Tag Archives: Nanotechnology Study Tour

High Commision and IMRE

This morning we had to dress up in our suits and ties to visit the Australian high commision. I wasn’t looking forward to walking around in my suit outside because of how humid it is here, but surprisingly it wasn’t too bad. We took public transport to the high commision and arrived early so we stopped to get some coffee nearby.

After coffee we walked over to the high commision, where we had to pass through airport security basically, we all got through successfully. The lobby of the commision had a modern, industrial feel to it and it was much cooler than outside. We were greeted by Jennifer, and Tracy, whom gave an informal talk to us about the relationship between Australia and Sinagpore.   Singapore’s relationship with Australia is a very close one, there are connections in almost all aspects of governenment and both have similar views on many topics. Australia and Singapore also have mamy commomalities as they are both relatively young countries and have a very diverse, multicultural background. After the talk, we had a disscussion session with the speakers accompanied by some morning tea.

Once morning tea was finished, we came back to our accomodation where we had half an hour to get changed and get lunch, let me say, getting a footlong Subway was a bad choice, I don’t think I have ever eaten one that fast before.

After getting changed we caught the NUS shuttle bus to the institute of materials and engineering (IMRE) where we were greeted by Dr Sean O’Shea and he gave us a brief outline on what IMRE do. We then had a tour around some of the facalities, such as the optics lab, where Dr Nikodem explained one microscopy technique that can detect light from single molcules, which was pretty interesting but complicated. Next, we went to a nanocomposites lab where Dr Warintorn gave us a tour and showed us a carbon fibre tube which is going to be used for new, light weight bicycles, which was awesome. We then went and looked at some SEM equipment, that looked like some alien tech, after that the day was completed and I went back to my accomodation and rested.

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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.

Arrival in Singapore

My plane flight was delayed two hours, so I arrived in Sinapore later than expected. The flight was the longest flight I’ve ever been on and it wasn’t as bad as I expected, there was a four year old boy infront of me but he was pretty friendly and never cried which was good. On arriving at the Changi airport I had to convince myself that it was going to be hot outside, but I couldn’t prepare myself for the humidity.

The airport didn’t seem much different to Australia, except for the customer feedback tablets where you rate your experience with the service. I waited at the airport for Trey’s flight to arrive and then we caught a taxi to the backpackers that we’re staying at for the first couple of nights. I like that there are black and white stripes oainted on most of the gutters, it feels like your in a racing game.

We arrived at the backpackers which is in little India and I had pretty high expectations on the cleanliness of the city, and from what I’ve seen so far, little India hasnt’t lived up to what I expected. The food so far has been good, I had the best mie goreng noodles I’ve ever had and it only cost $3.

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For the rest of the day I’ll probably just have a walk around the area and try to have a good sleep.

Cold Feet

Jetstar has met all my low expectations, and has not announced flight J007 to Singapore is delayed by at least 15 minutes. The gate is full of people milling around looking confused. I am not terribly unhappy about this state of affairs as it gives my phone and laptop a chance to charge.

I have been so busy over the last few days, I have not had much of a chance to develop expectations for this trip. I have been to Singapore (and actually left the airport) once before, but it was for less than 24 hours. I have fond memories of it though, I asked two women for directions, and not being able to help, instead invited me to lunch with their friends. They were a big group of what I assume were Chinese-Singaporeans and they were a friendly and talkative bunch. Lunch was a traditional Chinese style banquet of epic proportions, and they encouraged me to try all of it. Upon my leaving, unfortunately quite early due to my flight, they refused to take any money to contribute to the bill. If even a fraction of the people I encounter in Singapore are as friendly and welcoming, the trip promises to be an amazing experience.

One thing I am very much looking forward to is the tropical weather. It has been freezing recently, and the lack of heating in my house has been painful. My microwavable heat pack recently burst from overuse as I carry it around the house and use it like a hot water bottle 24/7. My feet in particular have been getting ridiculously cold and go purple, possibly because of my circulation.

One of the things that drew me to this study tour was opportunity to be back in Asia. I have been to Vietnam and Cambodia multiple times, when I am home in Australia I get periodic nostalgia pangs, and look up the prices of flights I will not be booking. Singapore appears to be quite different to other countries in the region. It is one of the few Asian countries to be categorised as ‘developed’, though unlike Japan and South Korea, it is not a member of the OECD. It is ostensibly democratic under the Westminster system, but the same party has been in power since independence in 1959. Judicial punishment is severe, and includes corporal and capital punishment. Despite these issues, it is consistently ranked among the least corrupt countries in the world according to the Corruption Perceptions Index. Though income inequality is huge, it has the highest percentage of millionaires in the world. A large proportion of the population has primary school as their highest level of education attained, but according to that fount of reputable information, Wikipedia, students consistently rank in the top 5 countries for mathematics and science. It appears to be a country of contradictions, which I think I will very much enjoy exploring.

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The plane appears to be ready for take-off. Next stop, Singapore.