Prior to college, I believe the only time I heard of the country Singapore was in Pirates of the Caribbean. Singapore was mentioned in passing in my Economics class; my professor said that the country developed a competitive advantage in science. I was intrigued by what that meant and so after that class I googled Singapore Science.
I was astounded by what I read. What I learned was that Singapore is desirous to create a knowledge based economy and therefore the country is dedicating many resources to enhance the scientific sector in Singapore. Article after article, I gleamed more information which all alluded to the strong support and spirit for science in Singapore. Here is a link to one of the articles I read, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2121196/.
I thought to myself, what an amazing atmosphere, how phenomenal it would be to research and engage in this environment as a young scientist. It then became a dream of mine to research in Singapore and so began my quest to establish a connection with Singapore. In the beginning, I would day dream while I looked on Singaporean university websites, but I was never able to establish a connection through email.
In fact, my connection to Singapore was actually established through a series of amazing accidents. Nothing was ever directly planned, more so opportunities presented themselves and I took advantage of them at the moment. First, I must thank Ms. Mary Ellen Clark and Dr. Regina Riccioni for inviting me to present in the fourth annual Women in Science and Technology Workforce Summit. Ms. Sarita Felder was the keynote speaker at the summit and during her presentation she mentioned how she recently returned from Singapore. At the end of the conference, I spoke with her and she was gracious enough to invite me to a conference at Stevens Institute of Technology because her Singaporean contact, Professor Kirpal Singh, was going to be there. I felt a little out of place at this conference, because I was probably at least 10 years younger than the average business person there. However, after the conference was done I was able to speak with Professor Singh. He was enthusiastic and willing to help me; unfortunately my conversation with him was brief as he needed to travel elsewhere.
However, in that brief time another one of the presenters, Mr. Jim Lee, heard about my interest to research in Singapore. Mr. Lee suggested that I send him an email with what I wanted to accomplish and that he would see what he could do. A few weeks after I sent this email, I receive an email from Singapore’s Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR) which stated that they would like to discuss my desire to bring a group of student researchers to Singapore. Mind blowing- I was so excited!
I scheduled a skype meeting a month later, but there was a problem with the webcam, so A*STAR said there were going to call me in 5 minutes. Thank God I had 5 minutes, because I had left my phone in my dorm because I did not want it to ring during the skype meeting. So I sprinted across the entire campus and literally got to my dorm when the phone was already ringing. Somehow I was able to compose myself and speak even though I was completely out of breath. My parents never brought up the phone bill…
The rest was fairly simple, A*STAR was very enthusiastic and helpful, they want young scientist to experience what they have to offer. Moving forward, I worked with Dr. Barbara Zilinskas to create an application for my initiative which I named the Summer International Research Experience (SIRE) and to admit students into the program. Including myself there are 4 Rutgers SIRE students the other three are; Lynnicia Massenburg, Dibyo Roy, and Jacklyn Mahgerefteh. A Columbia University student, Elias Boujaoude, will also be traveling with us-however, he is working at the Centre for Bioethics rather than A*STAR. Dibyo, Jackie, and Elias may be celebrity bloggers on my site this summer.
I leave for Singapore in nine days. To be honest, the fact that I am living abroad this summer hasn’t sunk in yet and I don’t think it will until I am in Singapore and I realize that I have left something at home and then recognize that I can’t go home on the weekend to go pick it up. What I do recognize is that I have half achieved my dream of researching in Singapore, and once I put my feet on its shore then it will be official. I would like to thank everyone who helped me establish my connection with Singapore and who has provided me guidance along the way, Ms. Mary Ellen Clark, Dr, Regina Riccioni, Ms. Sarita Felder, Professor Kirpal Singh, Mr. Jim Lee, and Dr. Zilinskas. A shout out to Mrs. Maureen Boujaoude who was pivotal in securing housing, I really appreciate your help. Last but not least, thank you to SEBS International Programs, the Douglass Project, and the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College for support for my time abroad this summer.
To take a step back, something I learned from this experience that really amazed me was how willing people are to help you even if they do not know you very well. So a quick message- always put your best foot forward and always be willing to share your ideas with new people and opportunities will find you. Amazing accidents are actually opportunities you crafted. My next blog will be from when I am in Singapore- more accidents to come, stay tuned.