Yesterday morning’s visit to the Australian High Commission was a resounding logistical success (despite the need for a groggy 8am start- sans Starbucks 😮 ), with room to leisurely make our way down from Brunetti’s (in my case Starbucks, as even the legendarily expensive cafe chain was outdone by the normally quite reasonable Brunetti’s). Once we had all cleared security, examined the artwork and Colombo Plan history pieces on display and generally cooled down as quickly as possible (suits, public transport and tropical climes don’t mix well with Melbournians), Jennifer Burdick (3rd Secretary, DFAT) and Tracy Harris (Trade Commissioner, Australian Trade Commission (Singapore)) proceeded to brief us on the various aspects of Singaporean-Australian relations as well as internal characteristics of Singapore.
The quirks of the otherwise vanilla Westminster political system of Singapore were of particular interest to me, simultaneously providing throwbacks to rare historical exceptions (such as nominative MPs representing sectors of society such as the arts or business- very similar to the
guilds corporations that vote in the City of London) and measures rarely seen (even rarer to be enforced correctly) in the most egalitarian corporations and governments (diversity quotas- interesting when viewed in light of the recent Google report on its own unfilled diversity quotas). In addition to these quirks, I found the most interesting parts of the briefing to be the emphasis on the codependency of Australia and Singapore that originates from the complementary nature of our raw materials (arable land and ore) and targeted expertise (the raison d’etre of our visit- LTU’s surface science and condensed matter physics expertise facilitates the ever-strengthening interactions between NUS and LTU) with Singapore’s processing, distribution and financial expertise.
After a brief interlude we visited IMRE, hosted by Dr. Sean O’Shea, who briefed the study tour group on the organisational aspects of IMRE (at a breakneck pace, due to the lukewarm reception of a working scientist of bureaucratic clockwork) as well as the science done at IMRE; Following Dr. O’Shea’s presentation, Dr. Evan Williams presented to us the commercialisation-oriented Materials Centre of Innovation (MCOI), exploring the integration of Singaporean government-funded science with growing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and the strategies employed and/or designed by MCOI to bring novel materials into viable products and on into commercial success.
Afterwards, we toured a number of labs including techniques such as time-resolved fluorescence confocal microscopy, TEM, STM, NMR and ToF-SIMS. Of particular interest to me was the microscopy lab, which was thoroughly explained by Dr. Nikodem- the elements of system design and scientific instrumentation gave me a sense of the universality and applicability of what I’ve been doing, as the lab development Minh Dao and I have been doing for Dr. C. Q. Tran has involved many of the same software (Labview and Python, technology vendors (Thorlabs and Newport) and challenges as that discussed with Dr. Nikodem.