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Scientists honoured.

753 words
26 September 2003
Straits Times
(c) 2003 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

PRIZE: National Science and Technology Medal

WINNER: Professor Su Guaning, president of Nanyang Technological University, for his 'distinguished and sustained strategic contributions to science and technology in Singapore'.

PROFESSOR Su could not attend the award ceremony as he is in Beijing and Shanghai discussing collaborations with top Chinese universities there.

But he said via e-mail that he was honoured and humbled to get the medal, and credited his colleagues for what he said was a group effort that resulted in his achievements.

He wrote: 'What I am most proud of is the group of people we have been able to build up,who are fearless in exploring new realms of knowledge and are able to achieve world levels of excellence despite our small size and limited resources.

'It shows that Singaporeans can hold our own against any others.'

PRIZE: National Science Award

WINNERS: Professor Harald Niederreiter, Associate Professor Ling San and Associate Professor Xing Chaoping, of National University of Singapore's mathematics department.

THE team created mathematical tools that not only broke ground in basic research, but also has uses in the telecommunications and IT industries.

Methods they developed in areas such as algebra and number theory in coding can help to reduce the background noise of say, radio transmissions or satellite communications, said Professor Niederreiter.

The spacecraft Galileo, for example, had enormous problems transmitting data in a clear, unpolluted form back to Earth, he added.

'We've developed the mathematical procedures to overcome them.'

Their work also holds the potential of creating better ways of protecting sensitive data from hackers.

PRIZE: National Technology Award

WINNERS: Professor Tay Joo Hwa, Associate Professor Stephen Tay, Assistant Professor Show Kuan Yeow and Assistant Professor Liu Yu, of Nanyang Technological University's school of civil and environmental engineering.

'WE WANTED to find some ways of using science and technology to help solve Singapore's water problems,' said Professor Stephen Tay.

And they did this with a little help from waste-guzzling bacteria.

They developed beads containing bacteria to treat different types of waste water effectively.

Their technology has been used in a chemical waste water treatment plant in Jurong Island, as well as smaller pilot systems that treat waste water from food processing industries.

PRIZE: Young Scientist Award

WINNER: Dr Adrian Cheok, of National University of Singapore's electrical and computer engineering department.

DR ADRIAN Cheok and his NUS colleagues came up with a way to combine virtual reality with the real world in a medium called mixed reality.

Using head-mounted displays, mixed reality provides overlays of computer graphics, text, video and so on over the real world view.

So, for example, it would allow people in different parts of an office - or even the world - to see and hear each other as if they were in the same room.

It has military, sports and education applications among others, and can be used in computer gaming.

'This is an area where art and science come together as well,' said Dr Cheok, whose work has been displayed in international museums, including Austria's Museum of the Future.

His work has attracted close to $4 million in funding in the last three years.

PRIZE: Young Scientist Award

WINNER: Dr Desmond Lim, currently on no-pay leave from his job at DSO National Laboratories.

HIS groundbreaking work involves providing faster and cheaper communications technology through optical chips that process light signals, rather than conventional electronic signals, in telecommunications equipment.

Dr Lim, who dreams of building an ecosystem infrastructure here to enable this technology to work, has already founded two companies based on his research.

The Defence Ministry's chief defence scientist, Professor Lui Pao Chuen, said: 'What better way to train future leaders than by letting them get their feet wet in the real world.

'We look forward to Desmond returning once he has established his companies.'

PRIZE: Young Scientist Award

WINNER: Dr Low Boon Chuan, of National University of Singapore's department of biological sciences.

DR LOW'S research helps in identifying parts of proteins, called domains, that play an important role in controlling human cells.

Domains can, for example, cause a cell to change shape or move, and play a part in cell division, growth and death, and in how tissues form and organs develop.

By understanding how cells respond to environmental cues, scientists can learn better how to control cells, by, say, stopping them from dividing if they are cancerous, or getting them to congregate at a wound site to promote healing.

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