Saturday, November 07, 2009

58th COST/ 13th AMMST meetings

the past week my job scope had been very different. for one whole week, i was in dark suit, high heels (mine were not that high) and make-up. contrast this with t-shirt, jeans, running shoes and barely-managed hair. i made L4 of a 5-star hotel my work space and i took cab to and fro work. and the reason i had this job was because i am under a-star, the same reason i am working in one of their labs this year.

singapore played host to the COST (committee of science and tech) meeting and AMMST (asean ministerial meeting for science and tech), and a bunch of us a-star pple were called to help out with the organizing team. i was called to be liaison officer(LO), whose job description is 'to show singaporean hospitality' to the VIPs. the irony was, my principal was the singapore senior official. all of us wondered why he needed an LO; his PA was at the hotel the whole time, and he had a right hand man that sat with him through all the meetings. anyway, i was there, enjoyed all the perks of being an LO, minus the stress of missing re-scheduled flights and dealing with principals who had no concept of time (for some, meeting at 8.30= start having breakfast at 8.30...).i was brought to the club suite of the hotel for breakfast on one morning, had two six-course lunches, one six-course dinner at ritz carlton, and uncountable no. of tea sessions. i also enjoyed the hospitality by one of the best in singapore's service industry, which mel rightly pointed out that we might never be able to afford when we did our site recce a week ago.

in short, it was an interesting glimpse into the world of ministers and senior officials of different countries. i like the way my principal does things: short and crisp. the series of meetings he chaired ended in 1 and 3/4 days when they were given 2 and 1/2 days. maybe it is singaporean style, as the ministerial meetings chaired by SMS ended at 4 yesterday when it was slated to end at noon today. and my principal is never late. in fact he is always half an hour early. that can be stressful sometimes because it is difficult to catch up with him. some of the VIPs are fun pple. for instance, after the first welcome dinner, there was a karaoke session in which they enthusiastically participated in (we LOs were waiting outside hoping they would just stop so that we can go home), and one of the rep from the Philippines just loves to dance, always pulling people aside to dance with him ('we must dance again with music!'). some were always taking pictures, and of course there were some who were just quiet and reserved.

if i have done anything productive at all this week, it was to think ( not even write...=/)about what i want to write in my statement of purpose for my grad school applications. and to find solace in that almost everyone is in the same boat of fretting over the essays, and that i am not the only one who failed in GRE math and needed to do a second time. at the same time, i found out that i don't really know why i want to do research, let alone which field of research i want to delve into. i find most things interesting, but not one that is really really really really interesting such that it stands out among the rest. i met the person who staffed SMS (senior minister of state) and found out that he was an a-star scholar who decided not to do PhD. according to him, the organisation was understanding, and gave him exposure and opportunities even when he decided to go into administration. but i don't want to do what he is doing now, following a principal around, take minutes, brief him about meetings, etc. it was, in my opinion, very similar to what i did this week. though i enjoyed the time i had, it is because of the novelty of it, nothing about self-actualisation.

in two weeks time, i will be LO again, this time to a scientist from the biomedical advisory council of a-star. i'll see what i can make out of the interaction with my principal, an eminent female scientist from australia. in the meantime, i will go back to my cells, cloning, and pipettes, and to hand in a brilliant essay to my boss about iPS cells. and to write my applications. and to study for GRE. and to work at getting fit again. all before dec comes.

it is 7th nov today.

a conversation about my principal:
me: i think my prof is amazing. he had a meeting at 8 this morning, came for this for the whole day, and later he is going to edb for meeting at 6.30 and another meeting at 7.30. and he's not young anymore...
nicholas: think of it this way, if he can't manage it, he wouldn't be where he is today.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Boss

my boss works with super efficiency; i think this is still an understatment.
i have lots to say about my boss...
but i'll have to defer those till later, till i have some rate of that efficiency to deal with all that has piled up on my plate.

that's one reason he is boss. at 37 years of age. he was boss since 6 years ago.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


today I started work proper. yesterday was the official starting date, as stated in the employment contract ( I am now an employee, no longer student), but it is only today I went into the lab proper to set up my bench and to prepare materials.

it has been a week in Singapore already. people asked if I have settled down, I always said I am ok. but I think the truth is that I am not really comfortable with this environment yet, and it is probably the source of the stress I am feeling.

this relocation to spore feels like when I first arrived in the uk 3 years ago, and when I first came to spore in 2002. although I have stayed ( don’t think ‘lived’ is appropriate) here for 4 years, I have never settled down-- never thought I would be here for the long term, so I didn’t bother. therefore, my impression of spore is at best hazy. this discomfort outside the comfort zone is making me miss everything I knew even more, even things that I used to complain so much about. it was like how, for a little while, I missed staying in basing 15 when I first moved to benson g3. now it is missing having sandwiches for lunch. or the (superficial) courtesy that asks ‘how are you’. and even…studying for tripos ( I agree with agnes), just because that was a predictable way of life. and familiar.

I am really glad that jinyang, ryan, weishen came over to spore, and together with jiechao and cheehui we met up here in spore. at least that is one element that is familiar and it is like in camb again when we met up for dinner and talked about random things. it is a good get-away from living/ working with new people.

perhaps the change from student to working adult contribute to the uneasiness too. no more school holidays scheduled by the authorities way in advance; instead, will have to plan when to take leave to not compromise on work. no more taking cover from mistakes because being the underdog in the team, or blaming sheer ignorance or inexperience. very soon I’ll have CPF and will be paying income tax. I will technically be financially independent, which means I should forego the safety net of having dad pay for my expenses when I run out of money. and maybe I should start thinking about investments and buying insurance.

a friend said he felt growing up is like the world has changed but he hasn’t. I agree in some ways, just as I haven’t felt any more mature in appearance or my dress sense; a soon-to-be NUS first year student mistaken me for a fellow fresher. but like what mabel rightly pointed out long ago, you’ll soon realised that you no longer act or think like how you did a few years ago. and indeed in my conversation with the girl, I realised that I spoke to her like a senior would do to a junior, unconsciously. so yes, we all have grown in some ways over the years, although the change in appearance could be just be subtle, like looking less blur in certain circumstances. like how harry and ron stood in the corridor watching the first years got lost on their way to classes at hogsworts.

change. growing up. a new phase in life.

I wonder what I’ll say when, say, when I become a mother.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


today dr mahathir came to camb for a dialogue session. most people were eager to meet him/ hear him speak, so places were filled quickly.

over the years i find it increaingly difficult to find a good role model that inspires, because it becomes exceedingly clear now that man is fallible, regardless of the acheivements he is capable of. when the skeletons in the closet were revealed, it is all just too disappointing.

so there was the man who led malaysia for 22 years in her then 46 years of independence. he was the man that built the twin towers, the KLIA, and the man who led malaysia through 2 financial crises. he was the one who gave us 'keranamu, malaysia'.

but it is becoming clear too that the problems that the country is facing now is not entirely unrelated to some of his policies and governance.

and throughout his short talk it seems like he was helpless in many ways when the nunbers are concerned. the realities of politics. in a democratic system.

i have no answer to where malaysia should go from this crossroad, not when the real world is so far from the ideal. it is so complex, when different interests protectiveness selfishness tactics schemes sin are all intertwined.

courtesy of jinyang

that's why classical physicists used to only work with ideal situations?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Snow at 4

the one who does not sleep gets his reward, for again i see the snow falling in utmost tranquillity when the rest of the world is asleeped =)

i wish the first phrase would translate into 'the one who is alert gets his reward' too.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

University of Cambridge: 1209-2009

there were 800 years before, and hopefully many more to come.
i am in the middle of this, standing on the shoulders of giants.

a glimpse of the light show:

the light show was a spectacle in its own right, accompanied by the church bells in the background. but the themes and objects of the show was even more spectacular. it showed how far this place has moved humankind in the past 800 years, true to the first great commission in genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, " Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. "

there was the DNA double helix, the vasculature and the theory of evolution. the black hole, the binary code, latin poems, engineer's plant, the orchestra. there was the galaxy like diamonds in the sky, and fluorescence images of the cell.

a brief history of cambridge:

there was isaac newton, charles darwin, stephen hawking. and the illustrations by quentin blake.
and throngs of students in their BA gowns and graduation hoods.

' walk past the rooms where isaac newton worked, and you realised you are in a continuity. you are just one insignificant little person in this great cavalcade of history.'

' the university is not just looking back, it is also looking forward to the next 800 years.'

and so should i.