SCIENCE, POLITICS AND PORK BUNS
Today was the first early start of the study tour, with the leaving time set at precisely 8am. Our first scheduled visit was to the Australian High Commission, wherein we were to hear from Deputy High Commissioner Julie Heckscher, as well as Third Secretary Jennifer Burdick and Austrade Commisioner Tracy Harris. Unfortunately, Julie Heckscher had been sick for several days, so she was not able to speak. Instead, we had an interesting talk with Jennifer and Tracy, covering topics such as the similarities/differences between Singaporean and Australian politics and the bi-lateral relationship between the two countries.
It was interesting to hear how exactly Australian and Singaporean politics differed; the same general parliamentary democracy structure is employed in both countries, however there are some key differences. For example, the winning party in the Singaporean system has the majority of the seats, and so there is little voice given to any members of the opposing party. This is not the case in Australia, where the opposing party will always retain a reasonably high number of seats in parliament, and has power to vote on what legislation is passed.
With regards to the bi-lateral relationship, it is obvious that both countries are fairly heavily invested in the other, specifically in areas such as defense, trade, tourism and education. However, it certainly seems that there is a potential for research collaboration that is not yet fully utilised.
After a quick lunch back at the University Town (pork buns and dumplings for myself), we then proceeded to the Institute for Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE). We listened to two speakers, Drs Sean O’Shea and Evan Williams, about the activities of A*STAR and IMRE, and we discussed the Materials Center of Innovation (MCOI). We then toured some of the many laboratories in the building, and we were given a brief overview of some of the equipment.
I very much enjoyed learning about the MCOI, which is setup to aid in small and medium enterprise (SME) research, through scientific collaborative research. It was also fascinating to tour the laboratories and to hear exactly how some of the equipment was designed and implemented in modern research.
Overall, it was great to finally start learning about the science of Singapore, and I am more than ever looking forward to the activities planned for the rest of the week.