Tuesday, January 30, 2007

$10,000 to keep young grads in MA; Strong Inference Method

Just when you think this idea would be staying in just one state, now another is considering a similar version.

As Massachusetts leaders struggle to find ways to stem an exodus of young people from the state, one legislator thinks he has hit upon a solution -- give them money to stay.


The stipend would go to anyone who graduated from a state-accredited post secondary school, vocational-technical program, or apprentice program in the last 10 years. The catch: The recipient would have to agree to stay in Massachusetts for at least five years, or repay the money with interest. Also, the graduate's yearly salary could not exceed 135 percent of the community's median income.


My advisor had the whole group peruse a landmark article by John Platt on "Strong Inference (1964)".

There were certain parts I found to be quite relevant for me to think about on a regular basis.

We speak piously of taking measurements and making small studies that will “add another brick to the temple of science.” Most such bricks just lie around the brickyard (20). Tables of constraints have their place and value, but the study of one spectrum after another, if not frequently re-evaluated, may become a substitute for thinking, a sad waste of intelligence in a research laboratory, and a mistraining whose crippling effects may last a lifetime.

To paraphrase an old saying. Beware of the man of one method or one instrument, either experimental or theoretical. He tends to become method-oriented rather than problem-oriented. The method-oriented man is shackled; the problem-oriented man is at least reaching freely toward that is most important. Strong inference redirects a man to problem-orientation, but it requires him to be willing repeatedly to put aside his last methods and teach himself new ones.

Too often I find graduate students (and smart ones at that), myself included, subconsciously lapsing into the former mode. We try to fit the "problem" to our "methods", and "equipment, calculations, lectures become ends in themselves".

If you are interested to read more, Davis gives a good review of Platt's piece.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Achtung - Panzer!

This is what I want for my birthday. Now I have to convince myself to buy (wants vs needs)...

KFOR is still active as of 2007.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Road to Serfdom (in Cartoons)

From Greg Mankiw's blog.

Sieg Heil!

Sounds like a planned party state we all know, no? Heh.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Light at the end of the tunnel

I can almost see the end of the rabbit hole (aka Grad School). The wheel of time has turned again; this time it comes in the form of phone calls, emails and peers.

Events offline have made me want to finish up my current research and move on to the next chapter. WHOOOOHOOOOOO!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Biomedical Engineering and US Med/Grad School

About a month ago, Joseph had asked for our opinions and advice on "scholarships, career options, attachments/internships and general stuff". Together with elia diodati, we had a long and detailed email exchange on these topics. We figured it is worthwhile posting the relevant parts here for interested readers, since there might be some who have the same queries.

We also welcome any constructive criticisms, and corrections to any errors on our part. The gist can also be found here.


Joseph -

"Basically, I'm kind of seriously thinking about my future prospects.

(I was offered bioengineering by Washington U in St Louis, and economics by Wharton. I rejected those two to accept JHU's BME offer. The other U I applied to, being Duke & bioengineering too, rejected me. So it's pretty much 3 options, and I chose JHU.)

Are the payoffs of the BME program in Johns Hopkins worth it, with the risks, vis-a-vis taking on the A* scholarship and remaining bonded for years on end, and potentially getting disillusioned halfway? I can have an aggressive risk appetite, but I also need to have a proper rationale behind it.

What prospects are there for BME degree and/or a resulting doctorate in the US? I asked some BME people (who happen to be mostly A* and DSTA scholars), and to my surprise, they couldn't even provide me a definite answer. What I plan to do is find a job in the US (in what, I don't know yet, I looked hard but there don't seem to be a good report on related jobs anywhere).

And in your personal opinion, how good are A* attachments?"


takchek -
"As far as I know (based on what I had seen in the career fairs held in both my Graduate School and undergraduate college, which are pretty well regarded highly ranked US institutions), BME is a very niche field. There aren't as many job opportunities compared to the more mainstream Mechanical, Computer, Electrical and Chemical engineering disciplines.

This applies to both the BS and PhD levels. I daresay at the BS level you will lose out to the Mech and ECE folks as they can do your work (and not vice versa). I would actually recommend you NOT to take up BME if you want to have a higher chance of securing a (engineering) job here in the US. A far better option would be to take either MechE or ECE and do BME specific electives in your junior/senior years. BME is a multidisciplinary major and has many overlapping modules/courses with MechE/ECE/ChemE.

I know JHU has the No.1 BME program in the US. Its reputation might be able to help you secure a job in the BME field, but you should have an idea the job market for this discipline will be small. The average starting pay would be ~50 - 55K USD for BS grads. Take away the income taxes, you will probably end up with about ~36 - 40K annually.

Now, for scholarships - have you actually worked in A*star before? Have you seen first hand the corporate environment there? I speak from a first person's account. Of course, different RIs have different research environments. My advice to you would be to try out on an A*star internship first before signing the scholarship deed with them. I don't actually recommend you sign a long-term bond with them. My take on doing science in Singapore was posted months ago here.

You know, I think asking the A*star and DSTA scholars is quite a waste of time. Many of those I encountered are more interested in maxing out their fun time here in the US than sourcing out opportunities that the university can give them.

If money is a problem, you might want to consider doing your undergrad at a public university, or in NUS/NTU before heading to the US for grad school. It will be good if JHU is giving you enough money to attend school here."

joseph -
"My strongest doubt is this: if I still continue the path that I'm walking on now, doing BME in JHU, doing a BS or a PhD, will I be able to obtain a good job BETTER than what A*/Singapore can offer me? If it's of the same pay, same standard (will Singapore's research/engineering environment improve in 3-5 yrs' time?), then there's really no point in going it alone, is it?"

(Ed: Joseph's other dominant interest is to study medicine, either in Singapore or the US. He was also offered a no-pay internship to do paediatric oncology research at NUS.)

tk -
"Let me break them down. Too many issues being discussed here. :)

1. Medicine. Med school in the US is VERY expensive, and extremely selective. Which I am sure you know by now with some background research on your own. That being said, a good JHU degree (with strong recommendations from the faculty) can put you in a very strong position to get a place in Med School. But you overlooked one thing. You don't need a BME degree to apply for Med School. Any of the engineering disciplines (with some courses in bio-related areas like biochemistry, genetics etc) will be more than enough.

2. I can't comment on the NUS attachment thingy as I have no experience interning myself there. As for A*star, if you really want to consider taking a scholarship with them, I would strongly recommend you do an internship with them first. What do I mean by corporate/research enivironment? Well, for starters, A*star is like the SAF. In fact, the incoming A*star head, Lim Chuan Poh is an ARMY man, formerly CDF. What do you expect? The whole structure is very top-down driven. You basically do what the top wants. It isn't really a place for creativity and inquiry (quite opposite of what science should be like). The turnover rate is very high (I know for a fact for 3 RIs). I guess that tells you how much unhappiness there is among some of the staff there.

3. Getting out of Singapore is an experience you can't put a dollar tag on. The beauty of the US college system is that it allows you to explore your options in your first two years if you are not really sure what you want to do. Don't be surprised if you decide to switch to majors halfway. It happens!

4. What do you mean by a 'good' job? In absolute dollar terms, you will be better off in the US. And the best paying jobs are those in Wall Street - Investment Bankers and Management Consultants. The work hours are crazy though. If you really just want to make moolah, I suggest you try to enroll in the business school. JHU has just started a B school - to open for students in Fall 2007. Although in this sense, UPenn or Columbia or Harvard might be a better choice. How good a job is is not just about pay, but also company culture and work environment. For the latter two aspects, unfortunately Sg-based firms fail miserably. Heard of the people fearing for their jobs by the time they hit 40? Aka Derek Wee?

5. I doubt Sg's research/engineering environment will improve much in the next 3 - 5 years; not with the current leadership. :P If you are intent on working in Singapore, you might want to go to NUS/NTU, than to spend all those money in an elite private US university and then seek jobs in Sg."

elia - "
As takchek has already mentioned, this is a very complex problem and so in order to get anything productive out of this I am going to break down and label a lot of the details. I can't offer you a definitive answer, but I can certainly point your attention to specific issues you have to think about and decide for yourself. If you want to skip ahead I have an executive summary at the end.

From what I have read so far, I can infer that:

A1. You are Singaporean,
A2. You are currently not a scholar, but you are considering applying for A*STAR's scholarship,
A3. You are interested in life sciences, not just because of the buzz about it,
A4. You are not too sure if an R&D career suits you,
A5. You already have an offer from Johns Hopkins to do BME starting Fall 2007.

Everything I intend say rests on these 5 assumptions. Please let me know otherwise. If I seem rude or condescending, I apologize in advance since it is not a trivial task to determine your current situation without further information.

First things first: even if you don't want to tell us (it's ok if you don't), you should know the answers to these questions:

B1. Why do you want to study overseas as opposed to studying locally, like NUS?
B2. Do you have any other offers from any other schools? If so, have you filtered through the available options to pick the most promising one?
B3. Are you still waiting on other offers that are potentially just as good, if not better than, the JHU offer?

OK, now your specific questions, as already labeled by takchek:

T1. Medicine. I second takchek's comments. Since US medical schools admit only graduates, your discussion of medicine as a career option is somewhat premature. What is most relevant to you now is to determine if BME as an undergrad major is your best option. This is not as critical as it might sound initially, because assuming you can
maintain a good GPA, it is ridiculously easy to switch majors in the US system.

First, find out if your program is "pre-med". Most universities offer a specific "pre-med" option to the majors that open the door to medical school. Given what you have, you can do BME pre-med and follow up into medical school. That's definitely doable.

T1b. Specific advice about organic chemistry. You MUST go out of your way to take all the organic chemistry classes available to you, even if it is not required for BME. You will probably also want biochemistry, and to a lesser extent molecular biology. (These are probably required for your major anyway)

I have taught enough pre-meds and written enough letters of reference to tell you authoritatively that a solid grounding in organic chemistry and biochemistry is by far the single most important subject for med school. More so than even biology, surprisingly enough.

Organic chemistry will also be very useful if you later do anything nano-y - nanotech, nanofluidics, nanobiotech, etc. From a simplistic, bottom-up point of view, biochemistry (and life) is organic chemistry adapted to deal with water, and organic chemistry is the bottom-up approach to nanotechnology.

It's worth repeating: a thorough knowledge of organic chemistry is essential and non-negotiable for medical school. If you hate organic chemstry and/or suck at it, you can forget about medical school.

If I had to pick a major that is compatible with BOTH med school and BME graduate school, it would be chemistry and/or biochemistry, not any kind of engineering degree. (Disclaimer: I hold a B.Sc. in chemistry.) If anything, pursing engineering may actually disadvantage you because you may not have the necessary background in advanced biochemistry and organic chemistry. Depending on how serious you are
about medical school, changing your major at a later time is an option you should seriously consider at some later point. Of course if you later decide to pursue BME, then clearly there are some things you will have not learnt in undergrad that you will have to catch up with later. But it seems from people I know that graduate engineering programs admit a rather diverse lot of majors. Maybe takchek can
confirm that.

T2. Attachments. I think at your level, any experience at all will definitely count in your favour. Both possibilities will not only give you experience, they will give you some idea of the work culture at both institutions. It is up to you to pick which place you want to explore more.

T2a. NUS. I have done some work in NUS, but not in the life sciences. No pay sounds like exploitation, it's even worse than NS! I would ask around to see if this is the normal practice in NUS. (It's definitely not true in the US) The work is almost certainly classic molecular biology, not BME. You probably won't get direct experience relevant to BME, except perhaps in application, but you will have a better feeling for what other life sciences are like.

On the other hand, if getting no pay for 4 months of work which isn't exactly relevant to your major, it could be a rewarding experience. Considering that you're not paid, they have little basis to complain if you take up their offer first, then if a better one comes along later, you can ditch them for that offer later.

T2b. A*STAR. It should come as no surprise to you that I don't have anything good to say about A*STAR, and probably takchek too. I have not worked in A*STAR first hand, but I comment on their research output in the chemical sciences. There is a strong impression of doing without much insight, and I have spotted elementary and egregious
errors in their published work to be completely unimpressed with the quality of work coming out of A*STAR.

On the other hand, I agree that an internship should give you a much firmer idea of what A*STAR's work environment is like. I would definitely recommend trying it out first hand for yourself. Don't take our word for it if you don't want to. Considering it data gathering, if you like. :) It's worth repeating that you can (and should!) just do a short term thing with them without jumping in straightaway with applying for their scholarship.

T3. The US experience. People say that you should think outside the box, but you first have to step outside the box to realize what the boundaries of the box is. The US system is all about breadth, not depth, at the bachelor's level: definitely go all out to explore, even outside the life sciences...

T4. Job prospects. Another perspective is to ask, "What job opportunities will I miss out if I major in BME instead of X?" JHU is enough of a brand name in Singapore and the US that the choice of school is not a concern. Going back to Singapore to work with a degree from JHU is not likely to be an issue.

If you are wondering why takchek suddenly mentioned business schools, it's because many people study engineering and then take off into the finance industry. You can expect usd 60k+ starting salary as a consultant, usd 90k+++ as an i-banker, depending on your performance.

But talking about this now is somewhat premature; if you think finance is interesting, take some finance classes and/or join a student organization that does investments or something. It's worth repeating: take full advantage of the US system to explore.

T5. Medium-term prospects for Singapore's R&D. Unfortunately I have to agree with takchek on this one. I think the hype is beginning to peter out and already many ugly issues (AF, Warwick, JHU and Shorvon, just to name the ones that are publicly disclosed) are beginning to surface. The name of the game in Singapore is to throw as money as possible at the problem and hope for a solution to materialize. But
that's not how R&D works. The best R&D is done when an entire codependent community of people - technicians, scientists, engineers, and administrators - are present and willing to help each other out.

In the current regime where administrators dictate everything and technical support is pathetic, you simply can't do good R&D. If you want to verify this, pay attention to what kind of help you set from the technicians and listen to the scientists grouse about administrators who don't understand research. Then compare and contrast this with your later experiences in JHU. Considering how fundamental and ingrained the problems are, I highly doubt this situation will improve by the time you consider the job market in Singapore.

Your other questions:

E1. "Are the payoffs of the BME program in Johns Hopkins worth it, with the risks, vis-a-vis taking on the A* scholarship and remaining bonded for years on end, and potentially getting disillusioned halfway? I can have an aggressive risk appetite, but I also need to have a proper rationale behind it."

Why should these be mutually exclusive? If you really want to apply for A*STAR (I wouldn't recommend it, but let's say you want to) you can just tell them you already have an offer. I don't see why you can't do BME at JHU, with A*STAR sponsoring you.

The real question is, is an A*STAR scholarship worth it? If you want to look at it from a risk-reward point of view, the A*STAR scholarship rewards are substantial. You save all your undergraduate expenses, and have a guaranteed job for 6 years after your PhD. If job security is a big thing for you, this is a great opportunity. The risks are also substantial: you have to live by all their petty rules (like the 3.8
GPA thing that got me into trouble by writing about it), and if at any point in the next 14 years you decide that you hate your work, your major, your boss, your life, tough luck.

Note that I said nothing about graduate expenses. This is because most science and engineering programs offer full sponsorship for their graduate students. A*STAR's offer of sponsorship is practically worthless in this respect.

How about without a scholarship? The costs are upfront and in your face. It's worth asking for financial aid from JHU; the situation for funding international students in the US has improved dramatically in the last 5 years. Chances are you might get partial sponsorship from the school. Here's a tip: if you agree to become a teaching assistant, not only do you get paid a small stipend, you also get more job experience (teaching is an important component of academia) and most likely you will get a tuition waiver for the semester that you are teaching in.

You also have the responsibility of finding your own job when you graduate. It's not easy for international students to find employment - there's a lot of work you have to do. But everyone I know who has tried hard enough has found a good position. Which is also one of the greatest rewards of going out on your own: you have complete freedom in choosing your future.

Bottom line: an A*STAR scholarship makes sense only if:
1. You need the money for your undergraduate degree, OR
2. Job security is VERY important to you,
3. You know that the career they are offering is EXACTLY what you want to do for the next 14 years into your future.

Since you have indicated that 1. is not important to you and 3. is not 100% true, it seems like getting A*STAR funding is not the best option for you.

E2. "What prospects are there for BME degree and/or a resulting doctorate in the US?" Your question about prospects for BMEs is hard to answer because BME is a very new engineering discipline; as such there may not be a high demand for BME graduates and certainly there is very little experience to go by. For engineering in general I
believe the market is much more receptive to engineers with advanced degrees; at least a master's, if you want to have a decent stab at a good job. However, considering the highly specialized nature of BME it may be more like the sciences in that you would need a PhD to have a serious job in BME. You can speak to felumpfus at
felumpfus.blogspot.com about the fine distinctions between the life sciences. She's currently doing her PhD at JHU.

E3. "if I still continue the path that I'm walking on now, doing BME in JHU, doing a BS or a PhD, will I be able to obtain a good job BETTER than what A*/Singapore can offer me?"

See T2, T4 and E1. The answer hinges critically on what you mean by "better". With A*STAR, what you get is what you get, it is non-negotiable. Speaking generically, you cast your net wider going alone; it is possible to get a worse offer than A*STAR's; it is also possible to get a much better offer than A*STAR's. By going with A*STAR, the hidden cost is that you must exclude any opportunities, for better or for worse, that come your way in the future.

Congratulations on embarking on the next big thing in your life. It's commendable that you are thinking about these things early on.

If I were you, based on what you've told me, you would:
1. Take up NUS's offer, but apply for other internships anyway, and ditch NUS if you get a better offer,
2. Don't take up an A*STAR scholarship, since you don't need the money and you aren't sure what exactly you want to do,
3. Explore as many fields as you feel like in your first two years, especially outside BME and the life sciences,
4. Take as many organic chemistry classes as you can,
5. Consider the option of changing majors out of BME in your last two years, if it turns out that there are better major options (chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, chemical engineering, bioengineering, to name a few) for you, and
6. Figure out what you want in a job.

Good luck,"

elia (cont'd) -
"You should look at these URLs for information.

You should also be aware of another option, the MD/PhD joint degree programs awarded by medical schools. People who want to do this program (i.e. subject themselves to double torture) are very rare and your chances of getting admitted could be higher. MD/PhD programs often cover a bigger part of medical school expenses too. So you could in principle do medical school concurrently with a PhD in BME. Again, the choices are not mutually exclusive. But you can think about this later."

Writing takchek

Blogging is interactive - other than leaving comments on my posts, some readers will email me privately to ask questions or to seek opinions. Most of the time, I will ignore such requests. I simply do not have the time nor the inclination to respond to each and every of their comments/questions/opinions.

That said, there are a couple of readers' emails that I think is worth a public airing (with their authors' permissions).

The one below came from an undergraduate who needed some help with her research project.

Hi takchek,

My project aim here is to try to 'clear away the debris' and unearth what student-writers really wanted to say, and what sort of identity he wanted to create by the way he writes (either in assignments based or simply through blogging!). As you probably might know, writing ought to present one's own view, own reflection on a particular topic and not simply just a regurgitation of an analysis he has gathered from elsewhere. But more often than not, student-writers simply are a passive receiver of transmitted knowledge or quotations from researches done. Hence, this form of writing contains many abstractions and generalizations, disconnected from people and experience.

And I've been reading ya entries for quite some time and since ya entries are mainly about academic stuff, I hope you are able to offer me some new insights as to the style(how, and what) in your writing when providing information, spark ideas, increase understanding. What sort of identity you wanted to create through your blog with the choices of language you've adopted, and probably have drawn on your own experience. And do you think that a student-writer should take his reader's opinion into consideration?

I sincerely need your help here as I'm required to do fieldwork researches on gathering responses from student-writers.

yea, your blog is a good read!


These are several pointers to guide me in my writing (here). The list is not exhaustive.

1. Identify your audience. Who are the people most likely to read your blog on a regular basis? Are they fellow students/workers etc like yourself? Or are they family members and close friends? Or are they someone most likely to share common interests/backgrounds as you? Or is it for yourself only? Your style of writing will very much depend on your target readership because you want to engage them in your writing. But regardless of your intended audience, you should write simply and clearly. That means minimal SMS-speak, big words and Singlish/dialect unless you are trying to make a certain point. Rockson is AN EXCEPTION, in a class of his own.

2. Topic ideas. As you had rightly pointed out, takchek's (primary) focus is on tertiary education (although there is a significant portion discussing other issues like National Service, love relationships and life in general).

Why do I do this? Because this is my life so far and I am most familar with it. I write from the perspective of someone who had benefited greatly from Singapore's K-12 education system and ended up in America for my tertiary education.

But life wasn't a bed of roses - NS exposed me to the dark side of Singapore.

So I wrote them out and shared with readers. And they did resonate.

Blog topics can also come from random conversations with your friends/peers (online and off) or from other blogs/current news.

3. Always keep your reader in mind, and try to have SHORT posts.

"Your Reader: I will be your reader, so you need to write your paper with me in mind. Who am I? It is best to think of me as somebody who is lazy, stupid, and mean. I am lazy in that I will not spend a lot of time trying to figure out what it is that you are trying to say. I am stupid in that I won't understand what you are trying to say if it is not clearly said. And I am mean in that if you say something that can be interpreted in several different ways, I will always opt for the less charitable interpretation or reading." - Eric Smith

'Greg Mankiw' is one of my favorite blogs. Mr Wang's too.

4. If possible, try to have one or two pictures to tell your story. They speak more and better than what you can write in words.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why Asian Males are bitter


I like this penultimate paragraph, the last sentence especially.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Life starts anew AFTER leaving Singapore; Oh, and jury duty too

I speak from a male Singaporean perspective of course. And no, I am not going to to rant again about how much of a time-and-mind wasting activity National Service is was to most of us. I am just glad that I have the option of not returning and be subjected to wearing that fugly No. 4 (plus whatever push/flavor of the day the gahmen wants the herd to go into).

Oikono (Wharton/Penn), quitacet (Columbia) and 7366 (WashU)'s experiences were very similar to how I felt in my first year away from home. We may all have different dreams, but we chose to come to the US to pursue them (and going beyond grades).

But many Singaporeans do not have this luxury. That nation has done itself in somewhat with the Pygmalion Effect. I am not even referring to some generic compatriot; I looked at the sad eyes of several of my (distant) cousins and neighbors' kids who are not doing well in school, of how their parents (and I am guessing their teachers too) had given up and branded them as 'gone case'.

I do have my teachers to thank for believing in me. Not for some though. And they still leave an imprint on me, albeit in the non-academic sense. I am, in a nutshell, the most confident insecure person you will ever meet. I am still a work in progress. When I was young, I longed to fit in and finally at 21, I stopped trying. I simply went to a new environment overseas. I have not looked back since. Hopefully never ever.



Many of them come brimming with hope and passion. Yet beneath it all, I can’t help but also noticed a lack of self confidence, a lack of belief in their own abilities. Its almost as if deep down they doubt they will ever be able to produce something good. I look into their eyes, I see self-doubts and a fear of failure. Its ridiculous to see some of the students sit infront of their workstation and they’re almost afraid if they do something wrong, the computer will explode or something.

I don’t know why, perhaps its our education system but I don’t for one second believe we don’t have what it takes. Yes, our enviroment may not be condusive for creativity but hell, if flowers can bloom in the desert I don’t see how even an adverse enviroment can stop one from exercising his own creativity. You have to work harder, that’s all. And above everything, you have to believe in yourself. And that’s all it boils down to, if you don’t believe in yourself, that in and of itself is already a major obstacle and perhaps that’s why many people stop improving as an artist. Perhaps its because subconsciously they don’t believe they will be any good, so why bother to practice, why bother to improve. They let the opinions of others beat them down, they let their lack of self confidence bear them down, and that’s sad.


In my snail mailbox today, there was a letter from the county's "Office of Jury Clerk" addressed to me. First thought that came to my mind - Shit.

Trial by jury is a fundamental principle of our system of justice. Jury service is therefore both an opportunity and an obligation of every American citizen. Your name has been electronically drawn by random selection from a list of residents in this county as a potential juror pursuant to state law. You are being considered for jury service in this county. Your cooperation and willingness to return this form is greatly appreciated.


That was not all. On the envelope enclosed, the top-right hand box has the wording: "Place stamp here. Post Office will not deliver mail without proper postage."

WTF?! 1. I am not a US citizen. 2. You are asking me a favor, and I have to cough up money to send you the stupid form?!

Now, if only I am that lucky in winning the green card lottery...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Chio babe and hot wheels

This morning I was overtaken on the Interstate by an Asian babe driving a hot new car (BMW 3-series convertible; the roof was down). This happened despite me already hitting 100 mph.

As I was telling PS, I became upset (aka buay song).

Hot chicks are supposed to be chauffeured, not to take behind the wheel! And leave us men behind in the dust. I ended up trying to decide between drooling at her or her car.

Not surprisingly, PS's response was...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

News Flash: JHU-Singapore part IV

Two news articles - one from a JHU prof arguing Singapore should de-emphasize its commercialization approach to research, and the other on the fate of the 4 Singaporeans affected by the A*star-JHU break-up.

I am tickled by the latter's wording - "with no obligation to return to Singapore." I mean, duh! Not with the shabby way you have treated them. Singaporeans should know about the availability of bond-free graduate scholarships/fellowships/assistantships in the US especially in the physical, biological and engineering sciences.

Free mind on research
11 January 2007 1245 hrs (SST)

Ditch the idea that patents and licenses are the only measure of success in the research world, and fund more basic research — even if it fails.

Urging Singapore to shift its approach towards research, Johns Hopkins University president William Brody said the Government should have a more open-minded view of the sector, beyond just dollars and cents.

"The thing is that Singapore always makes investments that are driven towards economic return," said Prof Brody, who is in town for the International Academic Advisory Panel meeting. "Much of the research that's funded is in the applied development, as opposed to basic research."

But unlike the former type of research, where outcomes can be achieved in, say, three years, basic research is a more uncertain game.

"Basic research is long term and (its success is) very much harder to measure. Much of basic research fails. If it's not failing, then you're not going to get groundbreaking discoveries," he said. Conducting such research is thus crucial as it trains talent in the process.

"Technology transfer is not about patents and licenses — it's about people," said Prof Brody.

Citing Sun Microsystems and Cisco as examples of highly-successful companies that have their roots in technology developed at Stanford University 15 years earlier, he said: "It was a project that had no apparent commercial value at the time, but it ultimately spawned two multi-billion-dollar companies."

Such a shift in approach would require the Government and Singaporeans to change their attitudes, he added. "It requires people being comfortable with failure, and investing in research without having a clear economic return." Patents and licenses, he felt, are poor indicators of performance.

When asked to comment on the breakdown of Johns Hopkins' tie-up with A*Star last year, Prof Brody declined to elaborate. But he emphasised that such programmes are difficult to set up, particularly in financing and attracting faculty.

Urging local universities to be more involved in research, he said: "Much of the research that has been done here is in separate research institutes, funded by A*Star and others, and I believe very strongly that research and education should be integrated."

Local universities, he said, have a good chance of attracting top research talent into the country. "There are some very talented people (here) and the funding they're pulling together will allow them to attract some really top-class people." - TODAY/st


Jan 11, 2007
US varsity, Indonesian couple fund 4 who lost study awards

LAST year, Miss Yap Kai Lee's future looked uncertain.

She and three other post-graduate students appeared to have been left in the lurch when Johns Hopkins University and A*Star ended their research collaboration here.

But now Miss Yap, 23, and the others - all Singaporeans - are well on the way to realising their dreams.

Funded by an Indonesian-Chinese couple and the university, all four started school last August at the Johns Hopkins campus in Baltimore - with no obligation to return to Singapore.

They had originally won full scholarships from the Division of Biomedical Sciences, Johns Hopkins in Singapore (DJHS), to pursue a five-year pathobiology research PhD programme in the US.

But when Johns Hopkins and A*Star parted ways, they were told that there was no money to fund their studies.

A*Star also said that, since the scholarships did not come with a bond requiring them to return to Singapore, the agreement signed with Johns Hopkins did not require A*Star to come up with any funding.

It did, however, offer them scholarships to study at local universities.

But a Johns Hopkins spokesman here confirmed yesterday that the university's medical school dean had waived the US$32,000 (S$51,200) tuition fees for each of the four students.

Also, each of them is getting a stipend of about US$30,000 (S$48,000), which the Indonesian couple and Johns Hopkins are funding.

It is not clear how the couple came to offer their assistance.

And Miss Yap, who has met the middle-aged couple, is very grateful that she can now continue her work in cancer research.

In a telephone interview from Baltimore, she told The Straits Times: 'I was very worried at first, but Johns Hopkins didn't give up trying to get us funding. We wouldn't be here if not for them, and the generous couple.'

She is not sure if she will come back to Singapore to work, or look for a job in the US.

'If the prospects are good in Singapore, with my friends and family there, I will go back. But there may be opportunities in the US, so I may stay here,' said the youngest of three daughters of a civil servant and a housewife.

She shares a flat with two other Singaporean girls who were affected by the break-up, while the fourth, a man, is living not too far away.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Little Asia on the Hill

Continuing series in the press about over-representation of (East) Asians in top US college campuses.

Alternative to the first link.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Off Wisconsin

This proposal comes from a state whose flagship public university started the Wisconsin Idea. Talk about going from being progressive to being regressive.

“If we can’t lure them here, let’s tether them here,” said Mark O’Connell, executive director of the Wisconsin Counties Association, a lobbying organization, and a member of the Commission on Enhancing the Mission of the Wisconsin Colleges, a group created to advise the network of 13 two-year colleges in the state.

Elia Diodati - "Which only goes to show how transient greatness can be."