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Breaking Through Scientific Barriers at the 5th International Science Youth Forum 2013
5th International Science Youth Forum 2013
by Elaine Ng and Rachel Er

reaking through. The theme of the 5th International Science Youth Forum (ISYF) is a very apt one. The breakthrough is the hallmark of science. Many great scientific discoveries are products of that eureka moment after months or even years of seemingly fruitless experimentation.

Perhaps hoping for similar success, the participants were all agog to hear from the very individuals who had achieved that. 91 budding student scientists hailing from 16 different countries participated in ISYF 2013, which was held from 20 to 24 January 2013.

Hwa Chong Institution was privileged to play host to five eminent scientists and mathematicians: Prof Sydney Brenner (Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine 2002), Prof Albert Fert (Nobel Laureate in Physics 2007), Prof Douglas Osheroff (Nobel Laureate in Physics 1996), Prof Dan Shechtman (Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2011) and Prof Vladimir Voevodsky (Fields Medalist in Mathematics 2002).

Finding out how to become successful scientists like the Laureates themselves was indubitably of great interest to all participants. At the heart of it all, the driving force behind any successful researcher is, as Prof Shechtman puts it, “a burning passion for science.”

In addition, the panelists unanimously underscored the importance of a desire to learn and a capacity for hard work. Prof Brenner in particular reminded everyone never to stop questioning and to always seek answers zealously.

In Prof Brenner’s words, “we need to teach ourselves.” The eminent scientist is the perfect epitome of proactive self-learning. His education was not restricted within the classroom. In fact, he made the library, a place where “all the answers are waiting to be discovered,” his second home.

However, in a world inundated with information, we are sometimes overwhelmed by the endless quantity of knowledge that we do not understand. Addressing this, the Laureates advised all students to identify where their passions and strengths lie. Next, work extremely hard to become an expert in that area. Then, we can set about harnessing our skills to make the world a better place.

The 21st century is one that calls for bold experimentation and the pursuit for significant breakthroughs, not only in scientific endeavor, but also in fields as varied as policy-making and governance. Indeed, ISYF 2013 has inspired everyone to embark on their flights of wonder and work towards their own breakthroughs.

Elaine Ng and Rachel Er are junior college students at Hwa Chong Institution. For more information about the article, please contact Mrs Tan Ai Chin at tanac@hci.edu.sg

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