Thursday, November 30, 2006

Message To West Point

By Bill Moyers. A long but recommended read.

This too.

A PhD Homemaker Wannabe

It is rare for a girl (of my generation) to dream of becoming a housewife after her PhD. All the more so when you look at her academic background. Naturally the first term the cynical me came up was "tai-tai". Followed by her swift kick to my legs for my not-so-positive remarks. Duh.

Now if everyone thinks like her, then the "two-body problem" will be a non-issue.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stinger against Blackhawks


I need one, no, several of them against blackhawks.

In summary - Now that I am quite far into Grad School, my folks are going to the extent of checking up on my research and telling/asking me to fit that into a*star/nus/ntu hiring. Amazing, isn't it?

Related entries: I, II, III, IV.

It should be obvious to all I have no intention of going back permanently. Why can't they see things from my perspective? Must it come to blows? And playing the filial piety card?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Who do you learn from in school? Peers or Teachers?

I asked the above question to myself after reading these two posts from current teachers.

I guess I was lucky to have been hanging out with some exceptional class/schoolmates during my time in secondary/JC. Probably the most important thing that we all shared was the passion in the subjects we liked. My peers were my greatest teachers. Esp in JC - when we started asking questions that the tutors had difficulty answering. We ended up searching for the answers ourselves. (And mind you, the internet was still in its infancy in Singapore - google/wikipedia/online databases didn't exist then for the masses; so we had to do it the hard copy way).

Some of my previous entries on this topic are here, here, here and here. Fox's take too (although I was not in the GEP).

If a student is unmotivated in school, can a teacher ('good' or otherwise) do anything? I have never been to a neighborhood school, so pardon me if I appear ignorant about the difficulties students in such schools face. I do know a little somewhat after reading oikono's entry.

Technorati: Singapore, education

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Can one ever let go completely?

I had a dream this morning. In it, I was passing by my ex's house and just at that moment, she was walking out with a throng of folks in her wedding gown. There was this bridal car parked in front and a guy dressed in a western suit was waiting beside it. What happened after that was fuzzy, but I woke up crying.

There was too much shared history between us.

RJC library card


A friend invited me to his place for dinner last night in an attempt to introduce one of his (single) female friends to me. I turned it down to watch a volleyball game. We won, and now stand a good chance of advancing to the post-season NCAA tournament.



The Fall colors are beautiful.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Why PPE is (not) relevant to the GST issue in Singapore

Just had a long discussion with l'oiseau rebelle on the topic of the raise in GST. I asked her the question: "So what do you think of PPE's relevance to this issue?"

Too tired to paraphrase our MSN chat, so here is the (modified) relevant bit:

LR: as i said, they deserve the nobel prize for econ for figuring out how to raise sales taxes to help the poor
tk: and they fail PPE, considering they have many alum of oxford's PPE. Many blogs only try to reason on the side of economics, without factoring the other two
LR: you can write a post factoring in the other two
tk: nah, I am only a closet economist
LR: haha, let me help you in simple terms then. Politically, whatever the pap does, they'll still be in power. No discussion
LR: many singaporeans actually care about that?
tk: so that leaves econs...
LR: yup, there you have it.

I once considered applying for the PPE program, so the first thing that came to my mind was its relevance in Singapore's context. Not very, I would say. Ethics, what ethics?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Asians and Elite Colleges

Glad this issue is now hitting the (U.S) national headlines.


School Standards Are Probed

Even as Enrollment Increases;
A Bias Claim at Princeton
November 11, 2006; Page A1

Though Asian-Americans constitute only about 4.5% of the U.S. population, they typically account for anywhere from 10% to 30% of students at many of the nation's elite colleges.

Even so, based on their outstanding grades and test scores, Asian-Americans increasingly say their enrollment should be much higher -- a contention backed by a growing body of evidence.

Whether elite colleges give Asian-American students a fair shake is becoming a big concern in college-admissions offices. Federal civil-rights officials are investigating charges by a top Chinese-American student that he was rejected by Princeton University last spring because of his race and national origin.

Meanwhile, voter attacks on admissions preferences for other minority groups -- as well as research indicating colleges give less weight to high test scores of Asian-American applicants -- may push schools to boost Asian enrollment. Tuesday, Michigan voters approved a ballot measure striking down admissions preferences for African-Americans and Hispanics. The move is expected to benefit Asian applicants to state universities there -- as similar initiatives have done in California and Washington.

Monday, November 06, 2006

2006 Bonuses in the Financial Industry

Made my eyes pop and my grad student allowance look like...pittance. Guess you both are doing quite well. Heh.

Maybe I should just quit science and join the money chase...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Lee Wei Ling's take on biomedical research in Singapore

Posted here for archiving purposes; Lee Wei Ling is LKY's daughter.

Taken from Sammyboy's forums:

Nov 4, 2006

What ails biomedical research in Singapore

By Lee Wei Ling, For The Straits Times

BILLIONS of dollars have been poured into our biomedical research drive and more billions are to follow. How can these monies be best utilised?

The strategy of attracting foreign stars and then letting them decide for themselves what areas of research to engage in has its problems. It would be difficult to persuade many of the very best foreign researchers, at the peak of their careers, to leave their homes in the West where they have their own research team and funding.

It is an approach where success depends too much on chance, and the areas of research would be very diverse, depending entirely on the researcher we are able to persuade to come to Singapore. If the present approach is followed without modification, a coherent body of research and success in a series of related fields is unlikely to develop.

In my view, a more rational approach will be to identify niche areas unique to the Singapore population or where we already have a competitive advantage. Examples include hepatitis B, primary cancer of the liver, stomach cancer, systemic lupus erythematosus (more often known as SLE or lupus) and other autoimmune disease (where the body's immune system attacks the body's own organs), and the pattern of strokes and head injury.

In point of fact, Novartis has just won approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for a new drug called Telbivudine that can be used to treat chronic hepatitis B. The clinical trial for this drug was a large multi-centre study, in which Singapore was involved but wasn't the lead investigator.

Whoever it was in Novartis who initiated the trial certainly understood 'niche'. With 5 per cent of ethnic Chinese being hepatitis B carriers, this niche translates into millions upon millions of patients. This is what I mean by niche areas versus the shotgun approach we have adopted in Singapore.

Again, head injury is common worldwide and a major cause of loss of life and cause of permanent disability. However, it is not a glamorous research topic and only 10 major centres worldwide are doing serious research in it.

At the National Neuroscience Institute, we have a good track record of head injury research and a comprehensive programme from molecular to bedside, from the acute stage to rehabilitation. We should target our research on these areas where not only is it relevant to Singaporeans, but we also have an advantage over foreign countries with much more advance research facilities.

We should learn from our experiences and recognise the big picture that this little red dot cannot compete for talent (or output) with giants in all areas of biomedical research.

Our strategy must be to encourage local researchers and provide for greater interaction between them and foreign researchers. Much more can be done to address the needs of local researchers and make them feel that they are an integral component of our biomedical drive. Some small steps have begun in this direction but too few and too small.

We should be more focused in finding our niches, then attract the appropriate foreign talents while nurturing our own talents at the same time. Once in a while, a foreign researcher may come with his own agenda. The Simon Shorvon saga is a good illustration. He abused the Singapore system by random manipulation of the patients' medication without seeking their proper and informed consent.

Simon Shorvon tried his utmost to rapidly complete this unauthorised part of his research where he treated Singaporeans as subjects from a Third World country who can be easily manipulated. What he was doing was very dangerous to the patients. He was unable to complete his research here, because he was exposed.

He and some others subsequently collaborated with Duke University in a similar field but only on the genetics of metabolism of anti-epileptic drugs with appropriate patient consent. Significantly, the part of the research with random manipulation of the Parkinson's patients' medication appears not to have been done.

Another area where we could improve is to form a lead agency to coordinate and identify areas for which Singapore research can truly excel without duplication and wastage of resources. This would create focus within our national strategy to leapfrog onto the world stage of medical and scientific excellence.

The current state of affairs emphasises funding in multiple areas for which there is no coordination and perhaps even outright competition between different groups doing very similar research. One could argue that this is also the case in the US and other advanced countries. However, that does not make it right or appropriate for all countries. Smaller countries with limited resources have to be more focused on how those resources are used.

The competition is for the sake of being the first to make the discovery, to revel in the fame and glory, to benefit financially from any patent that may follow the discovery. The competition is not for the benefit of patient care. The advanced countries can afford the wastage but this little red dot cannot.

An important issue is whether Singapore can produce enough researchers in the life sciences.

According to one newspaper article, it was in 2002, when the National University of Singapore had barely begun producing its own life science graduates, that Mr Philip Yeo, chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), famously rattled those undergraduates when he said they would be qualified only to wash test tubes.

Four years on, armed with bachelor's degrees, some of these graduates are learning the truth of his words the hard way. Many from the first cohort have ended up in junior research positions or manufacturing and sales jobs in the industry - positions that do not require a life sciences degree. Others find themselves completely out of the field.

According to the industry's annual reviews compiled by A*Star and the Economic Development Board's biomedical science group, an average of 1,000 new jobs were created annually for the past five years. Last year, there were 10,200 manufacturing jobs in the industry, almost doubling the 5,700 jobs created in the then-fledgling sector in 2001. By last year, EDB had targeted the number of such jobs to hit 15,000.

But the booming figures mask a Catch-22 situation: The current shortage of PhD holders in the biomedical sciences cluster is hampering Singapore's bid to attract multinational companies to move their high-end research projects here. Without a PhD, most of Singapore's life sciences graduates are qualified to work only as research assistants.

The coming Graduate Medical School will not solve this problem. It will produce doctors chosen from graduate students who apply. The cut-off score of MCATS (a test used to weed out or select medical students, the medical equivalent of SAT) is higher than that for Duke University itself. But that does not surprise me. Singaporeans are exam smart. Many of our Raffles Junior College students achieve near-perfect SAT scores.

The crucial question in my view is whether the four-year curriculum with one year dedicated to research can produce good researchers. Certainly they will not have the research experience of PhDs and their clinical skills will probably not be as good as those of our current NUS medical students who have three years of clinical experience.

One could argue that they will all be doing translational research, where their background in clinical medicine allows them to know what is relevant in translational research. (Translational research is that which brings the findings from the laboratory to the patient. If drug X works in controlling epilepsy in lab rats, translational research investigates if drug X will reduce seizures in epileptic patients.)

But I worry that we may end up producing half-baked clinicians and half-baked researchers after what is a very expensive experiment. Even in the US, Duke is the only medical school with such a programme. It is reported to have the highest number of students pursuing a career in research in biomedical sciences after graduation. Many of them have gone on to lead and drive R&D in the life sciences.

However, Duke draws from a much bigger talent pool. I am not sure if the graduates of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore will be capable of the same.

The writer is director of the National Neuroscience Institute.

Singapore is extremely welcoming if...

"you are highly educated, foreign, and white." - PJ.

Mirrors a discussion I had with a friend (He's a white American) several days ago. We were talking about academic job opportunities (ie faculty openings) and he was saying something about NUS (and A*star) luring some of the big names in a related field, and that they are actively recruiting here. And why he is considering a move there too and asking me more about the country.

"Seems like a good place to go to." He said. I tried hard to keep a straight face. I guess it will be for him. But not for me.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

On Education and Military Service

Found a link on Mankiw's blog, the economic truth behind U.S Sen. John F. Kerry's remarks:

"You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." - John Kerry, Oct 30, 2006.

Princeton economist Uwe E. Reinhardt: University of Rochester economics professor Steven E. Landsburg made the case for the volunteer army in his textbook "Price Theory and Applications." Under a military draft, he writes, "the Selective Service Board will draft young people who are potentially brilliant brain surgeons, inventors and economists -- young people with high opportunity costs of entering the service -- and will leave undrafted some young people with much lower opportunity costs. The social loss is avoided under a voluntary system, in which precisely those with the lowest costs will volunteer."

Only slightly more crudely put, the central idea underlying this theorem of what economists call "social welfare economics" is that if a nation must use human bodies to stop bullets and shrapnel, it ought to use relatively "low-cost" bodies -- that is, predominantly those who would otherwise not have produced much gross domestic product, the main component of what economists call "social opportunity costs." On this rationale, economists certify the all-volunteer army as efficient and thus good.

...There is ample evidence that the elite now running America has grasped the economists' dictum. To be sure, the officer corps is drawn from the ranks of college graduates, and a tiny minority of college graduates do heed that call. On the other hand, it is well known that to fill the ranks of enlisted soldiers, sailors and Marines, the Pentagon draws heavily on the bottom half of the nation's income distribution, favoring in its hunt for recruits schools in low-income neighborhoods. Certainly few if any of Kerry's elitist critics on the right, all of them self-professed patriots, have served their country in uniform, let alone in battle; nor have many of their offspring.

Replace "America" with "Singapore", and add in terms like "white horses" as well...and you can see why I was (still am, actually) angry with the system.

Technorati: Singapore, NS