Left: Trina Ng is a Research Scientist in the Climate Impacts Branch in the Department of Climate Research at CCRS, where she works on observations and projections of sea level rise in Singapore. She is pursuing a PhD with NEA's support under the supervision of the Director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore, and has a Master of Science in Geophysics from Imperial College London.
Middle: Singapore Sustainability Scholarship recipient Yu Jia Jia has a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil Engineering) from NUS, which she applies in her daily work as an Engineer in the Catchment and Waterways Department at PUB.
Right: Audrey Chua is a Scientist at the National Centre for Food Science, Food Safety Monitoring & Forensics Department, SFA. She has a Bachelor of Science with Honours (Highest Distinction) in Food Science and Technology from NUS. She was also a recipient of the Singapore Sustainability Scholarship.
The Singapore Sustainability Scholarship (SSS) is dedicated to nurturing eco-leaders who ensure we enjoy safe food to eat, clean water to drink, and a healthy environment to live in.
Aptly, it is jointly offered by the National Environment Agency (NEA), PUB, Singapore's National Water Agency, and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), statutory boards formed under the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment that manage our environmental sustainability challenges through innovation, vibrant partnerships and co-operation.
To get a clear picture of what this means in practice, we spoke with three budding talents in their respective organisations. Trina Ng, a Research Scientist in the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS), which is under the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) at NEA, Yu Jia Jia, an Engineer in the Catchment and Waterways Department who manages the construction of drainage projects in PUB, and SFA's Audrey Chua who conducts microbiological testing on food products, each gave us the details of their work keeping the environment clean and green.
Their stories paint a holistic picture of the fascinating work that goes into sustaining Singapore, and the bright future that lies in store for any scholar with these organisations.
A Worthy Cause, a Life-Changing Internship
When asked why the SSS, all three scholars zeroed in on its relevance to their existing areas of interest.
Be it self-confessed "huge foodie" Audrey, whose interest in the science of food led her to a degree in Food Science and Technology at NUS, or Jia Jia's niche interest in water technology that PUB recognised as early as her polytechnic days, resource management was plainly at the forefront of these scholars' priorities.
Trina added that an internship with a prospective organisation often clinches the deal, as it offers a way for scholar and organisation to be aligned.
Such was the case for her: "I applied for the internship and got posted to CCRS eventually. I really enjoyed my time in CCRS as I got to learn more about the role that NEA and CCRS play in the greater context of Singapore's sustainability."
"It was through the internship path that I was awarded the SSS."
Endless Possibilities Locally and Overseas
With their future careers in mind, the SSS offered experiences and learning tailored to each scholar's unique interests.
Trina recounted field trips around Europe to experience and apply her textbook learning, including a once-in-a-lifetime 14-day field trip to Spain where she got to see an extinct volcano up-close.
"These are priceless to me because of the geologically interesting structures that Europe has to offer," said the NEA Scholar, who credits her education with providing her geological and geophysical knowledge necessary for interpreting the sea level work she does at CCRS.
While Jia Jia also found her studies useful in her everyday work, broadening her horizons was her biggest takeaway from her time in NUS. "In university, we had the chance to make friends from different disciplines and backgrounds, which filled in some of my blind spots," she admitted candidly. "From then on, I have learnt to become more inclusive."
Audrey's experience was enriched with participation in various overseas learning trips, most notably the student exchange programme to study in Austria for five months. She brought to our attention the University Scholars Programme, which gave her the opportunity to experience residential living on-campus in University Town with SFA's support. This led to close friendships, opportunities to take on leadership roles, and even some time as an active member of NUS Dance Blast!, the largest street dance CCA in NUS.
"My academic experiences provided me with in-depth knowledge of the science of foods which allowed me to have a better grasp of the complex and multidisciplinary issues surrounding food safety and security in my current work. Beyond academics, i treasure the fond memories and friendships which will last for a lifetime."
Sustaining the Work
Post-graduation, the three have found fulfilling and dynamic careers at their respective agencies doing their part in sustaining Singapore.
As a Research Scientist in the Climate Impacts Branch in CCRS, Trina is amongst those responsible for studying the consequences of climate change, focusing on Singapore and Southeast Asia. "My role comprises studying sea level change in the present-day and future for Singapore. This includes the technical job of crunching numbers and involves careful planning and scrutiny behind the methodologies to arrive at robust results," she described.
"Through this, I have the opportunity to interact and learn from world-class scientists in the field from all over the world. In turn, I pay it forward by sharing this knowledge with others through inter-agency or ministry meetings in Singapore."
With a different but no less essential portfolio, Jia Jia is a project officer in charge of roadside drainage upgrading works under Estate Upgrading Programme. She ensures these upgrades are compliant with contract specifications and completed within the stipulated timeframes, with minimal disruption to the public.
Thus, her position has a significant front-facing element, which she uses to cultivate a better understanding of the essential work PUB does. "My construction worksites are usually in front of residential units and residents usually will contact us if they have any feedback," she said.
"As a project officer, we have to put ourselves in their shoes and address and resolve their feedback promptly. Hence, having a good relationship is very important."
Last but not least, Audrey is a Scientist in the Food Microbiology laboratory at the National Centre for Food Science. She provides technical and scientific support for microbiological testing on food products in Singapore to ensure that they meet SFA's food safety standards.
Audrey is currently leading the review of SFA's microbiological standards for non-ready-to-eat food, a cross-divisional project involving work across multiple domains including risk assessment, risk management and the setting of food safety regulatory standards.
Such Cross-divisional projects, coupled with exciting job rotations at SFA provide her with an "excellent exposure to SFA's field of work, which allows her to appreciate and have a holistic understanding of Singapore's food safety system from farm to fork".
And that's not all the SSS has in store for its scholars. They are also given numerous opportunities to spearhead cross-divisional projects, present their work at management meetings and public platforms, and travel overseas for a variety of purposes including conducting inspections, attending conferences and sharing expertise with overseas counterparts.
The SSS Proposition
However, these exciting prospects come with equal responsibilities.
When it came to what the agencies look for in their scholars, Trina, Jia Jia and Audrey all pinpointed some vital characteristics necessary for success.
"I think it is important to believe in the work you are doing. For instance, sometimes the results of the job at hand may not be instantly achieved," said Trina.
Audrey agreed, adding that passion is necessary to safeguarding Singapore's food supply, while Jia Jia emphasised teamwork and a collaborative spirit.
However, if you are willing to make the commitment, you will find endless gains with this unique scholarship.
After all, a sustainable Singapore begins with you.