wa Chong Institution (HCI) is Singapore's premier independent school that attracts the top 3% of each national cohort. As a leading Integrated Programme (IP) school, Hwa Chong is at the forefront of educational change and innovation. Our mission is to develop leaders in research, industry and government; leaders who make a difference in the world. The institution is thus in a strong position to chart new directions and try out fresh approaches to develop studentsí passion in science and research.
In its fifty-nine years of history, the School has never been held outside of Europe. Hence for the first Les Houches summer outside Europe, Singapore is honoured to have been chosen as the hosting site. This session is the 91st session of Les Houches summer School's long history. With its excellent geographical position, our sunny island was chosen for its centrality in Asia. Other reasons that motivated this decision include the government's large investment and focus on higher education as well as research in science and technology. Also supporting this decision is the fact that there has been a long history of collaboration between Singapore and France (in particular between the Centre for Quantum Technologies and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique).
Focus on Science Research
A distinguishing characteristic of HCI is its specialised Science and Mathematics curriculum that provides students with unique learning experiences in scientific and technological environments. With the implementation of IP in 2004, much of the academic understanding for students is already acquired through research-based activities. In fact, the school provides ample opportunity for independent research, experimentation, and interaction with leading researchers from the scientific community through our well-established Science and Mathematics Talent Programme (SMTP) and Centre for Talent Development (CenTaD).
In order to remain relevant to emerging technologies and new innovations, Hwa Chong has fostered strong connections in a number of ways with industries in medicine, life sciences and pharmaceuticals, infotech & communications, as well as electronics & engineering. Our extensive collaborations with renowned organisations include A*STAR's Research Institutes, BASF (South-East Asia), National University Hospital, DSO National Laboratories as well as several overseas specialised research centres e.g. in Dundee University. These collaborations have been very useful and provided the rich learning experience for many of our young researchers.
Science Research Centre
The school is also fortunate to have a state-of-the-art Science Research Centre (SRC). The SRC offers a highly enriched environment that caters to students with specific talent in mathematics and science. This multi-million-dollar centre houses many of the resources and facilities that support research and innovation. It aims to be a hub for the exchange of scientific ideas and an incubator for innovation and discoveries amongst staff and students.
Perspectives From Our Students
Centre-staged to all that we do is always our students. These brilliant young minds have continued to out-perform themselves and have demonstrated a strong will to learn and develop themselves to their fullest potential.
Here is excerpt written by a JC 2 student leader, Edmund Lee Jun Yi, on his perspectives and that of his schoolmates about the research experiences and journey.
A Wonderful Journey
Every research project tells a tale. From the initial cluelessness and frustration to the unexpected "aha!" moment and the joy of sharing one's findings, students embarking on research projects have unique experiences like no other.
As the saying goes, the first step is always the hardest. Although some have a clear idea of their topic of interest even before signing up for research programmes, others spend much time reading up and discussing with their mentors to narrow down and refine their research topic. For some, the inspiration arises from their curiosity. "We wanted to gain a deeper insight into the mathematical principles underlying Google's PageRank algorithm, and from there to find out how the search engine could work even better," says Wu Liukun, whose group investigated the mathematical principle behind Google's search engine. For others, it is the desire to solve real life problems. Wu Zihao, whose project revolves around developing a hypoallergen molecule that may present a cure for allergy, decided to do research in allergy because his good friend is a victim of allergy." My good friend develops rashes whenever there is pollen. It's very uncomfortable and she has to apply cream to ease the rash. However, the cream only provides temporary relief," he describes. "It will be great to be able to solve the problem of allergy once and for all."
More often than not, the process of research is not smooth sailing but is full of challenges. Liukun's group met difficulties when trying to seeking ways to enhance Google's PageRank algorithm. "The Google's Pagerank algorithm is already highly sophisticated and optimized in terms of efficiency, so it is difficult to suggest improvements," explains Liukun. It was after much discussion that the group found their approach. "We examined at the algorithm from different perspectives and found assumptions that may not hold true. By taking into account what was left out in the original algorithm, we can make search results even better."
Time management is also an issue. "During the course of my research, I faced challenges juggling my school work and conducting intensive research experiments," says Fong Jiayi, whose project explores the novel idea of "catching" viruses with molecularly imprinted polymeric nanoparticles. To cope with working on a tight schedule, she managed her time and worked efficiently.
The poster presentation during the Singapore Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF) provides an opportunity for students to showcase the fruits of their labour to both the judges and their peers. It is also a great learning experience as the young researchers were posed difficult questions by judges. "Besides the fun moments and interaction with others, I also got a better understanding of what research is about through speaking to the judges," Clement recalls. Zihao agrees, adding, "I learnt how to explain my project to others in non-technical terms and being confident. Try to explain questions asked by the judges in simple terms. It is fine to say that you do not know the answer to any question, but never try to 'smoke' your way through." For their outstanding research work, both were awarded the Gold award during SSEF. The project, Potential of Barnacle Cement in Dentistry by Ang Qiaobo Joseph, Lee Jian Xing Clement and Sng Jie Han Timothy was also nominated to represent Singapore at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2010.
The enriching learning experiences that the students enjoyed would not have been possible if not for the guidance and support of teachers, mentors and organisers involved. "I would like to express my gratitude to my University mentor and the graduate students who guided me. Lab work is so fun with you all around!," says Zihao.
In conclusion, Hwa Chong Institution stands committed in our vision to nurture each and every student to his/her fullest potential and will continually explore innovative strategies to groom a new generation of leaders for the nation: leaders prepared for the challenges of an innovation-driven future.
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