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BEFORE 10 PM - Dedicated to her children.

By WENDY TAN.
457 words
2 September 1999
Straits Times
English
(c) 1999 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

MADAM Li Peng seems like the perfect mother.

Every evening, the petite 34-year-old sets aside time to play the piano and read to her children, a son aged five and daughter aged two.

Only after they go to bed at about 10 pm does she then settle down to her work, which includes reading up other researchers' work, writing papers and formulating ideas for her students.

But China-born Dr Li, the cell biologist who has won this year's Young Scientist Award for her work on cell death, is as dedicated a scientist as she is a mother.

She is the first woman to have won this award since it was first given out by the National Academy of Science in 1997.

A principal investigator at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, she spent two years working on cell death.

She said: "Cell death is crucial during human development because it eliminates excessive cells. For example, for hands to form during a baby's development, some cells must die. It's like a sculpting process."

Relating how cell death, or the lack of it, could cause cancer, she said: "Ultra-violet light damages the DNA in the cells and they are supposed to die. If they don't, the cells mutate and can become cancerous."

Also winning the Young Scientist Award is Dr Chan Heng Huat.

He is from the National University of Singapore's department of mathematics, and he won for his work on the Number Theory, which he did together with Professor Bruce C. Brent from the University of Illinois in the United States.

Dr Li and Dr Chan will receive $10,000 cash, a trophy and a certificate of commendation.

Apart from the Young Scientist Award, there are also the National Science and National Technology awards, which are given out to recognise outstanding research scientists and engineers. Winners of these other awards will receive $15,000 cash, a crystal trophy and a citation certificate.

Since 1992, the National Science and Technology Board has also been giving out the National Science and Technology Medal to individuals who have made distinguished contributions in the promotion and management of R&D.

This year's medal goes to Professor Leo Tan, dean and director of the School of Science and National Institute of Education at Nanyang Technological University. Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan will present the National Science and Technology awards tonight.

FIRST WOMAN TO WIN

MADAM Li Peng, a principal investigator at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, is the first woman to have won the award since it was first given out in 1997.

(c) 1999 Singapore Press Holdings Limited.

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