Left: Lim Li-Sha is an Executive Meteorologist with the Weather Services Division (WSD), part of the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS). The Singapore Sustainability Scholar has a Bachelor in Atmospheric Science from Cornell University and Masters of Science in Environmental Change and Management from University of Oxford.
Middle: Angeline Loh is a Catchment Planning Engineer in the Planning and Design Division of the Water Reclamation Network Department, PUB. She has a Bachelor in Civil Engineering from National University of Singapore.
Right: Johnny Yeung works as a Scientist at the National Centre for Food Science, Research and Risk Assessment Department. He holds a Master in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry from Imperial College London, UK.
As we all know, Singapore is a small island nation with limited resources. So it follows that what little we have must be conserved appropriately or utilised efficiently, while we keep an eye out for alternate sources of food, water and energy.
Enter the Singapore Sustainability Scholarship – this enterprising award, jointly sponsored by the National Environment Agency (NEA), PUB, Singapore's Water Agency and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), seeks to groom talents in strengthening environmental resilience and food and water security for Singapore. Diverse careers are on offer under these agencies, including mitigating climate change, developing water or food resources, and science and technology development.
Rising to the challenge are scholars Lim Li-Sha with NEA, Angeline Loh with PUB, and Johnny Yeung with SFA. Their disparate, ever-changing portfolios are dynamic and lively as our Singapore weather, and a testimony to Singapore's sustainability story.
The Winds of Change
Since young, Li-Sha had a rather unconventional interest – natural disasters and how they came to be. Then, she refined her focus towards observational and forecasting tools and the science behind them.
Sadly, there were few local universities catering to her specialisation at that time. The Singapore Sustainability Scholarship proved invaluable help, sponsoring her Bachelor in Atmospheric Science from Cornell University and Master of Science in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford.
Naturally, she chose to be posted to NEA upon graduation. “NEA's role as the national authority on environmental issues and its mission to ensure a clean and sustainable environment for Singapore had always resonated with me, and I was interested to contribute on this front.”
The “Now” of Forecasting
Today, Li-Sha is living the dream as an Executive Meteorologist with the Weather Services Division (WSD), part of the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS). “As an operational meteorologist, I analyse weather models and observational data from a range of sources to deliver accurate weather forecasts. These range from satellite and radar images, to observations of wind, temperature, and lightning activity from our monitoring network,” she summarised.
Her work is integral to everyone's livelihoods from aerial and marine operations to the man on the ground using the [email protected] app. “The forecast bench is operational around the clock,” Li-Sha informed us. “Hence, I work in shifts alongside the team of operational meteorologists at WSD to ensure forecasts and warnings are disseminated in a timely manner.”
At first, she faced a steep learning curve trying to adapt the US-centric knowledge from her degree to local tropical weather patterns. Her colleagues and peers at MSS proved to be a guiding light, sharing their experiences with local weather conditions and how to adapt to a shift-based work life.
A Supportive Climate
The support did not end there. Li-Sha was encouraged to take up different opportunities in various MSS divisions. She led the organisation of the Second Workshop on ASEAN Regional Climate Data, Analysis and Projections (ARCDAP), and conducted discussions and negotiations with various stakeholders including the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
“Things are constantly changing here, and so there is always a sense of preparing for the next improvement, and a drive to make processes more effective and efficient,” she commented.
Other scholars will enjoy the same at NEA: “Even if you may not have a specific career path in mind at this point or even if your interests change, one of the beauties of the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) family is its diversity and there will always be ways in which you can contribute.”
A Drop of Talent in an Ocean of Possibility
Speaking of diversity in MSE, Angeline Loh is a testament to the many different skillsets needed to sustain our water and food.
One might have expected an engineer like her to head for the manufacturing or technology sector. Instead, Angeline bucked the trend, choosing to manage the sewer network in the central area of Singapore and plan for future upcoming developments as a Catchment Planning Engineer in the Planning and Design Division of the Water Reclamation Network Department, PUB.
“While I was considering what to study and what I would possibly like to do in future, I realised what drove me was a passion for people. I wanted to do something which allowed me to work with and for people and communities,” Angeline remembered.
As the statutory board maintaining Singapore's water resources, PUB was a place that fit both her criteria. She could work as an engineer and have a direct, immediate positive impact on the community as well.
Flowing to the Future
Managing the sewer network may sound like a dirty job, but actually it is hugely rewarding and fulfilling, not to mention integral. “My role looks into Singapore's future, where the everyday work I do is for a Singapore in 50 to 100 years to come. What we do supports Singapore's future development plans – properly planned sewerage systems are integral to every livable city!” smiled Angeline.
She is also thankful to the Singapore Sustainability Scholarship for sponsoring her Bachelor in Civil Engineering at National University Singapore. The degree equipped her with soft skills invaluable to her work today.
“My current work involves working with multiple agencies across different projects and new developments. Having learnt from school that engagement and understanding is key to working with different people and as a team, I learnt to question and find out about the big picture of things, before going into the details and actual technical work.”
With both the educational background and the practical experience, Angeline is well-placed to contribute to PUB in a fruitful and fulfilling way.
Rivers of Possibilities
And like any great waterway, varied “tributaries” of skills flow into the organisation that is PUB. “There are many portfolios one could take on across the years in PUB - planning work, project management, operations and maintenance, regulatory work. There are also opportunities to interact with different agencies and work with people across fields,” Angeline outlined.
Her advice: “If one is interested in a career which combines an engineering interest with a passion for people and the environment, the Singapore Sustainability Scholarship is a good choice!”
Water and Food – The Essential Resources
Recent proceedings have illustrated the importance of food security for a country. We currently produce less than 10 percent of our food locally. And as Singapore works towards the '30 by 30' goal, which is to produce 30 percent of our food locally by 2030, there is a need to see how we can do so sustainably while at the same time ensuring food safety. Johnny Yeung's work in SFA, leading data-driven scientific projects and chemical research studies to determine the public health risks of various foodborne hazards, is integral to making sure we eat safely and well.
Like his fellow Singapore Sustainability Scholars, Johnny's portfolio is incredibly multi-faceted. “I am also part of the workgroup that looks into the safety assessment of novel foods, which includes really exciting products like cultured meat and plant-based proteins,” he continued.
“And as part of SFA's joint responsibility approach towards food safety between the Government, industry and consumers, I regularly write and publish ‘Risk-at-a-glance' articles on the SFA website to share food safety information with consumers.”
“My role is important in helping our stakeholders (government, industry and consumers) make sense of food safety and security data and therefore make robust science-based, data-driven decisions and policies regarding food safety and security.”
It was a scholarship roadshow that sparked Johnny's interest in food science, which he found highly relevant to his own interests. Johnny recounted: “Due to pressures such as climate change, I found that great strides have been made to rethink the way we produce food within the agri-food industry. With so many exciting opportunities, I jumped at the opportunity to apply for the scholarship offered by SFA!”
The scholarship would open yet more possibilities for him as he undertook his Master's in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry at Imperial College London, UK. It exposed him to different perspectives (he even got to live on a farm in Denmark!) and a host of useful technical expertise.
“I picked up a broad range of research skills and applied computational techniques in analytical chemistry,” said Johnny. “I continue to use these skills in my current work to develop AI-driven strategies for screening food samples, and to predict new and emerging food safety hazards. In addition, I have definitely gained some insights into European consumer habits and have found it useful when engaging alternative protein companies and food safety regulators based in Europe.”
Food for Thought
Johnny hopes others will be attracted to the research possibilities at SFA like he was. “At SFA, you can look forward to a challenging, purposeful and fulfilling career. You can expect to be rotated across different divisions in SFA, lead and take part in cross-divisional/interagency projects and learn to develop and implement robust strategies and policies.”
“The work may be varied in nature, but we are all working to achieve the same mission: To ensure and secure a supply of safe food.”
The three scholars agree that if you want to make your career in sustainability, the Singapore Sustainability Scholarship is the path for you.