Past Research Project Titles

2011

Strategic mining for early risk assessment systems using social media platforms

How well do you think a complete stranger sitting beside you on the MRT knows you? Better than you think, according to the principle of the six degrees of separation; which states that everyone is interconnected to any other person by a maximum of six friends. Leveraging on this, social media platforms like Facebook, blogs, Flicker or Twitter contain the latest information due to the interconnectivity of such platforms. More often than not, widely-debated chatter amongst such platforms indicates the onset of certain activities. The strategic mining and analysis of specific relevant information contained in such platforms present the opportunity to identify bio-terrorist attacks or even predict the centre of a flu epidemic, even before the flu epidemic hits. Defence scientists in DSO, DSTA and A*STAR have a vested research interest in developing early risk assessment systems as they are critical in ensuring the state of readiness of the country.This project investigates the potential of tapping on social media platforms as an early risk assessment system. This project calls for a multi-disciplinary research spanning from the physics of processing signals to computer science and even onto areas such as the sociology and psychology of online social interaction. Students will learn first-hand how defence scientists are constantly being creative and innovative to integrate info-comm technology into protecting the interest of the nation.
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Effect of optical aberrations in the lenses of camera phones

Camera phones are not only ubiquitous, but they are seeing more interesting ways of being used. One of the top ten most popular downloads in iPhone is a program that takes a snap-shot of any signage in a foreign language such as Spanish, and converts it to another language such as English. The problem with such applets is distortion caused by the lens of the camera phone, introduced by optical aberrations in the lens. This research project will investigate the distortions caused by the optical aberrations of the lenses and attempt to do an error-correction mechanism to rectify this problem.Students will learn about the principles of computational photography and make use of the principles of optics to rectify the optical aberrations of the images from a camera phone.
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Using optical polarisation to measure drug tests

Some organic substances such as glucose and other drugs have optical activity. This essentially means that such chiral substances, termed enantiomers, have the ability to optically rotate the plane of linearly polarised light passing through it into another plane. Current state-of-the-art research in this field of polarisation is to develop ways of employing this property in measuring the glucose level in patients with diabetes.Students will get to learn about optical polarisation in organic substances. They will then devise a novel way to measure the level of certain drugs with high optical activities using the principles of optics and polarisation, instead of waiting for a chemical drug test which takes a long time for the results to be analysed.
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Photonics – Investigation of sol-gel thin films to produce optical waveguides with high refractive-index.

The sol-gel technique presents a simple, low temperature method to produce optical waveguides that has properties such as homogeneity, porosity and film thickness that can be easily tailored to suit various applications. Such sol-gel thin films allow materials with high refractive indices to be fabricated. Spin-coating will be used in this project to exploit the low-cost, low temperature and low pressure advantages of such a process.Students will get to learn polymer science, advanced optics topics, and understand the working principles as well as the analysis of data from common characterisation equipment such as FTIR or XRD. Students will get an opportunity to experience first-hand how scientists in the semiconductor physics field work inside a cleanroom.
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Photonics – Doping of thin films using sol-gel method to produce anti-bacterial properties

The doping of thin-film coatings allow materials with very different properties compared to its initial conditions to be designed. In addition to desired optical properties such as anti-reflectance, other desirable properties such as self-cleaning, deodorizing and anti-bacterial are often advantageous in such coatings. Properties of these nature are propitious in coatings for fingerprint sensors, as well as touch-screen hand-held devices such as the iPad and iPhone. Such thin film coatings allow the glass panes on such devices to be coated with the anti-bacterial effect. E-coli will be grown and the effect of such sol-gel thin films on the inhibition of the E-coli will be studied. The photo-catalytic properties of such dopants will be investigated in this project.
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Marine Biology – coral symbiont diversity

Corals harbour symbiotic unicellular algae (called zooxanthalle) which can photosynthesise in the presence of sunlight. Although corals are capable of obtaining food on their own, their survival and growth has been shown to depend largely on the nutrition derived from the zooxanthalle. In this study, you will be required to examine the profiles of zooxanthellae and how these factors might influence coral growth. Methods used include using a denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (don’t worry, training will be provided). All these would have implications for coral growth in the changing climate system. These projects are done in collaboration with Marine Biology Laboratory and/or Tropical Marine Science Institute of the National University of Singapore. 8 students

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Marine Biology – Barium-Calcium changes in corals

Corals grow outwards by depositing a new layer of calcium carbonate skeleton continuously. Over hundreds of years, examination of coral skeleton cores yield interesting insights on the environmental conditions at the time of their growth. In this group of studies, you will be examining the change in Ba/Ca ratio over time using ICP-MS. Because corals can use barium in place of calcium, and barium has a terrestrial source, the Ba/Ca ratio can be used as historical sediment proxy. 4 students

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Symbiotic relationships between ants and the rattan, Korthalsia echinometra

Students doing this ecological project will be sampling and identifying species of ants that are found in the modified leaf sheath of the rattan from different locations and assess the level of symbiosis between the organisms. 3 students.

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The Veredus Chip

This is a joint program by Raffles Institution and Veredus Laboratories, a WHO endorsed private lifescience lab that designs and sells flu detection microarray chips to hospitals and diagnostics labs worldwide. Students who take up this project will be supervised by Vereduslaboratories Scientists and be involved in the design of a DNA microchip that is used to detect H1N1, SARS and other flu epidemics.

At the end of the project students should be equipped with skills such as PCR, Reverse Transcription, Designing DNA microarray experiments within a microchip, operate a state of the art machine that reads and analyses the DNA microchip.  Students also get to intern at the Veredus Labs. 3 students

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Water technology

Water problems affect half of humanity. One of PUB’s forefront races is to facilitate Singapore’s development as a centre for water technologies. This project will employ cutting-edge technology for effective laboratory analysis of water quality. Fieldwork, chemical and/or microbiological analyses will be carried out. Students will work at PUB (Jurong East). 2 students

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Little Green Dot – Marine and Freshwater Conservation Project

In a joint collaboration among IKEA, WWF and NSS (Nature Society of Singapore), project grants of $5000 will be given to the 11 best proposals for research project contributing to marine or freshwater conservation in Singapore. The grant is for a period of 7 months (May to November 2011). If you have an idea for a project, please download an application form from here and submit it together with the RSI form for each of your group mates. Groups of 2 – 3 students (no limit to the number of groups).

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Self-proposed Project

If you already have a research topic you would like to work on, you may submit a project proposal which should include an introduction to the topic, proposed methodology and timeline (including equipment and budget required if any) and some reference articles and we will consider supporting your research interest. Please note that you need to demonstrate an ability to work independently and be self-motivated.

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2010

Coral zooxanthallae

Corals harbour symbiotic unicellular algae (called zooxanthalle) which can photosynthesise in the presence of sunlight. Although corals are capable of obtaining food on their own, their survival and growth has been shown to depend largely on the nutrition derived from the zooxanthalle. In this study, you will be required to examine the type, size and density of zooxanthallae cells in Porites lutea and these factors might influence coral growth. All these would have implications for coral growth in the changing climate system. These projects are done in collaboration with Marine Biology Laboratory of the National University of Singapore.

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Coral larval behaviour

Many hard corals practice mass-spawning once a year where they broadcast their eggs and sperm into the water column. The settlement of the coral larvae has great implications for the health of coral reefs and this study will focus on various factors affecting the settlement behaviour of coral larvae. Students involved in this project will be required to start work in mid-March (coral-spawning period). These projects are done in collaboration with Marine Biology Laboratory of the National University of Singapore.

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Intertidal census of St John’s Island

This project entails documenting and creating a checklist of marine flora and fauna found on St. John’s Island in collaboration with the Tropical Marine Science Institute (NUS). Students undertaking this project should have some foundational skills in photography (or at least be willing to learn/practice independently) and be willing to commit their June holidays to doing the bulk of their fieldwork.

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Intertidal Nerite ecology

Different species of Nerite snails (genus Nerita) exhibit preferential distribution within a small patch of rocky shore. This study investigates further the distribution and the potential factors that affect this distribution pattern. Students taking this project conducting their fieldwork at an intertidal rocky shore at Sentosa, and must be willing to commit their June holidays as well as on certain weekends during the school term, depending on the low tide dates.

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Mangrove phenology

Phenology refers to seasonal biological events such as budding, flowering and fruiting of plants in relation to seasonal climatic changes.  Such events correlate with ecological events such as pollination, which in turn relates to feeding behaviour of insectivores, seedling dispersal and seed predation. There is little phenological data on the Mangrove forests in Singapore to date and students involved in this project will be pioneers in a field of research that will provide important information to other researchers who utilise such data for pure research purposes, scientific awareness and conservation strategies. Be prepared to carry out fieldwork Sungei Buloh at regular intervals throughout the year.

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Evolution of Cockroaches

This project aims to trace the evolution of cockroach populations in Singapore using mitochondrial DNA sequencing.   Are cockroaches evolving at the DNA level?  If they are, what kinds of patterns can be found within populations in Singapore?  Will this have an impact on pest control, cockroach behaviour, morphology? What are the selection pressures these creatures face in Singapore?

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The Veredus Chip

This is a joint program by Raffles Institution and Veredus Labroatories, a WHO endorsed private lifescience lab that designs and sells flu detection microarray chips to hospitals and diagnostics labs worldwide.
Students who take up this project will be supervised by Vereduslaboratories Scientists and be involved in the design of a DNA microchip that is used to detect H1N1, Sars and other flu epidemics.

At the end of the project students should be equipped with skills such as PCR, Reverse Transcription, Designing DNA microarray experiments within a microchip, operate a state of the art machine that reads and analyses the DNA microchip.  Students also get to intern at the Veredus Labs.

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Hand Foot Mouth Disease

Enterovirus 71 is the main causative agent of hand foot and mouth diseases that affects young children worldwide.  Currently, there is no effective anti-viral agent or vaccine available for Enterovirus 71 infection. In this study, we will be performing molecular cloning of the Enterovirus 71 viral proteins in frame with green fluorescence protein and profile the cellular localization of viral proteins. Students will work at the National University of Singapore.

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Water technology

Water problems affect half of humanity. One of PUB’s forefront races is to facilitate Singapore’s development as a centre for water technologies. This project will employ cutting-edge technology for effective laboratory analysis of water quality. Fieldwork, chemical and/or microbiological analyses will be carried out. Students will work at PUB (Jurong East).

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2009

Coral reef zooxanthallae cladistics

Hermatypic scleractinian corals (hard corals) house symbiotic algae in their tissue called zooxanthellae (genus Symbiodinium), which photosynthesise and contribute significantly to a coral’s energy requirements for various biological processes, including calcification. So far, eight phylogenetic zooxanthellae clades have been identified from nuclear ribosomal DNA and chloroplast DNA. These clades can demonstrate different traits that may benefit the coral host under different circumstances. For example, certain clades have high thermal tolerance and the corals that host them would consequently be less susceptible to bleaching. However, such clades tend to pass on less food to their hosts, affecting the corals’ energy budgets. As such, in order to examine patterns and controls of coral calcification, it would then be crucial to first identify the zooxanthellae clades hosted. This project involves the amplification of ribosomal DNA of zooxanthellae from the coral Porites lutea sampled from various reefs using algae-specific PCR primers and identification of zooxanthellae clades using fragment length polymorphism profiles (RFLP).

Supervisors: Ms Abigayle Ng in collaboration with Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore  and Singapore-Delft Water Alliance

Location: Labwork at RSI/NUS/TMSI

Students needed: 2


Duration: 4 months

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Marine Intertidal Ecology

The flora and fauna living in intertidal areas are highly adapted to face the challenges of two different, but extremely harsh environmental conditions. Daily, they are subjected to the rising and falling tides. Students will be required to employ a variety of ecological methods to study ecological adaptations both in morphology and behaviour to occupy this unique habitat. A major component of this project involves fieldwork and students may be required to stay overnight at the TMSI research facility.

Supervisors: Ms Abigayle Ng in collaboration with Tropical Marine Science Institute, National University of Singapore.

Location: Intertidal fieldwork at St. John’s Island

Students needed: 2

Duration: 4 months

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An Ecogenomics approach to estimate symbiont diversity in insect orders – a proof of concept experiment

Ecogenomics is an exciting new field in Biology that marries the study of ecology with cutting edge “tool kits” developed in molecular biology.  In this project, student researchers will carry out a proof-of-concept experiment that applies molecular cloning technology to estimate the phylodiversity of symbionts across insect orders. Student researchers will have to design primers, carry out PCR, use cloning vectors, sequence DNA, use Bio-Informatics programme and catch some insects.

Supervisors: Dr Adrian Loo in collaboration with Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore

Location: Labwork in RSI with minimal fieldwork

Students needed: 2

Duration: 4 months

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Ecological studies of of Mangrove Forests I – Phenology of mangrove plant species

Phenology refers to seasonal biological events such as budding, flowering and fruiting of plants in relation to seasonal climatic changes.  Such events correlate with ecological events such as pollination, which in turn relates to feeding behaviour of insectivores, seedling dispersal and seed predation. There is little phenological data on the Mangrove forests in Singapore to date and students selected on this project will be the pioneering researchers in a field of research that will provide important information to other researchers who utilise such data for pure research purposes, scientific awareness and conservation strategies.  This research project will focus on several genera of mangrove species, namely, Avicennia, Brugueira, Rhizophora, Sonneratia, Excoecaria.  Research students will also be well versed in Web2.0 and how it can be used to carry out research as well as share scientific data.

Supervisors:  Dr Adrian Loo in collaboration with Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore

Location: Labwork in RSI with minimal fieldwork

Students needed: 2

Duration: 4 months

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Pathogenesis of dengue fever

Dengue has emerged as the most important arbovirus human disease in the last three decades. WHO estimates 40% of global population is at risk from dengue, and the numbers are rising. Currently, there are no approved anti-viral agents or vaccine for dengue virus. Dengue virus is a member of the Flavivirus genus of the Flaviviridae family that causes dengue fever (DF) and the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever/dengue shock syndrome (DHF/DSS). The pathogenesis of DHF is poorly understood.  This project is directed to the identification of possible host factors that may contribute to vascular leakage (escape of blood cells/plasma/plasma proteins from blood vessels) during dengue virus infection. This project will involve the concentration and purification of selected host factor/proteins from either human blood samples or cell culture media as well as the detection for the presence of these host proteins via Western blotting. Techniques students researchers will use are protein concentration/ purification; protein separation using SDS-PAGE; and Western blotting and detection of specific host proteins with antibodies.

Supervisors: Mr Ngan Wei Yeong in collaboration with Department Microbiology, National University of Singapore.

Students needed: 2 working in 1 team

Duration: 4 months

Location: Bulk of the laboratory work will be done in NUS, with the remaining in RI(JC).

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Membrane technology and water

The world is fast running out of water. By 2015, according to estimates from the United Nations and the US government, at least 40% of the world’s population, or about 3 billion people, will live in countries where it is difficult or impossible to get enough water to satisfy basic needs. An inescapable fact about the world’s water supply is that it is finite. Especially for an island-state like Singapore, with its limited geography, it is critical to address R&D needs on water infrastructure development. For this purpose, the Centre for Water Research (CWR) was set up in the Department of Civil Engineering in 2002. This project studies ways to improve effectiveness of water filtration using membrane technology. Chemical and/or biological analyses on the quality of water will be carried out.

Supervisors: Mr Ngan Wei Yeong in collaboration with Division of Environmental Science and Engineering, National University of Singapore.

 Students needed: 2 working in 1 team

Duration: 4 months

Location: Bulk of the laboratory work will be done in NUS, with the remaining in RI(JC).

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Water quality analysis

In 2006, the Singapore government’s National Research Foundation has identified two new key areas for research and development – water and environmental technologies; and interactive and digital media – where we can develop a competitive advantage, in addition to the life sciences sector identified in 2000. One of PUB’s main goals is to facilitate Singapore’s development as a hub for water technologies. Its technology groups are studying ways to further improve Singapore’s water production, conservation and treatment capabilities. This project will employ cutting-edge technology for effective analysis of water quality from our waterways/bioreactors. Chemical and/or microbiological analyses will be carried out.

The two titles available are

A) Presence of Algal Toxins in Reservoir Waters

In tropical climates with abundant sunlight, algae are readily found in reservoirs. In some algae species, toxins can be produced and released by the algae in reservoirs. Microcystin is a common algal toxin found in reservoir waters, and is traditionally detected using the liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) method. There have been new methods on the market to detect algal toxins, and these may represent cheaper and faster alternatives to the LC-MS method. In this project, various water samples will be collected from reservoirs around Singapore, and tested using a lab and field test kit (ELISA method) for microcystin. The test results will be analysed and compared against those obtained from the LC-MS method. The limit of detection and accuracy of the method would be tested during the experiments. General laboratory and analytical skills including use of spectrophotometers will be required.

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B) Intricacies of a Wastewater Treatment Plant

In Singapore, wastewater that is produced by the population is passed through various processes in a wastewater treatment plant before being released to the environment or used for NEWater production. In this project, wastewater chemistry will be analysed. Students will be working in a wastewater treatment plant. Samples will be collected from various wastewater treatment processes and analysed for several wastewater quality parameters such as COD, BOD, pH, turbidity, total suspended solids, total organic carbon, etc. Quality of the wastewater following various stages of treatment would then be compared.

Supervisors: Mr Ngan Wei Yeong in collaboration with PUB

Students needed: 2 working in 1 team; 1 tejectam for each project

Duration: 4 months

Location: Bulk of the laboratory work will be done at PUB’s Waterhub (Jurong East), with the remaining in RI(JC).

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Orchid horticulture

Singapore has a rich collection of orchid species and hybrids, and continues active research work to establish its name in the international market. Some of the research areas include:

1) Seed germination:  In nature, orchid seeds need special fungus mycorrihza to germinate.  Orchid seeds can be germinated in the lab by providing the seeds with all the nutrients required.  The project seeks to explore possibility of germinating orchid seeds without laboratory facilities.

2) Carbon dioxide enrichment to enhance growth of orchid seedlings. Some work had been done at NIE by Prof John Yong on this area. The nursery hopse to explore this further to work on commercial scale.

3) Formulating a local brand of organic fertilizer for orchids, making use of waste materials such as oyster shells etc.

4) Formulating “organic” pesticide or insect repellant, using cinnamons and other spices against specific pest such as weevils, snails, slugs which are commonly found.

Supervisors: Mr Ngan Wei Yeong in collaboration with Woon Leng Nursery

Location: Labwork in RSI with minimal fieldwork

Students needed: 2 working in 1 team

Duration: 4 months

Location: Bulk of the field work will be done at Woon Leng Nursery at Choa Chu Kang, with the remaining in RI(JC).

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