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Singapore, the wealthy, southeast Asian, cultural amalgam has concurrently undermined and buttressed my pre-tour conceptions of the tropical, economically prosperous nation.

To view the country pessimistically would be to dissect its almost totalitarian governmental state and scrutinise its judicial system that often confronts and contrasts typically western ideas. Disturbingly evident across the city-state, Singapore’s social underclass yields an alien politeness that commonly approaches boundaries of submissiveness and permeates the nation’s developed business culture. A consequence of the city’s cesspool of private wealth, Singapore harbours underprivileged, financially malnourished and evidently ignored cultural hotspots that seem anachronistic to the PAP’s Singapore. The industrially deprived regions are at capacity and survive day-to-day under a labour based economy that is juxtaposed the current economic prosperity of the greater population. Consequently, they fulfil the social archetypes that propagated the racial animosity that is a lone stain on the country’s short history. Perhaps these are ramifications of the nation’s exponential growth since it’s federation and an acceptable social collateral. Regardless, it is antagonisingly obvious that the PAP has little interest in levelling the socio-economic playing field for the areas that are primarily supported by the work of foreign nationals.

Governmental personality has confirmed my initial perceptions o the island state, albeit shallow and unsubstantiated. Culturally, this has extended to the greater public, which although infinitely polite, are reserved and private. In comparison to the accepted Australian identity, conclusions can be drawn between governmental activity and the persona and behavioural tendencies of its people. In any case, the borderline social and cultural oppression of the Singaporean government resulted in the privacy and shyness of its populace.

However, to view the nation pessimistically would be to deny the beauty of its landscape and political aspirations. Primitively, Singapore’s history is the proverbial rags-to-riches narrative – from humble beginnings as a farming nation with little renewable resources, Singapore has blossomed, with rapidity, into a global financial superpower. Singapore’s incredibly ethical culture and attention to detail aside, the long jeopardy and success of the PAP has fostered an inherent trust and belief in the state’s future that cannot be rivalled universally. Subsequently, this has allowed governmental agencies to confidently plan and execute advancements in infrastructure, finance, as well as science and its technologies. With no significant opposition, Singapore evidently has a functioning government with no apparent requirement for an alternative. This, in comparison with the composition of governments globally, can be accredited to the ever-presence of science in Singapore’s parliamentary cabinet.

Undeniably, this has resulted in an apparent saturation of research, design and development opportunities and investments in technological advancements across the nation. The R&D landscape in its entirety is exclusively prosperous and offers a practically infinite financial well. Subsequently, Singapore is the most appropriate and supportive environment to pursue academic success.

Participation in the New Colombo plan and its collaborative efforts with La Trobe University’s has exacerbated the potential of Nano-based industries. Initially sceptical about the future of nanotechnology, its ethical direction and the dedication of its alumni, I have been forever ensured that the industry is inherently stable and expanding exponentially. Visits to A-Star institutes and insight into their operations and motivations have propelled me to pursue in a future in nanotechnology.


Politics aside, Singapore in a nutshell: good food, transport and a bright future. Alcohol is too expensive and the humidity is at times unbearable! Shiouk! 



Our tour of the final A-Star facility, Singapore’s Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) was a raw and unaltered presentation of the companies prospectives and capabilities. An overview of the microscopy lab was delivered candidly, yet with detail and the intention of broadening our perceptions on the trials and tribulations of laboratory operation. 

A meeting with fellow Australian, Professor Victor Nucombe, allowed a starkly honest interpretation of  the life of a Singaporean professional and an analysis of the nation’s history and future; from a typically Australian perspective. Professor Nucombe covered previously undisclosed aspects of the country’s past and illustrated the events that potential prefaced their current prosperity.

Most impressively, the astonishingly confident, eccentric and ultimately compelling Nucombe was transparent with his motivations in relocating to the city-state. Unsurprisingly, financial benefit and the promise of immediate application of his research compelled the Australian’s operations. He described the government’s relationship with the industry as unlimited and under the pretence that a research environment would be constructed “where money is no object”. However enticing this may appear, it was extended by the his establishment of Singapore’s economic future. 

Currently, Singapore is the fourth largest financial centre globally and contains the greatest percentage of private wealth per capita worldwide – making it the wealthiest country on Earth. The world bank has dictated that Singapore is the most suitable environment for private business, particularly those regarding the sciences. 

Professor Nucombe’s concern with the quality of Australian science permeated his presentation and accentuated the extension of an invite to aspiring Australian graduates. Personally, the enticements of Singapore’s scientific climate may be fruitful enough to attract myself, given the appropriate research opportunities arise. 


Fusionopilis, A-Star’s corporate expose and industrial bragging point illustrated sensationalised scientific endeavours and exciting yet typical socially irrelevant technologies. The building, alike the technology it protected, was futuristic and cold, however offered a panoramic view of the cities lesser seen postcodes. The first exhibit, and ultimately spectacular, 3-dimensional holographic theatre was guarded by an enormous, confronting and inherently secure sliding door that seemed ill-fitting for the physical manifestation of the A-Star institute’s prosperity and more appropriate for the lair of an eccentric super-villain. Unsurprisingly, from this point onwards, photography was prohibited with the intention of classifying the assets of the foundation. 

Evidently, Fusionopolis existed as an inconsistent amalgamation of A-Star’s economic, technological and scientific endeavours. The extravagant environment, although impressive, was delivered in conjunction with its commercial aspirations, rather than denoting the social or political ramifications of the technology it housed. Holistically, the visit gave insight into the depth and dissonance of technological research and design, and emphasised realities surrounding the financial personality of R&D. Undoubtedly, the most marketable inventions and adaptations are those that facilitate the wants of the greater public, rather than the needs. 

Personally, I hope that this is not a consequence of the ‘push and pull’ marketing system, which could potentially lead to the commercialisation of pivotal scientific bodies whose funding be otherwise allocated to scientific necessities. Although otherwise excessive, Futuropilis was an impressive and undeniably spectacular incarnate of the flexibility of the A-Star corporation. 

Following the visit to the A-Star institute, we were allowed an intimate tour of the Singapore Zoo and its back-of-house facilities. Disappointingly, the zoo was less than impressive on many accounts and effectively heightened my appreciation for Melbourne’s own attractions. Despite the passion and enthusiasm that the staff portrayed towards the well-being of the enclosed animals, the living conditions in many of the exhibits were unrealistic, overpopulated and confronting. Particularly in the case of the attraction’s fully-grown polar-bear, whom laid  uncomfortably in solitude on a concrete slab, appearing malnourished and expressing grimace. Despite all attempts to be diplomatic in my writing, I cannot condone this behaviour on behalf of the tourist attraction. 

The day, in its entirety, elucidated the underside of the nation’s commercial activities. Juxtaposed to the prosperous endeavours in Singapore’s scientific and industrial sectors, I feel that the commercial state of the country is potentially shallow and immoral.

I am so SMART, S-M-R-T… I mean S-M-A-R-T

The events of today’s activities, alike this tour, were seamless yet uneventful. The 9am start was discovered as a surprising rest and an unexpected break from the collective ventures of the rest of the journey. The morning was lacklustre and existed entirely as a hysteric squabble over the events of the weekend and of course procrastination. At a lazy 2pm my peers and I waltzed down to NUS’s Create facilities and participated in a relatively brief tour of the lab.

Primarily, NSU’s SMART Create invests its funding in researching biological applications of typically nano-scale techniques – with emphasis on microscopy, disease studies and the fabrication and implementation of three-dimensional micro-fluidic devices. Most impressively, the building sported an immaculate outlook on the greenery-entwined cityscape of the NUS campus. SMART’s work environment, as a consequence of this seems motivating and potentially inspiring – the amalgamation of the equatorial greenscape and cement freeway that wound through it like a grapevine could do no other than demonstrate the societal and cultural motivations for the work within the laboratory.

Afterwards, my peers and I indulged in a game of nano vs. pico basketball – as anticipated; this was hardly the most athletic display of the sport. However, it exemplified the progression of the denounced culmination of strangers that accrued on the tour and was a testament to the like-mindedness of the students and the operation of the tour. 

– Trey Guest

Moral Science and Sustainability

Eri@n, Nanyang Technological Universities Energy Research Unit is the optical incarnate of its own research and design. The institute’s green, futuristic exterior preface’s the environmentally driven motivations of the unit’s operations. Eri@n’s co-director Professor Choo Fook Hoong outlined the motivations and considerations of their technical advancements in electrical energy storage stimulation, computation and communication, electrical transportation and mechanical engineering and sustainable infrastructures. The organisation’s research and design manifests in their collaboration with industries concerned with energy storage, electro-mobility and global sustainability. 

Personally, the visit to Eri@n awoke my own nocturnal inclinations towards materials studies with the purpose of creating environmentally stable industry and positive alternatives to typical energy sources. I found the conviction and purity of the institute’s goals promising and refreshing. Credence was given to the sincerity and altruism of Eria@n’s environmental protection by the application of their morality across the facility. Professor Choo Fook Hoong established that the institute intends to reduce NTU’s energy consumption by 35% by 2020. Despite his concession of the extravagance of their ambitions, Hoong discussed the intention to trial Eria@n’s technology and materials across the campus before they are commercialised. Insight into the persistence and dedication of the institute to their science was consoling and built trust in the direction of manufacturing R&D.

The visit to Eria@n opened potential employment and study prospective and prompted me to re-assess my goals and hopes in the industry. Ideally, my future research endeavours will be those that I am morally inclined; analysis of the conviction and commitments of NTU’s Eri@n allowed me to establish understandings of the operation of a work environment concerned with both scientific and social advancement.

– Trey Guest

A-Star, Research and Design

The Singaporean institute of Manufacturing Technology, colloquially referred to as SIMTech is an A-Star organisation with the primary motive of developing a competitive, high value Singaporean manufacturing industry. Essentially, SIMTech facilitates the need of the market by creating intellectual property whilst developing and managing industrial and corporate affairs.

Dr Wai Jun’s introduction gave a thorough and candid overview of the the company’s roles, motivations and restrictions as well as their involvement in bio-manufacturing, large area processing and microfluidics R&D. The presentation delivered compellingly honest insights into SIMTech’s research programs in relation to the academic discipline in which they encompass. The depth to which Dr Wai Jun described the current demands pervading each academic discipline and donated professional awareness on the commercial demand for each employment arena.

The timetable provided, that outlined the scheduled activities for both NTU visits, foreshadowed the professionalism and functionality of the universities and its branching institutes. Dr Wai Jun’s demonstration exemplified his motivations for technical and manufacture prosperity in Singapore. This was done in conjunction with a developed interest to create constructive and influential commercial, industrial and educational relationships with La Trobe university and Australian industry – particularly unions similar to the CSIRO.


Republic Polytechnic, Singapore’s scientific, technical alternative demonstrated the extent of the nation’s education system and its inherent flexibility. Undeniably, the institute spares no expenditures to provide a positive alternative to typical education. Tour guides and students were enthused to establish constructive relationships with the student and staff of La Trobe and assisted the overall characterisation of the establishment. Interestingly, contrary to the Victorian education system, Republic Polytechnic is exorbitantly funded and embraces unorthodox schooling environments. The community encourages a multitude of learning dispositions and is essentially a ‘limbo’ education between secondary and tertiary studies. Ideally, a similar implementation would influence Australian youth towards the sciences by promoting a practical work environment. The flexibility of Singapore’s evolving education system is a testament to the progressive, expanding economic and scientific landscape of the country.

Following the tour, a group excursion to Sentosa Island’s Aquarium with a NUS Biodiversity exchange students existed as a propagation of the country’s concerted tourism efforts. The second largest aquarium in the world was a aesthetic playground to build relations with foreign students – all of which shared the unified goal for the benefit of the scientific community. Tour guides in the aquarium were enthusiastic, knowledgeable and purveyed the engineering behind the function of the aquarium – the experience holistically broadened perspective applications of nanoscience and material functions. Communications with the biodiversity students reinforced the growing influence on my interactions with internationals and the concepts of globalism and the wider global community. Prospectively this strengthens my belief in the future of both industry, community and society and propels me to utilise possible advancements in materials science for the benefit of the community. 


– Trey Guest

Sore Feet and High Hopes

As a ramification of the tour’s intensity, as well as a hardened pair of shiny, new leather shoes, I was unable to join the collective in their visit to NUS and the science demo lab. Instead, I was committed to a day laden with study, reflection and a well-earned rest. Rather than burdening you with the negligible exploits of my day, I have instead decided to give a scant overview of my expectations for the remainder of the trip.

In the past week, my outlook on Singapore’s cultural and economic climate has rapidly shifted and I have been gifted with a greater sense of globalism. The countries financial and scientific exploits have allowed me insight into the future of nanotechnology and subsequently my occupational horizons. Ideally, the remainder of the trip will ignite a specific passion, goal or method of achieving what I want by offering a specific direction. Potentially, this could come in the form of a project, mentor or like-minded students with the same motives in the industry. Personally I would appreciate speaking to those within the industry with honest motives that regard the propagation of the science and the improvement of the human condition. Although these expectations are exorbitant I believe they are achievable, given the rapidity that my outlook on global communities has been altered.

– Trey Guest 

Political Caricatures and the High Commision

The formality of the venture to the Australian High Commission in Singapore confirmed a number of political archetypes and painted caricatures of the governmental personality of our global neighbours. The English embassy fronted two sharply dressed guards and a scarcely fenced greenery – comically mirroring the countries border leniency. Inversely, the engraved marble façade of the American consult was perched on a hill above the walkway, as if purposely built at an advantage to its neighbours. Appropriately, signs forbidding photography accompanied the gated, picketed boundaries – each of these ironically followed by an array of lifeless security cameras. Finally, the Australian High Commission and obviously the only I was allowed entry to gifted subtle reminders of home – a friendly smile, a stash of Tim-Tams and of course a fridge full of beer.

Predictably, the concept of national identity was frequented in the talks that followed; more surprisingly however, were the relayed anecdotes of Singapore’s governmental powers. Comparison was drawn between the countries’ democracy and their relative youth and most impressively the Colombo Plan, the predecessor to the very purpose of my travels, was outlined. The initial endeavour regarded education relationships between Singaporean students and Australian universities. Celebrated members of the community, parliament and the nation’s President were products of the scheme, giving credence to the current emphasis on the relationship of the governments and vindicating the significance of this opportunity for my future.

The visit to the Australian embassy clarified the significance of our relationship with Singapore and highlighted similarities that I would have other wised overlooked. Ultimately, it is apparent that our nations can find economic prosperity within collaboration and understanding between one another. Pre-existing intimacies between Lee Hsien Loong and Australia as a nation, alongside the New Colombo Plan are undoubtedly strong starting points for this endeavour. 

Singapore’s focus on research and development and their distribution of wealth to the sciences were elucidated in a visit to Institute for Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE). A brief presentation with Australian native Dr. Sean O’Shea highlighted the opportunities in research and development presented to both Singaporeans and international postgraduates – particularly in the study of materials at the nanoscale. A-Star, IMRE’s governing body, offers a multitude of scholarships and internship programs to elite students of the trade globally. The significance of this is prevalent in the avant-garde facilities and instrumentation that are supported by funding from the Singaporean government – instrumentation that may be otherwise unobtainable in Australia.  

A rushed tour of the institute denoted the scientific diversity and across IMRE and multi-disciplinary nature of their research. The opportunities offered at the clinic mirrored the core learning objectives of our own nanotechnology program and reinforced the relevance and potential academic prosperity that the opportunity holds. The attitude of the Singaporean government, as well as its commercial sectors towards nano-scaled sciences was refreshing and was a physical incarnate of the future of my peers, the industry and myself. The tour of IMRE and presentations regarding the promising future of A-Star and the institute reinforce my own concessions on the future of Nanotechnology whilst laying rest to industrial and occupational insecurities.

– Trey Guest