Contributor Aliyah Weinstein
This article originally incorrectly stated Swaine Chen’s position as a tenure-track assistant professor there. In fact, he is a tenure-track assistant professor with NUS and an Adjunct Senior Research Scientist with GIS. The text has now been corrected.
Imagine going to the lab every day in a country with a tropical climate, whose main working language is English and whose government strongly supports scientific research. Singapore is ranked first in the world for ease of doing business, and in 2012 was voted as Asia’s Most Livable City.
Of particular interest to academic researchers: from 2011-2015, the government there has pledged S$16.1 billion (US$12.8 billion) to boost Singaporean research initiatives, and build more basic and clinical research space there.
That’s according to Contact Singapore an alliance of the Singapore Economic Development Board and the Ministry of Manpower and host of a session at the NatureJobs Career Expo Boston that was designed to draw the attention of attendees to Singapore’s research institutions.
Singapore has three medical schools: the National University Health System (NUHS); SingHealth/Duke-NUS, affiliated with Duke University in North Carolina; and the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, affiliated with Imperial College in the UK. Additionally, the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) is a research institute with government backing. Each institute has broad but individual research interests, and are accepting applications from interested researchers to fill their expanding laboratory space.
- NUHS is recruiting new faculty in the areas of neurodegeneration, ischemia and dementia.
- SingHealth/Duke-NUS is recruiting researchers with expertise in neuroimaging, antibiotic resistance surveillance and infection control, in vivo studies of human physiology, and imaging of hearts and blood vessels.
- Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine has research programs in metabolic disease, neuroscience and mental health, dermatology and skin biology, and infection and immunity, and is recruiting for every level of professor, research fellow, research assistant and postdoc.
- GIS is looking to fill faculty positions in computational and systems biology (with focuses in regulatory genomics and epigenomics, microbial evolution and metagenomics, systems biology, and cancer genomics) and biology (with focuses in human disease, infectious diseases, stem cells and regenerative biology, cancer stem cell biology, and cancer therapeutics).
Because the primary working language of Singapore is English, the country poses an attractive research location for English-speaking scientists who desire to move abroad for personal reasons, or who have not had luck getting securing funding or finding a faculty position in their home country. Take Swaine Chen. After doing his undergraduate work at Harvard, an MD/PhD at Stanford, and a postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis, he began looking for a faculty position in in the US in 2008, but had no success. The following year, he decided to apply everywhere: across the US, Europe, and Singapore.
After weighing his options, Chen decided to move to Singapore, a country in where he knew nobody except for one former research acquaintance. He was awarded a fellowship from GIS and is now a tenure-track assistant professor with NUS and an Adjunct Senior Research Scientist with GIS. He received a start up package of S$3 million (US$2.4 million) over 5 years and runs a lab consisting of two postdocs and three technicians.
“There’s so much stuff happening in Asia,” he said. “It probably would be difficult to recruit me back to the US.”
Chen did add, however, that the research pace in Singapore hasn’t yet caught up to the fast, intense environment found at the top-tier institutions such as the ones where he studied. “[The government] has been making a strong push to build this industry,” he said. But he predicts that it will take more years yet until Singapore’s research pace catches up to that of the best of the US and Europe.
Still, he said, doing research in Singapore should be seen as a reasonable option for scientists from the rest of the world. Research institutes in Singapore are government-funded, and this funding is available to scientists of any nationality. The pool of individuals applying to work within the laboratories in Singapore is highly qualified, and many of the Singaporean postdocs and technicians have trained abroad.
And Singapore is ranked 2nd in the world for average value per researcher, which measures the average amount of funding per academic — compare that to the United States, which is ranked 15th! The research universities and institutes in Singapore are hoping to open the eyes of the rest of the world to the up-and-coming culture of research growing there.
For more information about doing research in Singapore, check out this article about the changing face of research in Singapore and this article highlighting personal stories of scientists who have worked in Singapore.
Aliyah Weinstein is an alumna of Rutgers University and is currently a first-year PhD student in immunology at the University of Pittsburgh. Her scientific interests include cancer immunology and immunotherapy. Outside of science, she speaks French, volunteers with a Pittsburgh-based youth writing initiative, and enjoys baking. She writes about life as a grad student on her blog, Isn’t That Grad!