Home Team Science and Technology Agency
Feature | HTX

From the Classroom to the Lab: How the Journeys of Two Scholars Converged at HTX

Discover how two Public Service Commission scholars, Wang Jiale and Leng Wen Hui, who took very different paths ended up joining HTX (Home Team Science and Technology Agency) because they shared the same goal of using science and tech to make a real difference in force multiplying Singapore’s homeland security.

Left: Wang Jiale is a recipient of the Public Service Commission Scholarship (Engineering) and graduated with a Master's in Advanced Computer Science from the University of Cambridge and a Bachelor of Arts in Engineering Science specialising in Information & Computer Engineering from the University of Oxford. He is now an Engineer at HTX's Q Team Centre of Expertise.

Right: Leng Wen Hui is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. She is a recipient of the Public Service Commission Scholarship (Engineering) and will return to work at HTX after her graduation.

All of us have different passions in life. For example, some may deem it their life mission to explore all the different bubble tea stalls in Singapore in a quest to find the crème de la crème of bubble tea, while others seek to conquer the most challenging hiking trails. For Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholars Jiale and Wen Hui, it’s being at the forefront of cutting-edge technology and making a difference.

However, passion alone is not enough to invoke change. Through the PSC scholarship, Jiale and Wen Hui were granted the opportunity of a lifetime to transform their passion for science and technology into meaningful action as they joined HTX (Home Team Science and Technology Agency). The agency is a vital force multiplier for the Home Team as it’s the first of its kind to integrate the science and engineering capabilities across Home Team departments to develop cutting-edge technologies to solve crimes, save lives, safeguard public spaces, and secure Singapore’s borders.

When Childhood Passions Transform into a Chance to Explore New Frontiers

Stemming from his childhood fascination with airplanes, Jiale’s love for technology was sparked from spending many a day plane-watching at Changi Airport. He was enthralled by the roar of the plane engines and the variety of airplane models parked on the tarmac.

“I remember asking my parents to bring me to Changi Airport even though we didn’t have to go overseas. Luckily, they indulged me!” he joked. His parents’ indulgence turned out to be a boon, as Jiale cultivated a lifelong interest in science and tech from then.

Meantime, Wen Hui found her passion for technology a little later in life when she participated in Robocup, a soccer competition for robots, in her secondary school days. Meticulously creating her own “soccer robot”, she said she fell in love with the process of design and creation.

“I learnt a lot about robotics through this hands-on process, which helped me realise my passion for engineering,” she shared.

Jiale and Wen Hui’s paths continued in parallel lines, as they separately built upon their childhood interests after receiving their PSC Scholarships. They entered the world’s best universities, where they learnt from the greatest minds and participated in cutting-edge research.

Jiale’s undergraduate studies at the University of Oxford let him delve deep into engineering fundamentals and explore various engineering fields, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

He then refined his AI skills by taking up a Master’s in Advanced Computer Science, a year-long research degree at the University of Cambridge. There, he researched on generative AI, especially text-to-image conversion models that focus on paragraphs rather than sentences, enabling the AI to develop more detailed images.

“I found my research at Cambridge applicable to my work at HTX, where I work with Q Team on generative AI,” he explained.

Wen Hui, who is currently studying at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), echoed Jiale’s sentiments about how she found her course of study extremely fruitful, even as her curriculum couldn’t be more different from his. While Jiale thrived on the focused curriculum at Oxford and Cambridge, it was CMU’s flexible curriculum that provided Wen Hui with valuable lessons for her future engineering career. Apart from learning fundamental engineering skills from CMU’s engineering modules, Wen Hui had the opportunity to take classes from vastly different disciplines, such as the Fine Arts.

“From my ceramics and film classes, I learnt how to think from the user’s perspective and create products that will be useful to them. This will be important in my career at HTX, as I can empathise more with Home Team officers and develop products that can meet their specific needs,” she elaborated.

Besides attending lectures in university, Jiale and Wen Hui got to develop their technical skills as research assistants in their respective universities. Although their projects focused on different aspects of engineering—with Jiale’s research culminating in the creation of an ML programme that helps doctors detect anomalies in lung scans and Wen Hui researching on a deep learning project for 3D object movement prediction—they both agreed that their time as research assistants helped them apply the skills they had learnt in class.

An Unexpected Common Ground for Hands-On Learning and Meaningful Work

Jiale and Wen Hui’s paths eventually converged at HTX. Although they worked in different departments, they both managed to apply and hone their technical skills.

As an undergraduate student interning at HTX’s Sense Making and Surveillance (S&S) Centre of Expertise (CoE) in 2023, Wen Hui was pleasantly surprised by the autonomy she was granted for her project-utilising AI to develop a specialised heavy vehicle classifier for the Home Team.

Naturally, she faced some difficulty with the project as she had to learn a new programming language for it.

“Despite my lack of experience with Cloud development, I could overcome this challenge because my colleagues were supportive and I engaged in self-learning online,” she proudly shared.

Similarly, Jiale who interned at HTX’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Centre of Expertise during his undergraduate days, learnt how quickly technology could evolve from a concept to the final product. His internship gave him the chance to work on the imagery science team to help develop an AI to detect dangerous goods at checkpoints and subsequently flag them, reducing the need for ICA officers to manually put parcels through a scanner.

“From this project, I saw how what I learnt in university (AI) could be applied in the real world to help others. I also appreciated how I could openly approach my boss with questions and ideas and that there was mutual respect between us,” he added.

Their shared approval of their positive work experiences at HTX don’t just stop there. Because of the impact of the work that HTX does to force multiply Home Team Departments’ operations, both Jiale and Wen Hui found that their love for helping others were fulfilled in the best possible way: by having direct implications on the day-to-day safety and security of Singaporeans.

Jiale, who used to volunteer at Meet-the-People Sessions (MPS), said, “The MPS experience made me realise that I like helping others because I felt happy when I could connect residents to the correct aid channels.”

Now working full-time at HTX’s Q Team (the prototyping team at HTX), Jiale is developing a large multimodal model (LMM) that can understand not only text (which is what ChatGPT can currently do), but images, video, and audio as well. These LMMs help Singapore Police Force (SPF) officers quickly identify the relevant data they need for their cases and saves them valuable time, as they no longer have to manually scroll through databases. Furthermore, the most rewarding part of the project is that his LMM can help SPF officers solve crimes even faster!

Wen Hui, who developed a mobile app to help people navigate around her school easier in her pre-university days, says, “People often had to ask me where to go so I built an app using Augmented reality to guide them around campus.”

While Wen Hui has yet to complete her undergraduate studies, she is looking forward to working at HTX full-time.

“I think that as technology evolves rapidly, Singapore must beware of threats posed by malicious actors. While interning at HTX, I realised I could help build more robust systems to protect Singaporeans from these threats,” she shared.

Future Aspirations

With the world as their oyster, Jiale and Wen Hui share their aspirations for the future.

Wen Hui says, “I want to understand the struggles of our Home Team officers better and create solutions to help them.”

Similarly, Jiale also wishes to help more individuals through his career with HTX. To achieve this, he wishes to lead an engineering team to execute projects of broader scope and impact.

“Working at HTX has been really meaningful to me as I get to work with the latest technologies and keep Singapore safe,” he said.