Raffles Science Institute Guest Lecture Series

Three lectures by distinguished guests from Kew Gardens and Natural History Museum London

All are welcome to attend these free talks. Please register here to RSVP.

Session 1

Date: 7th November 2012, Wednesday
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Raffles Institution (Y5-6) Lecture Theatre 3, Blk A Level 3

1. The Flora of Lord Howe Island – Origins and Diversity
By Dr Bill Baker, Head Palms Section, Kew Gardens

Lord Howe Island is a minute volcanic landmass (12 km2) in the Pacific Ocean that is home to 241 native plant species, more than 100 of which are found nowhere else. How did such extreme endemism arise in so small a space? What mechanisms promote species divergence in the face of the homogenising influence of ongoing gene flow? In this talk, we explore these questions using a text book case study ­ the Howea palms ­ and place this important case of sympatric speciation in plants in the context of the island’s flora as a whole and speciation thinking in general.

2. Evolution and Diversity of Pacific Island Psyllids
By Dr Diana Percy, Research Entomologist, Natural History Museum 

Psyllids are small, plant-feeding insects related to aphids, scales and whiteflies. They exhibit interesting modifications in morphology and biological habits related to living on different plant species. By using a combination of phylogenetic, ecological, and behavioural analyses, I will discuss how this insect group has diversified and evolved. I will demonstrate how this relatively little known insect group can provide comparative studies of speciation mechanisms as interesting and amenable as more well known model insect systems.


Session 2

Date: 9th November 2012, Friday
Time: 4pm to 5pm
Venue: Raffles Institution (Y5-6) Lecture Theatre 3, Blk A Level 3

Global Palm Biogeography and the History of Tropical Floras
Dr Bill Baker, Head Palms Section, Kew Gardens

Palms are iconic of the tropics ­ they are common throughout the world’s rain forests, where they may account for a substantial proportion of standing biomass and function as keystone species, providing important ecosystem services and influencing their surroundings. Palms are evidently important to modern rain forests, but what can they tell us about the rain forests of the past? With their fossil record dating back to 90 million years, can they shed light on the origin of the rain forests themselves? Here, using a time-calibrated ‘tree of life’ for palms, we address these questions and obtain challenging answers that prompt reflection on perceived wisdom about the evolution of tropical floras.


Getting to RI Y5-6 (previously known as Raffles Junior College

Directions: http://www.ri.edu.sg/main/contact/gettingtoraffles

Map of RI Y5-6: http://www.ri.edu.sg/files/Year-5-6-Map-06082012.jpg

To all visitors, please enter via Gate 3 and report to the Security Command Centre first. Thank You!

All are welcome to attend these free talks. Please register here to RSVP.

Please email abigayle[dot]ng[at]ri.edu.sg if you have any enquiries.


Café Scientifique – The life of an A*STAR scientist

You are cordially invited to a café scientifique session by a research mentor from A*STAR to share about the life of a scientist working in A*STAR IMRE. Find out first hand from an A*STAR researcher what it takes to do cutting edge research at the cross-roads between physics and chemistry. At the same time, he is also looking for students who are interested in doing research in the area of physics and chemistry. If you are interested to do research in these areas, come prepared for a face-to-face interview.

Date: 9th May (Wed) Time: 230-330pm Venue: OpenLab

Kindly register your attendance for this café scientifique at http://tinyurl.com/RSIcafe

Public perception on dolphins in captivity – the Singapore story

An NUS Department of Biological Sciences Seminar

Date: 13th April Friday

Time: 11am

Venue: DBS Conference Room 2

About 60% of captive dolphins in Asia are obtained from the wild and a recent survey has shed light on the attitudes of Singaporeans towards captive dolphins. This is extremely interesting as it has important repercussions on how we proceed with public education in Singapore – the majority of Singaporeans are for keeping dolphins in captivity.


Research Projects & Marine Biology Programme


If you’re interested in science research, do check out some of the research projects we offer internally as well as externally. They cover a wide range of topics in Biology and Physics

Please check out the research project titles and synopses here.

The application form can be downloaded here.

Deadline for application is 19th March.


If you are interested in marine biology, we have a marine biology programme just for you. To find out more, please visit this link.

Apply online here.

Deadline for application is 16th March.

Café Scientifique – Dr Melissa Fullwood

Date: 10th February 2012

Time: 4:30pm to 5:30pm

Venue: OpenLab (Blk E Lvl 1M)

Dr Melissa J. Fullwood, Lee Kuan Yew Post-Doctoral Fellow, A*STAR-Duke-NUS Neuroscience Research Partnership

Abstract: The finishing of the human genome sequence showed that raw genomic sequences would not be medically useful. Annotation of the genome sequence is necessary to make personal genome sequencing relevant to human health. A better understanding of human genetics and epigenetics will help us better understand diseases, such as cancer, which occurs due to genetic or epigenetic mutations. Recently, tremendous advances in DNA sequencing throughput, speed, and cost have beenmade in so-called “next-generation” sequencing, allowing powerful ultra-high-throughput, genome-wide annotation of genomic elements for functional characterization of the human genome, which have revealed many interesting features of the human genome, for example, the growing realization that that non-coding regions contain a plethora of functional genomic elements. In these conversations, I hope to discuss genomics, particularly as applied to human health, but please also feel free to ask me anything at all!


Dr. Melissa J. Fullwood completed her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences in 2005 at Stanford University, with honors, distinction and Phi Beta Kappa. She completed her PhD with the National University of Singapore Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering (NGS) in 2009, at the Genome Technology and Biology lab of the Genome Institute of Singapore with Dr Ruan Yijun as her PhD supervisor. For her PhD, together with Dr Ruan Yijun, Dr Chia-Lin Wei, Dr Edwin Cheung and Professor Edison Liu, she developed a method called ChIA-PET for investigations into chromatin interactions using massively parallel Paired End Tag sequencing, and found that chromatin interactions between oestrogen receptor alpha binding sites are common in breast cancer cells. This work received funding from the National Institutes of Health in the United States under the “ENCODE” consortium, and was published in Nature.

Please sign up at http://tinyurl.com/openlabcafe (only space for 15 students)

What is Café Scientifique?

The concept of Café Scientific is to create an informal and causual setting to discuss thought-provoking scientific issues. Everyone is welcome.

The Raffles Science Institute will organise more of such sessions on Friday afternoons at the OpenLab.

NEW exciting happenings at the OpenLab

Many exciting things are happening this year. The OpenLab has been bursting at its seams since the beginning of the school year with the many various JIP electives, molecular workshop for Year 6 Bio RA students, consultations for SSEF poster presentations and now the research immersion programme  (RIP) projects for the Year 5 Bio RA students! To say 2011 has been hectic would be an understatement!

Apart from all the Biology-related activities, we have a new scientist, Dr Tan Guoxian, on board the RSI team! Dr Tan specialises in signal pattern recognition in the area of forensic science! So exciting right! Still, I don’t think I’m doing it enough justice so I think I should ask him to write a post about his PhD work here. Dr Tan will soon be heading the ClusterLabs at Level 6, so don’t worry all you Physics and Chemistry students, you’ll soon be getting your own version of the OpenLab. We have many new Physics research projects supervised by Dr Tan. Please click here for the list of research topics.

Today I announced the new RSI Bio research projects as well as my new marine biology programme. If you would like to know more about them, please click here for the research projects and here for the marine biology programme. Just an observation, I think the projects get more interesting every year. Just so you know, in our first year of operation, we submitted ONE project to the Singapore Science and Engineering Fair, and unfortunately it didn’t get in to the final round. in 2010, we submitted 12, and eight got in! That’s a huge leap forward if I don’t say so myself. Of course, I’m not saying that this is completely thanks to the effort of RSI staff, the students definitely worked very hard to get that far (judging for SSEF is tomorrow, let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best!).

If you would like to apply for either the research or marine bio programme, please download the relevant forms and submit them to OpenLab by 11th March. Also, please feel free to pop by the OpenLab or email me if you would like to know more.


Dr Ng

Application forms:

Research projects (please read list of topics here first)

Marine biology programme

JIP 2011 – Semiconductor Processes

That’s right, RI (year 5-6) has our very own cleanroom facility to fabricate silicon wafers! Imagine investigating fabricating your very own electronics component or designing your electronics circuit boards for the next generation iPhone. Such research projects and more can now be done at our in-house cleanroom facility. Feel free to drop by Research Labs if you are interested in knowing more.

Silicon wafer-in-hand

Group photo for JIP 2011

In the blower room

Taiwan International Science Fair

The Taiwan International Science Fair is a competition for top young researchers that aims to encourage scientific research and promote cross-cultural communication and academic exchange. Each year, the Ministry of Education sends 2 Singaporean students who have completed a research project to present and compete at the Science Fair. Besides having to present his/her project findings to a panel of judges, selected students will also have opportunities to visit various scientific and cultural institutions. The students will interact with participants from countries in the region and beyond, including the United States of America, France, Hong Kong and Korea.

Students who have completed project(s) in any one of the following fields of science are welcome to apply:
a. Mathematics
b. Physics & Space Sciences
c. Chemistry
d. Earth Sciences
e. Zoology
f. Botany
g. Microbiology
h. Biochemistry
i. Medicine and Health
j. Engineering
k. Computer Science
l. Environmental Science

Interested students are to complete Sections A to F of the application form and return the form to Ms Soh Yeing Yeing by 20th October 2010.

Application form is available at the OpenLab (please make a copy for yourself).

A mini-“World Food Programme”

On Tue, Oct 20, 2009 I asked for articles about Norman Borlaug from my friends when I got this email digest link on a retrospective on Norman Ernest Borlaug. Immediately Siva sent me the pdf and also mentioned that he “talks about Borlaug in soil ecology and south east asia conservation. 3-4 slides only with Ehrlich saying millions would starve and then came along Borlaug with dwarf spring wheat…” Siva, NUS Biodiversity lecturer, also mentioned that he had seen an episode in the West Wing that mentioned Borlaug. He blogged about it here, as I discover.

Norman Borlaug’s scientific contribution and industry was compelling and something I felt I could share with my science class. So I did up a just-in-time lecture. It’s true that when you teach, you learn twice as my landlady used to say. So the more I did up my slides, the more I learnt of his enormous contribution to alleviating hunger. We’ve heard so much about the Green Revolution but when I dip-stick any class about who Norman Borlaugh was, I get blank stares. Then again, lots of people I know don’t even know what types of food are made from wheat flour. And here was a man who almost single-handedly solved world hunger; and for India and Pakistan, their wheat yields went from famine levels to levels of self-sufficiency in just over half a decade, with India going on to becoming a net wheat exporter.

Within a few days of doing up the JIT lecture, I heard that the National Institute of Education was hosting Dr. M. Vijaya Gupta, World Food Prize Laureate who would talk about his fish programme in Bangladesh in the 1980s. The stories of how women become empowered through rural aquaculture were riveting and heartwarming.

It became a need for me now to package this into some sort of programme for students to get a more first-hand experience of “food”. So that was how the Raffles “World Food Programme” was born. Interestingly, this food programme idea got people I spoke to, more interested than when i spoke about any other science workshops or electives that I have carried out. Food is such a common denominator.


and our first harvest of pak choy. Extremely delicious with a taste of the earth.


And just when I thought food issues were not going to be resurfaced again, Nature.com publishes a special feature entitled “Can science feed the world?” yesterday.