Academic News

Hwa Chong Students Engage in Cutting-Edge Research

15 Feb 2017
Academic General

Organized by The National Taiwan Science Education Center, the 2017 Taiwan International Science Fair (TISF) is a science research competition for high school students from grades nine through twelve. Held between February 5th and 11th, the event brought together 497 domestic and 58 overseas finalists from 25 nations and territories to compete for awards.

HCI students Poon Wynne Hsing (16S76) and Van Dan Thu (16S7B) were not only awarded first in the Medicine and Health category but also the prestigious Young Scientist Award for their outstanding project. This was no mean feat as their group was the only winner from Singapore. The other two winning groups were from Taipei First Girls High School.

From Left to Right: Poon Wynne Hsing (16S76), Dr Sandra Tan (Education Consultant/Outreach) and Van Dan Thu (16S7B)

Poon Wynee Hsing (16S76) receiving her prize from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen at the award ceremony.


As the Ministry of Education selects only two participants from all junior colleges and IP schools to represent Singapore in this science fair annually, only one representative from Raffles Institution and Poon Wynne Hsing (16S76) went to Taiwan to deliver their respective research presentations. Both students gained valuable takeaways from being part of the research group.

Poon Wynne Hsing shared that: “Research has been a wild ride with many unexpected ups and downs. From the many days spent in the laboratory, it has trained us in patience and resilience and driven our thirst for knowledge. It allows us, even as students, to make a difference in the world. ”

Van Dan Thu (16S7B) added that:
“…even when it does not work now, we have to, and we can, make it work eventually. The results may not be what we expected but it is a piece of the overall puzzle, and nothing pleases me more than connecting those pieces to contribute to the canvas of Science.”

For their research project, the students investigated the role of 2,4-DHBA as a possible mammalian siderophore that transports iron and is implicated in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Controlling the activity of this molecule has important implications in promoting healthy aging, especially in countries with a rapidly aging populations such as Singapore’s.

Associate Professor Gavin Dawe (Deputy Head of Department and Education Director, Department of Pharmacology/ Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine), whose laboratory the students worked at in 2016 commended them:
          “Wynne and Thu demonstrated great independence and maturity in their scientific approach. They took the initiative to actively read the relevant scientific literature and came up with an appropriate plan for their experiments. They quickly picked up the necessary laboratory techniques and applied them methodologically and with diligence. They were sharp at identifying potential problems and troubleshooting. Their results provide the first evidence that the mammalian siderophore can contribute to cell death. This has potential for advancing understanding of mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases.”

Mentored by Dr Chia Wan Jie Adeline (Education Consultant/Research) and Dr Sandra Tan (Education Consultant/Outreach), the latter summed it up fittingly:
          “Our CenTad program is a happy crucible of talent, top notch mentorship in cutting edge laboratories such as Associate Professor Gavin Dawe’s, and a spirit of joyful collaboration and learning amongst motivated peers. This award is a testament to the hard work invested by Wynne and Thu. More importantly, it is a reflection of the spirit of excellence pursued by all research students, teachers and mentors as they work to positively impact lives and do our nation proud.”

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