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Founded in 1905 as a small medical school, the national
university of Singapore (nuS) has expanded into a world-
class research institution, whose research centers and local
and national partners enable the university to make its mark in
science, technology, and the humanities. In the past five years
alone, nuS tripled its research investment, with more than 90
percent of the university’s research funded by external grants.
“With state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, the nuS infrastructure
enables faculty to engage in research of the highest caliber,” says Barry
halliwell, deputy president (research and technology) of nuS. “This
helps foster a supportive environment and academic culture, leading
to peaks of scientific excellence as well as a high-impact education
Today, nuS remains Singapore’s only university with a medical school,
and offers an undergraduate medical degree and a graduate school in
partnership with Duke university. The university also houses 21 uni-
versity-level scientific research centers, covering subjects ranging
from environmental sustainability to nanomaterials. Since 2007, three
national-level research centers have opened on the campus, focusing
on quantum technologies, cancer science, and mechanobiology (the
study of how mechanical forces affect cells). All together these cen-
ters have attracted more than S$300 million (nearly 250 million uS$)
in government funding.
Researchers in biology and medicine partner with others on cam-
pus with engineering expertise to advance biomedical technology. For
instance, nuS researchers contributed to the growing use of simulators
to train doctors by developing the world’s first abdominal simulator,
dubbed “Abe the Tummy Dummy.” Abe proved particularly useful in
2009, when the outbreak of h1n1 influenza limited physical contact
between medical students and patients. This simulator has since been
made increasingly more realistic, with silicon skin and lifelike facial
features that will allow the dummy to show symptoms of various dis-
eases. The nuS team hopes to soon collaborate with manufacturers to
produce it for medical schools and hospitals worldwide.
The caliber of local science at nuS prompted MIT to set up a
research center, which is called the Singapore-MIT Alliance for
Research and Technology. The Alliance is focused on infectious dis-
eases, environmental sensing and modeling, and healthcare technolo-
gies; it is the first such MIT research center to open outside MIT’s
Cambridge, Massachusetts campus.
“The university is particularly interested in ensuring that its research
delivers practical benefits to society,” says halliwell, pointing out that
the nuS Center for Remote Imaging, Sensing, and Processing (CRISP)
provides satellite remote-sensing capabilities useful to researchers in
Singapore and around the globe. In 2004, immediately after the Indian
ocean tsunami on December 26, CRISP images provided the world with
its primary source of information on the damage.
To continue to cement its role as a knowledge center with par-
ticular relevance to Asia, nuS is building up five integrated research
clusters (which will work on subjects that include aging, integra-
tive sustainability solutions, and Asia studies) that will enable uni-
versity researchers to partner across disciplines and create holistic
understandings and solutions potentially applicable in the region.
These centers will delve into topics such as education, public health,
resource management, and energy and food security. The university
retains a global focus as well, and hosts more than 36 thousand stu-
dents from 100 countries.
nuS research in science, engineering, and medicine remains among
the best in the world. According to Thomson Reuters, among its 22 major
fields of research, nuS can boast of 18 that rank in the top 1 percent
of university departments. These rankings are based on citations of
papers published by nuS researchers, especially in the fields of mate-
rials science, engineering, chemistry, and pharmacology.
nuS continues to excel, explains halliwell, because of “government
investments, national research strategies, and collaboration with indus-
try.” And both its expertise and its contributions to advancing scientific
frontiers are expected to keep growing in the future.
10/4/2011 11:33:06 AM
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