your most outstanding achievements?

As a research engineer, I am excited to have filed a few patents over the past years, and one of the patents was filed in seven countries. I take particular pride in that, as I was the lead inventor who designed a novel flow cell to aid more efficient UV disinfection. This patent has also been incorporated into a commercial product, cementing its practicality and economically-viable status.

Lance received the T-Up Excellence Award from Dr Tan See Leng, Second Minister of Trade and Industry at  A*STAR @ SWITCH 2020.

In terms of sporting achievements, I do not think I’ll classify a singular “greatest achievement” in my palmares. However, I am proud of some of the accolades, including representing Singapore and achieving my personal best at our home SEA Games in 2015 in the Decathlon – a track and field event with ten different disciplines. 

I am also elated for winning the Thailand Queen’s Cup time trial in 2017 – this victory was lovely, not because it was the most prestigious competition. The victory came three months after a disappointing SEA Games competition, where I finished 4th in two cycling events and crashing out in the latter. I proved to myself that I could bounce back despite the odds and setbacks.

Lance Tan winning 2017 Thailand Queen's Cup.

4. What are your favourite pastimes outside of work (besides track and cycling of course)?

My hobbies include photo and videography, hiking and watching documentaries. The documentaries range from history, biographies, science and technology.

5. What advice would you have for younger people on how you managed to juggle your studies and your sports training?

First and foremost, if you want to achieve good results, you have to want to do what you’re doing – it should bring joy and satisfaction. Sports has always been more of a lifestyle than a chore for me. It has also taught me the values of sportsmanship, humility, resilience, consistency and adaptability. 

You will undoubtedly face challenges along the way, but you should recognise that each hurdle is a stepping stone to greater adventures and success. Everyone’s struggle is unique, and one’s character, attitude and aptitude will determine the eventual outcome. Strive for the best you can be, with whatever resources you have – the path ahead is yours to make.

Too often, we underestimate the importance of the decisions we make today – it may seem like only a minute change in trajectory now. Still, today's choices will have a significant impact further down the road. Continue to seek new knowledge and never stop striving to self-improve in all aspects of your life.

Lance Tan at 2015 SEA Games.

The Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) is an institute of talented researchers equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to conduct world-class materials science research to improve lives and capture economic value for Singapore. It develops core competence and interdisciplinary teams in critical technology areas, enables fundamental new discoveries and develops advanced materials that lead to new commercial products. Connect with IMRE on LinkedIn here.