More women sci­en­tists hold PhDs in Sin­ga­pore

The Nation - - ASEAN PLUS -

SIN­GA­PORE HAS seen more women re­search sci­en­tists and en­gi­neers (RSEs) hold­ing PhDs, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the Agency for Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy and Re­search (A*Star).

The lat­est Na­tional Sur­vey of Re­search and De­vel­op­ment, con­ducted in 2015, showed there were 2,740 women PhD hold­ers among the RSEs, com­pared with 1,729 in 2010. This is a more than 50 per cent in­crease.

The fig­ures were re­vealed yes­ter­day by A*Star to mark In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day, which is cel­e­brated on March 8 ev­ery year. Fig­ures for RSE men PhD hold­ers in 2015 are not avail­able. But there were 7,168 men com­pared with 2,483 women, ac­cord­ing to the 2014 sur­vey - a ra­tio of nearly three to one.

Sim­i­larly, nearly one in three of all RSEs in Sin­ga­pore is a woman, with the 2014 sur­vey putting the pro­por­tion at 29 per cent.

Sin­ga­pore’s ra­tio ex­ceeds that of many de­vel­oped coun­tries and re­search heavy­weights. In 2013, the lat­est year for which Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment fig­ures were avail­able, sim­i­lar ra­tios in France and Ger­many were 25 per cent and 28 per cent re­spec­tively.

Re­search sci­en­tist Sharon Nai, 39, who holds a PhD in me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing and leads a team at A*Star re­search­ing 3D ad­di­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing, said she had seen more female in­terns, some­thing she wel­comes.

“The ra­tio of males to fe­males should not be a hin­drance, it is about hav­ing pas­sion for the job,” she told TheS­trait­sTimes.

She joined A*Star’s Sin­ga­pore In­sti­tute of Man­u­fac­tur­ing Tech­nol­ogy in 2002. “In this field of re­search, I get to en­gage the re­lated in­dus­tries. Be­ing able to con­trib­ute is some­thing I value,” she added.

Re­search sci­en­tist Tan Yen Nee, 35, agreed. One of the projects she is work­ing on at A*Star’s In­sti­tute of Ma­te­ri­als Re­search and En­gi­neer­ing re­lates to ac­cel­er­at­ing the process of dis­cov­ery for new anti-can­cer drugs.

“I am happy to do re­search that can be trans­lated into some­thing ben­e­fi­cial for our so­ci­ety,” she said.

Tan, who holds a PhD in molec­u­lar en­gi­neer­ing of the bi­o­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal sys­tems and is an ad­junct as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore, said more female stu­dents have re­quested in­tern­ships or vis­its to the lab.

But Tan, a mother of two, said there are chal­lenges spe­cific to women sci­en­tists like her­self, like be­ing more care­ful dur­ing preg­nancy. She be­lieves that role models in the sci­ence arena should step for­ward to men­tor younger women to pur­sue ca­reers. “It can be dif­fi­cult, but as women, we can en­dure and em­brace the chal­lenges,” she said.

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