Issue 90, September 2010
Mums in materials science
Not one, but two NTU scientists bag a prestigious national fellowship awarded to three exceptional women this year.

One dreams of putting energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs on supermarket shelves. The other wants to develop printable “green” batteries that are not only flexible but store energy efficiently.

Role models for other young women in science, Dr Yang Huiying and Dr Madhavi Srinivasan from NTU were among three up-and-coming scientists awarded this year’s L'Oréal Singapore for Women in Science National Fellowships.

Presented for the second time in Singapore, the prestigious fellowships are given to outstanding female scientists who have the potential to make significant contributions to science and research in Singapore and beyond. The no-strings-attached fellowships – a collaboration between the L'Oréal Corporate Foundation, Singapore National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and Agency for Science, Technology & Research – also aim to help talented women stay on in the field. The winners were selected by a jury panel made up of eminent members of the scientific community.

Making light work of design
Both Dr Yang and Dr Srinivasan have successfully juggled motherhood and a promising career in science. Having received the fellowship, worth S$20,000, to support them in their doctorate or post-doctorate research in materials science, they are now eager to make new headway at work.

Dr Yang, 30, is a Lee Kuan Yew Postdoctoral Fellow with a first degree in Engineering from Nankai University in China. It was a fascination with the beauty of the nano-world that got her hooked on research in metal oxide nanostructures and nanophotonics devices. After completing her PhD in Microelectronics at NTU’s School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, she joined the school, where she now researches on light-emitting devices to generate cheap energy-saving LED bulbs and display screens for televisions.

“I have a dream,” says the mother-of-two, “to make LEDs cheap to buy for Singaporeans – just S$2 – and cut down on carbon emissions, as well as tap a US$14.5 trillion market.” LED lamps emit more light and less heat than filament bulbs but are currently expensive to make.

Mum-of-one Dr Srinivasan, 34, an Assistant Professor at the School of Materials Science & Engineering, is an expert in energy storage devices such as lithium-ion batteries. Besides developing printable, flexible batteries, she wants to create high-performance rechargeable batteries for powering electric vehicles. Such batteries can store energy from renewable sources, such as the sun, to help reduce global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Dr Srinivasan, who completed her degree in Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, explains: “Imagine driving a pollution-free electric vehicle completely powered by batteries and going to a charging station to recharge them in a matter of minutes. Or recharging your car battery using solar panels fitted on top of your car.” 

Dr Srinivasan also envisions a world where batteries can be printed on paper, plastic or cloth. Such batteries would be made from ink containing nanomaterials with energy-storage capabilities, she explains. “This makes it possible to recharge your phone using a battery printed on the fabric of your pocket!”

An inspiration to others
Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology & Research, presented the fellowships to the winners at a special award ceremony, held at Fusionopolis on 25 August.

“It is heartening that the L’Oréal Singapore for Women in Science National Fellowships honour the work of these exceptional women in Singapore,” he said. “In line with Singapore’s aim to be Asia's Innovation Capital, their quest for knowledge and, more specifically, solutions to the world’s challenges, is inspiring to the general scientific community and to other aspiring women scientists.”

According to Mr Christopher Neo, Managing Director of L’Oréal Singapore, the award recipients have displayed passion and determination in finding solutions to important global issues. “We're pleased to recognise such excellence,” he said.

© Corporate Communications Office