Our Highly Cited Researchers of 2019

We speak with ten A*STAR researchers who were recognised as among the world’s most influential scientific minds in 2019.

Dr Subhra K. Biswas, A*STAR’S Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN)

Dr Subhra K Biswas

"My research at A*STAR focuses on a class of cells that forms the first line of defence of our immune system, helps in wound healing and other key physiological activities. Any defects in these cells can contribute to diseases such as uncontrolled infection, cancer or obesity/diabetes. Through my work, I identify the mechanisms that drive these defects so as to find ways to 're-program’ these cells to treat the diseases.

Immunology is one of the most intriguing areas of research. Importantly, it can help to screen the right patients who are amenable to disruptive immunotherapy-based treatments, thereby benefiting the community and economy such as by saving healthcare costs and attracting pharma investment.

Through our close collaborations with clinical partners, SIgN has grown into one of the few internationally-recognised centres of human immunology, which contributes significantly to the understanding of human immune system in infection, ontogeny and cancer immunology.

I belong to the third generation of scientists in my family. The recognition gives me encouragement to do even better, and more importantly inspires my team and students to realise the fun and satisfaction of science as a career.

For leisure, I catch-up on music (classical to opera to contemporary) and anything related to art or philosophy.”

Prof Nicholas Barker, A*STAR’s Institute of Medical Biology (IMB)

Prof Nicholas Barker, A*STAR’s Institute of Medical Biology (IMB)

“My team focuses on the study of adult stem cells that are responsible for maintaining and repairing the lining of our gastrointestinal tract, and their contributions to cancer initiation and progression.

We discovered that mutated cells could become a source of intestinal cancers, including stomach cancer which is common in Asia. These insights into tissue maintenance, repair and cancer have driven huge advances in our understanding of adult stem cell biology and will help to develop more effective regenerative medicine and cancer therapies in the future.

It is always nice to see our hard work being recognised and it reinforces the fundamental importance of our research work here in Singapore. The recognition further encourages us to continue our cutting-edge work in stem cell biology and cancer research towards clinical breakthroughs, bringing positive impact on public health.

My leisure time is spent with my two very active boys, as well as playing competitive squash, swimming and travelling.”

Dr Michael Meaney, A*STAR's Singapore institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS)

Dr Michael Meaney, A*STAR's Singapore institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS)

“Our Singapore research team was the first in the world to study fetal brain development in normally developing newborn children using imaging technologies.

I am inspired to translate these findings into programmes for mothers and children, that will enhance the quality of brain function, mental health and well-being across the population.

Singapore’s future is dependent upon a knowledge-based economy that relies on the ‘brain health’ of the population.

The challenge is to create conditions that optimise brain development and function of our youth. Our science suggests that this process would begin with the well-being of the mother. The most compelling honour for a researcher is the recognition by fellow scientists, and I hasten to note that this honour is shared across a team, including a wonderful group of young scientists at SICS.”

Dr Seh Zhi Wei, A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering

Dr Seh Zhi Wei

“My work in A*STAR focuses on developing the next-generation magnesium- and aluminum-ion batteries, which can store two to three times more energy than the lithium-ion batteries today. These batteries, using Earth-abundant elements, are expected to be longer-lasting, cheaper and safer to handle.

In the long run, I hope to increase global consumption of renewable energy with the use of advanced battery systems. These battery systems are able to store intermittent renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, to ensure continuous supply of electrical power. This will enable us to decarbonise our energy landscape and move towards a more sustainable future.

I’m grateful to A*STAR for its scholarship support throughout my undergraduate to postdoctoral studies. I believe that the future of science is collaborative, and hope that this recognition will bring about more working opportunities with people of different disciplines to gain new ideas and perspectives.

I will continue to innovate and challenge research norms to bring about amazing scientific breakthroughs.”

Dr Florent Ginhoux, A*STAR's Singapore immunology Network (SIgN)

Dr Florent Ginhoux

“My work at A*STAR focuses on immunology, particularly on the roles of dendritic cells (DCs) and macrophages in immunity. A better understanding of these cells can contribute to potential intervention strategies to design better vaccines and more effective treatment for autoimmune diseases.

The recognition as a highly-cited researcher since 2016, gives me great satisfaction because it is recognition for the hard work my lab has done. It is a measure of success for basic research, which is important for me and my team - to know that we are doing impactful and meaningful work.

I have the opportunity at A*STAR to partner with academic institutions such as NUS, NTU and SingHealth and industry players such as Galderma and Merck MSD, which helps to widen my exposure to the wider scientific community and potentially translate my research into clinical use.

My other passions outside of work involves spending time with my family, my kids, travelling and jogging.”

Dr Loh Xian Jun, A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE)

Dr Loh Xian Jun

“As human ages, vitreous, a gel-like substance in our eyes, becomes less effective leading to potential retinal detachment. In such cases, patients undergo a surgery to replace the vitreous. However, the current replacement material may result in several side effects including poor vision and additional surgeries to remove these substitutes.

My work in A*STAR focuses on the development of a new biodegradable thermogel, which will transform such retinal detachment surgeries. This thermogel has similar characteristics to our eyes’ natural vitreous. It could serve as a long-term substitute to vitreous, and helps to improve post-surgery comfort and reduces future complications for patients.

I am honoured to be accorded this accolade for the cross-field citation of my work. I believe that true impact is achieved by bringing researchers from multiple disciplines to work together. I am glad that my work found applications not only in business, in which I started a A*STAR’s spin-off company called Vitreogel Innovations, but also in healthcare. Teamwork is also critical. The credit goes to my team members who have brought about this meaningful research.

I’m looking forward to the next challenge and championing new areas including sustainability, waste plastics problem and new polymers.”

Dr Liu Zhuangjian, A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC)

Dr Liu Zhuangjian

“I am honoured to be recognised as a highly cited researcher, and it would not be possible without the team’s effort.

Using numerical simulations in our research on materials and micro-structure systems, we developed new approaches to design flexible electronics devices which have excellent mechanical flexibility and make them attractive as wearable devices.

We are collaborating with public hospitals and local universities to produce stretchable devices for health monitoring. This next-generation flexible and wearable electronics also offer a wide variety of applications ranging from energy harvesting devices to smart prosthetics and human–machine interfaces.

Together with my colleagues at A*STAR and beyond, we combine mechanics with innovative engineering to design devices with more functional capabilities to improve lives.

Outside work, I spend quality time with my family and friends, swim and read.”

Prof Laurent Rénia, A*STAR’s Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN)

Prof Laurent Rénia

“In my research career, I am often motivated by the particular and unique feeling of discovering something new.

I love the beauty of science, and am inspired by the mystery of nature.

Having been at SIgN for 12 years, my team and I constantly strive to decipher how the human body fight infectious diseases with the aim to save lives.

Besides being a researcher at heart, I also make it a point to impart knowledge to the next generation of science enthusiasts, holding adjunct professor positions at the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, and University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In my spare time, I enjoy running, traveling, literature and cinema.”

Prof Zhang Yong Wei, A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC)

Prof Zhang Yong Wei

"I am truly humbled and motivated to receive this recognition as a highly-cited researcher for the second consecutive year.

The work I do at A*STAR is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary in nature, and aims to reveal new insights and understandings across fields such as materials, mechanics, physics, chemistry and biology.

A*STAR provides me the opportunity to partner with local and international ecosystem players such as NUS, Nanjing University, China, Northwestern University and Rice University, USA, and my colleagues from other A*STAR research institutes, including IMRE and SIMTech.

My primary projects focus on exploring 2D materials for energy and electronics applications, improving current additive manufacturing processes, and leveraging machine learning to guide design of high entropy alloys.

My research serves as stepping stones for mankind to advance science and develop new technologies, and I derive great satisfaction from addressing real-world problems such as the continuation of Moore’s law, the need for new materials, and the need for green energy."

Dr Zhang Lili, A*STAR’s Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences (ICES)

Dr Shao Huilin

“My cross-field research work at A*STAR ranges from energy storage, to biomass utilisation and carbon/solid waste upcycling.

The research I do plays a part in building a cleaner and healthier planet.

I worked with local startup A&T Inno via A*STAR’s T-Up programme to recycle waste from incinerated tyres into ‘carbon black’, which has been tested by a major Japanese car manufacturer and has the potential to produce new tyres.

The recognition as a highly-cited researcher gives me great job satisfaction and motivation to continue striving for research outcomes that benefits our society and the economy.

Outside of work, besides yoga and gardening, I also dedicate my time at a non-profit organisation that helps protect the environment and animals.”