All posts by nrschammer

Fusionopolis and the Zoo

Today we enjoyed the wonderful facilities at Fusionopolis which housed some of the cutting edge technology that the A-STAR institutes had created. This covered a wide variety of applications from using a laser to control a computer to hospital beds that can read vital signs. This was really interesting as most of the study tour so far had been about the research that creates the materials it was pleasant to be able to see the final product and the applications that they have. The next part of the day involved meeting up with the biodiversity group again to visit the zoo. This was a nice change in pace as it allowed some people to expand their horizons and meet new people from a different culture. The zoo was nice however the enclosures seemed a little too small and it looked like some animals were a little stressed about the heat.

Today was extremely enjoyable as it was a step down in pace and we had a day to enjoy the inventions that had come from ASTAR research. It was also exciting to go to the zoo and see some animals that we had not seen before. We also got a behind the scenes tour of the zoo which involved us making food for the animals, seeing how the animals where treated when ill and also seeing the food the lions and tiger enjoy. This was an experience that I had never had and I would certainly recommend this to anyone. The future applications of the learning that I did today could directly influence the pathway that I decide to follow in my education. I have started to see that some of the research that we have seen is not what I would like to do in the future and some research that is really interesting and I would love to participate in. One example is the bio mimicry study that we learnt about the other day and using nature to help design and research new things. It seems that through evolution there are some wonderful features that animals have that are many times better than the current technology.

Reflective journal

The 2014 Singapore study tour has been an extremely valuable experience for me. I learnt various things related to nanotechnology while being given the opportunity to learn about a different culture. Since completing this study tour I have an altered perspective of how different countries can be from one another and the learning opportunities that they present. This tour has highlighted how different countries can be from one another that simply reading about a country cannot provide, even if they have a similar history such as being a former British colony. Through the tours of the science labs in Singapore I have gained a large amount of knowledge about possible projects that I would be interested in completing at some point in my future. I have learnt a great deal about the fields of research that are currently being undertaken which has given me an opportunity to discover where my personal interest lies.
Singapore has some things that any country should aim to integrate into their own community, such as scientific funding, growth of the society in a variety of ways (GDP, population and Infrastructure), and immigration.
There are also things that Singapore does that Australia cannot achieve; Australia is unable to create a public transport system to match Singapore’s as the land mass is far too expansive and Australia does not have the car owning tax to reduce the number of people able to purchase cars.
Opposing, there are many things that Australia does to a higher standard than Singapore. These include The incorporation of extensive welfare payments, the Australian working conditions are some of the best in the world and the minimum wage is also one of the best in the world.

The Final day

The last day was filled with lab visits, demonstrations and presentations. The morning consisted of the tour group visiting the last ASTAR institution on our schedule, Institute of Molecular Biology. This was immediately interesting as it started with a presentation from an Australian born scientist Victor Nurcombe. He first detailed the history of Singapore followed by his own history and then moved us onto what he was currently working on and why there was a need for it. He explained his project that is currently approaching his first human trials and it really sounded like a great product, Norton almost had his check book out to invest. 

After this we were shown to the lab that contains the microscopes. It was really intriguing to be able to see the awesome equipment that could be used in the future. It was awesome to see a super resolution microscope which we had learnt about in a previous nanotech course. 

We then went to NUS and had a look at the synchrotron that only occupied a single room. This is an incredibly small example but it still can be used in a variety of experiment up to x-rays. This is very helpful for a large amount of experiments that are currently being performed. 

The tour ended with an informal chat back at IMRE. This was a really good way to wind down as we could discuss the changes in our ideas, opinions and aims that had happened in Singapore. This was a nice afternoon to relax and reminisce on an excellent time in Singapore and a educational tour.

Creating Group Work

The plans for today didn’t work out as we hoped to have an industry visit however it turned out to be a bonus for the students as it gave us some much needed time to catch up and start organising group work. This day started off with team nano meeting together to organised the various part of the group work and also started to research key parts of the assignments.
After this morning of intense researching driven by the team leader Trey Guest, we went to meet Paul who took us to the SMART CREATE MIT centre. This was mainly focused on micro fluidics and the applications they can have. It was really educational to see how they mircofluidics were made and how they could be applied to problems that hospitals face. It was really intruging to learn how cancerous cells where separated from normal cells considering that they are almost identical. Today was an extra day to plan our assignments that we hadn’t planned on and therefore it was super relieving.

Incorporating sustainability.

Friday was another day when we heard about research projects. These projects where given to us by masters and PhD students as well as doctors. They told us about the current products, which involved clocking, laser cooling, CDPT and super conductors. This was really interesting as this is the first time that we had learnt about research projects in a physics and mathematical field. I learnt a great deal about the possibilities and the cloaking research was also incredibly interesting and a possible field of study. The laser cooling was also really compelling as by putting energy in the system they can cool it down.
The next place we visited was the NTU campus and in particular ERI@N. The ERI@N facility was really interesting as we learnt about sustainable science, they also showed us how to incorporate sustainable products that they had creating in to the buildings that they produce. Furthermore they showed us excellent modeling technology that needed 3D glasses to view the models. This technology could be used to better understand complex models and to predict the behavior of a project.
After we returned to UNI town we had a relaxing after noon with a Japanese dinner for only $4 and to finish we had a chocolate and banana prata for dessert. This cheap and delicious tea further reminded of the value for money that can be found in Singapore.

NTU, SIMtech and future projects

Today we went to SIMtech and learnt about the industrial and commercialisation side of science research. This was an enlightening experience as it showed the group more about the end product and how to sell it rather than the pure research side. After this we went to NTU and were educated about the history, the theory and some research projects that students were currently researching. Some interesting things I learnt about the university is that in undergraduate there is 20% international students however in postgrad this skyrockets to 80%. Another thing that is interesting is that they try and push people to create a start-up company and make money off the inventions. It was really interesting to see a different approach to university.
One thing that I was impressed with was NTU’s commitment to ensure the graduates were successful in their projects after they completed their PhD. Another ongoing trend is that universities have a very high rate of people going overseas for at least a small part of the course (70-80% undergraduates and almost 100% postgrads). This is mind-blowing coming from Australian universities where it is a privilege to go overseas rather than an expectation. It was also really interesting to see the industry side of research and how the push pull of the industry interactions. I believe that this knowledge will be really helpful in the future, either in my research project or in my career beyond my studies.

Visiting the aquarium and BBQ stingray

Today was slightly more relaxed, in the morning we visited Republic Polytechnic who showed us around their campus. This tour was hosted by the students who we had the pleasure of meeting in Australia earlier in the year. They showed us their excellent facilities and the airport hanger complete with 3 planes and a flight simulator was very impressive. They also showed us around their science labs and as they did this they explained the education model that the polytechnic colleges employ. Republic Polytechnic is a problem based learning class with almost all the learning being done through giving the students problems and then letting them figure out the solutions. The students complete year 10 then go to the polytechnic, the course goes for 3 years and after which they go straight into second year at university. This is available in Australia in TAFES however it is not well promoted and they do not have as many facilities to teach the students.
The afternoon consisted of a lovely visit to the aquarium with the Biodiversity students. It was really interesting seeing the variety of fish that come from around the world, it was also interesting to learn about the fish with a guide and then to feed the fish. The day was finished off by going to satay by the bay and enjoying some excellent BBQ stingray. Overall it was a very enjoyable day.

Exploring NUS and Physics fun

Today was incredibly busy as Paul whisked us off to lab after lab, presentation after presentation and finally ending the day with a demonstration on how physics principles can be applied in everyday life. But before we went anywhere we met the tour hosts who were introduced to us with one of Paul’s famous name, course and fun fact games. The day was really interesting and some highlights from the lab visits where the room sized ion accelerator, the 800mclean room and the PhD student who trapped single molecules and experimented on them. This was quickly followed up by incredibly educational presentations on Quantum mechanics and in particular quantum entanglement. After this we were told of the importance the NUS places on studying abroad with over 70% of its students studying overseas for some time during their course. The day was finished by an hour and a half demonstration on how physics could be incorporated and demonstrated in everyday life. 

I found today to be really interesting as it really highlighted the different focuses that NUS had compared to La Trobe university. NUS as previously stated has an amazing rate of undergraduates students going on an exchange with 70% of students visiting another country during their studies. Latrobe University has a massive focus in trying to enrol new students and while there are programs dedicated to taking students overseas( this program being one example) the rate of exchange is definitely not anywhere near 70%. A further difference between the universities is that NUS has 50% of the students undertaking a subject in science and engineering. La Trobe University has most of the students in the Health Sciences and Humanities faculties. This makes it a lot harder for Latrobe to get the funding to buy the more expensive equipment. I have noticed though that due to less funding La Trobe university has partnerships with other universities and businesses so they can still provide the same education, it just needs to be done in a way that doesn’t require an extremely large amount of government funding.

Politics, economics and lab visits

Day two of the study tour started nice and early with everyone meeting at 8 am. The high commission was the first official business that we attended at the study tour. The two host at the high commission educated us about both the political and economic ties between Singapore and Australia. They also talked about the history and the political climate of Singapore. This was well received and after the question and answer session it quickly dissolved into AFL talk with one of the hosts. Paul then gathered us up again and then after getting dressed into more comfortable clothes, we next went to IMRE. IMRE was very interesting as it gave us a tour of labs which were particularly interesting as it showed the possible career paths that could be taken. We viewed many different instruments that were fundamental in the research that was being done at IMRE. This then was topped off with an interesting chat with a PhD student who was working on more effective batteries for cars. He was hoping that he could make a battery with the perfect amount of capacity vs stability. Overall this was an educational day and it proved to be really interesting.

Worshipping Nature

The first official day of the tour involved us meeting at 10am. After we meet at Starbucks, we were assaulted by an equatorial thunderstorm. The severity and the speed of the thunderstorm surprised everyone except the local, Dong Chen. The first thing on the agenda was heading to marina bay sands and walking down by the riverfront. Lunch was had at the marina bay sands food court and after everyone was gathered we headed to the biospheres. The biospheres were split up into two sections; Flowering plants and the Cloud biosphere. The Flowering biosphere had an abundance of plants from around the world and featured Australia, South Africa, USA and South America.The cloud biospheres featured a central tower with a waterfall and several levels of observation.The main attraction was the plants that were attached onto the outside of the main tower which varied and beautiful, it was obvious a large amount of time had been spent arranging and collecting these plants.So far in this trip i have the impression that the culture of Singapore is to respect plants.

Singapore so far has given me and impression that they have valued having a large amount of plants incorporated in the city however the amount of time, money and effort that has been spent creating the sanctuary of plants that is the biospheres and surrounding areas reminds me more of a temple. Singapore in a way have created a temple that displays the sanctity and respect that they hold towards nature. The Cloud Biosphere in particular reminds me of the ancient legends of the hanging garden of Babylon and like the fabled garden there are many people who travel around the world and ensure they see this wondrous enclosure. This again can be compared to the main place of worship in a country ie. Mecca, Vatican City. The people of Singapore don’t only respect nature, they give me the impression that they worship it and their scared place is the biospheres. It was definitely worth going and grasping a better understanding of the culture.