Scholars of A*STAR: Dr Tan Yaw Sing, BII

The A*STAR Graduate Academy provides scholarships and fellowships to enable young aspiring scientific talent to pursue their passion in science, and prepare them for a rewarding career in R&D.

Meet our scholars and find out how an A*STAR scholarship has helped them along their research and development journey.

Dr Tan Yaw Sing, Senior Research Scientist, A*STAR’s Bioinformatics Institute (BII)

Scholars of A*STAR: Tan Yaw Sing

Q: What inspired you to pursue this field of research?

A: I studied chemistry in university, and my current research focuses on the computational modelling and design of drugs to treat cancer.

I have my excellent chemistry teachers in secondary school and junior college to thank for nurturing my interest in chemistry. I was intrigued by how the chemical structure of a molecule can drive its function.

Scholars of A*STAR: Tan Yaw Sing

Later on, I developed an interest in the field that became the focus of my present research in the unlikeliest of places - the military. I was a medic during my national service days, and part of my duties involved assisting the medical officer in patients’ history taking and the prescription of medications. I realised that medications used to treat the same illnesses often contain chemicals with similar functional groups. Thus, I became curious about how drug actions are determined by chemical structure.

Scholars of A*STAR: Tan Yaw Sing

To pursue my interest, I did a medicinal chemistry project during my undergraduate studies. It involved the synthesis of a library of molecules and testing them for biological activity. However, there was a lack of computational models to predict how these molecules could bind to the target protein, resulting in poor activities. I realised the importance of computational modelling in mitigating the time and cost involved in drug development and decided to shift my workspace from the bench to the computer for my PhD.

Scholars of A*STAR: Tan Yaw Sing

Dr Tan Yaw Sing giving a science outreach talk at Singapore Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF) 2017

Q: What does the A*STAR scholarship mean to you?

A: I am grateful to A*STAR for allowing me to pursue my PhD overseas at a prestigious university. There, I had the privilege of sitting in the same meeting room with luminary scientists, one of whom was even knighted by the Queen for his scientific contributions, to discuss strategies on drug discovery projects.

The scholarship also provided me with the opportunity to attend international conferences. I had the chance to present my research to an international audience, establish contacts with like-minded researchers and broaden my horizons.

Q: If you could invent something for the betterment of the world, what would it be?

A: A panacea for all human diseases. Ok, maybe just cancer. I am allowed to dream, aren't I?

Scholars of A*STAR: Tan Yaw Sing

Dr Tan Yaw Sing with Intern at the Singapore Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF)

Q: What do you have to say to budding scientists?

A: Pursue a PhD if you are passionate about science and research. Passion is the only thing that will sustain and motivate you during your PhD journey. Choose a research group based on your research interests and work style compatibility, and not just because of the school or a famous professor.

Q: Finally, what are your favourite pastimes outside of work?

A: Outside of work, I enjoy photography and volunteering. I volunteer with the Chinese Development Assistance Council regularly, helping with event photography, as well as tutoring and mentoring of upper primary school students from low-income families.

Scholars of A*STAR: Tan Yaw Sing

The Bioinformatics Institute (BII) is dedicated to primarily computational biology/bioinformatics driven life science research aimed at the discovery of biomolecular mechanisms guiding biological phenomena. The final goals are scientific advancement as well as the economic and social impact for Singapore.

Keen to pursue a career in STEM? Start your journey with an A*STAR scholarship today!