My SUTD (university) journey started with this. I graduated from junior college excelling in chemistry and the sciences, and was absolutely fascinated by how the simplest of elements built everything around us today. I entered SUTD wanting to graduate with a degree in material science, and the first thing I did was to seek for a research opportunity in that field. I found Dr Tan Mei Chee, assistant professor at SUTD from the chemistry department, and jumped on the opportunity to be her understudy, exposing myself to the world of a materials science researcher.

I was fortunate to have her as our supervisor, as she was liberal in the experiments we ran. We were given a bunch of papers to read and choose the kind of research that we wanted to partake. Our decision was to work on silver nanoparticles as they were an interesting topic of research for biomedical applications. We spent close to a year testing out various ways to develop the particles and found fascinating properties, even in the synthesis of the particles themselves. You can find the published paper here for the full story!

Our experimentation found out that silver micro-colloids (right) may form using a different order of mixture when trynig to synthesize silver nanoparticles (left)

Lessons Learned

Research is Built on Other research

When experimenting on this topic, we drew inspiration and experimental methods from other similar papers. Although our aim was to synthesize silver nanoparticles, an accidental mix up of steps resulted in a new product formed. You hear many similar stories about how other material were accidentally discovered, and they suddenly became believable. When looking at the bigger picture, you realise it is the same process for everything else too – from product development to political or social reforms. Innovation is built from our predecessors, and knowing that allows us to be more attentive to the historical evolution of our domain.

Research is Fun – But Slow

While experimenting, I realised how there was a plethora of information and possibilities out there. At that moment, I had been given the opportunity and resources to try all of them and discover new things. This discovery of the new is certainly exciting for most people and it’s something I’ve always pushed myself towards – to discover new applications.

Research, however, was slow. Especially in material science where synthesizing particles required time. There was no guarantee that your experimentation will produce tangible results too. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I decided to take up ISTD in my later years.

Wish I Had Done More

The silver micro-colloids was interesting as it was something new. We hadn’t found anything similar that was discovered, and its applications were completely unknown too. Alas, a change in direction made me lose motivation to test out the new particles. It would be great if I could go back and do it – but only at my free time!

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