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.



felumpfus said...

US$30,000/yr? WOW. *jealous*
The standard stipend for JHU SOM grad students is only like $25,200 leh.

takchek said...

Well, the difference could have been paid by the Indonesian couple.

On a side note (and this requires a verification? by loiseaurebelle), Colorado's physics department is paying their grad students ~$33,000/year.

quatscherei said...

research, research. But that's been the mindset of the politics in Singapore what...isn't money like the most important commodity?

I don't know where all the money is going to (although i have a sneaky suspicion...)

It's no wonder why although we are supposed to be very intelligent and study-smart people, we don't have leading scientists of Nobel laureates.

Seems we're better at working than being a genius.

L'oiseau rebelle said...

tk, to answer your question, my sources tell me it's about $30,000/year, assuming a summer RA. The exact number depends on whether you have passed your comps (i.e. quals). Sometimes, the dept gives out additional fellowships. So one of my sources is getting nearly $36k this academic year, and another source gets something not insignificant akin to a bonus at the end of every academic year.

On the other hand, the costs of living in Boulder aren't exactly low, compared to the rest of the state, including Denver.