Left: Alex Ng Yu Zhe, Singapore Sustainability Scholar, is a Manager at the Singapore Food Agency Northwest Regional Office whose duties involve carrying out hygiene inspections at food retail establishments. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, with a Second Major in Food Science and Technology (Hons) from Nanyang Technological University.
Middle: Annabel Seah Kai Xin is a Senior Analyst with National Environment Agency, where she builds epidemiological models to provide early warnings of potential dengue outbreaks. She also collaborates with local and international research groups in dengue and other infectious disease research The Singapore Sustainability Scholar has a Bachelor of Business Administration with Honours (Distinction) from National University Singapore and a Masters in Health Economics and Decision Science from University College London, UK.
Right: Singapore Sustainability Scholar Daryl Yong, is an Engineer, Water Supply Network Department, where his work requires him to maintain, renew, replace and upgrade Instrumentation, Control and Automation equipment. He has a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical Engineering) from National University Singapore and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering, Stanford University.
Humans and other animals cannot survive for long without food, water, and a pleasant environment.
Hence, the government organisations administering these basic needs have never had a more integral mission, with huge game-changers like climate change, clean energy and technological developments coming into play.
In response, National Environment Agency (NEA), PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) have upped their stakes too. They introduced the Singapore Sustainability Scholarship (SSS), an umbrella sponsorship programme for young talents to strengthen environmental resilience and food and water security.
Alex Ng, Annabel Seah and Daryl Yong heeded the call, and are now with SFA, NEA and PUB respectively. Alex is a Manager at the SFA Northwest Regional Office carrying out inspection and enforcement duties to ensure and secure a supply of safe food, while Annabel formulates epidemiological models for early warnings of potential dengue outbreaks as a Senior Analyst with NEA. Last but not least, Daryl is an Instrumentation, Control & Automation (ICA) Engineer in the Water Supply Network Department at PUB, maintaining and upgrading all equipment under that jurisdiction.
Their efforts form a trifecta of effective future planning to ensure we always have safe food, clean water, and a place to call home.
When Sustainability Started
While they are all working professionals now, interest in their respective fields blossomed at different points in their lives.
Daryl recalls being a math-and-science kid since childhood, which naturally led to an interest in engineering. Under the SSS, he pursued his passion all the way to a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at Stanford.
For Alex, biology was his favourite subject in secondary school. But while he was studying that field at Nanyang Technological University, a module on Biology and Society introduced him to the vital role of SFA in ensuring and securing a supply of safe food. Hence, he jumped at the opportunity to major in Food Science alongside his first major in Biological Sciences.
As for Annabel, she took the time to consider and only decided to take up the SSS as a Mid-Term Scholar, joining in her second year of university. She described her decision: “As an individual who does not like to make decisions based on gut feel, I was particularly drawn to how advanced computer techniques could be used to gain actionable insights and make informed, data-driven decisions, especially in the area of climate change.”
From Internship to Analyst
Annabel’s choice shows the value of careful deliberation, as NEA provided her with an exceptional developmental pathway to her current position as Senior Analyst at the Environmental Health Institute. She spent her university holidays at an internship with the Food & Environment Hygiene Department at NEA, developing hygiene guidelines that were later circulated in a newsletter to restaurant businesses. There were other gains as well, such as external courses and even a study trip to the Netherlands.
It comes as no surprise that as a data analyst, Annabel applies much of what she learnt in school almost every day at work, where she examines the various risk factors influencing dengue infections, and builds epidemiological models to provide early warnings of potential dengue outbreaks. These insights are subsequently factored into NEA’s updates to the public on the prevailing dengue situation, and aid in optimising resource planning and allocation.
She also collaborates with local and international research groups in dengue and other infectious disease research. Understanding of the epidemiology of these diseases leads to well-optimised and fine-tuned public health programmes and policies.
“I chose the scholarship because of the plethora of opportunities that NEA offers – from waste and resource management and environmental protection, to public health and meteorological services. I was sure that there would never be a dull moment,” Annabel reflected.
Judging from her work now, NEA has certainly lived up to its promise!
From Specialist to All-Rounder
For Daryl, university taught him a different but no less integral lesson – the importance of all-rounded development. He explained: “It is becoming increasingly important to work in interdisciplinary teams and having a basic understanding and interest in other fields outside the engineering domain helps tremendously.”
But when it comes to the portfolio of an Engineer in the Water Supply Network Department at PUB, it is back to basics for Daryl. “The engineering knowledge and principles that I learnt from university definitely aided in my decision making at work,” he said. “I could understand many of the technical terms and descriptions in equipment manufacturer’s documentation.”
Since his work requires him to maintain, renew, replace and upgrade such equipment while ensuring maintenance activities adhere to current policies, regulations and statutory requirements, understanding jargon is a must. Daryl handles a huge range of sensors, monitoring systems, controllers and communications devices in his day-to-day work, and his vast technical knowledge shines as he completes his tasks competently.
Daryl’s accomplishments at PUB can be attributed to how he has successfully applied the academic rigour of his studies to the practical realities of his job today, and his growth mindset.
From Introvert to Enforcer
Alex, too, has come to a depth of understanding that combines lessons learnt from both study and work. “The biggest takeaway from school and the work experiences I have had thus far would be the ability to adapt, adjust and improvise,” he said.
For instance, although he is an introvert, university enabled him to interact with others, speak publicly and conduct presentations – and he emerged a more confident individual for it.
As part of the hygiene inspection team at SFA Northwest Regional Office, the ability to converse comfortably with people from all walks of life is key to his work. He carries out hygiene inspections at food retail establishments such as coffee shops, hawker centre stalls and restaurants, so effective communication is a must for good results.
On top of collaborating with stakeholders such as the food industry, his work also requires him to conduct reviews and develop areas for improvement related to food safety. He also manages operational activities such as recalls of unsafe food products.
“A large part of my work in the inspection team at SFA’s Northwest Regional Office doesn’t just involve enforcement, but also mutual understanding, communication and collaboration with the various stakeholders,” he explained.
Ensuring food safety for Singapore requires everyone’s cooperation, and Alex and the SFA are building a collaborative society where both the industry and the public will work with the Government to make it happen.
Where Sustainability Starts… Anew
A never-say-die spirit and willingness to embrace the unknown permeates the work of all three organisations and their scholars in turn.
Thus, they each hope to groom new talents as they come, sustaining not just resources but people as well.
Alex delivered some sobering advice: “By being aware of the challenges that Singapore faces, we can then better contribute by giving ideas and being part of the change we wish to see.”
Daryl followed up, recommending the SSS vigorously as the place to make that change happen: “The SSS is a good opportunity to contribute to Singapore’s sustainability amidst the growing threats of climate change, population growth and public health challenges.”
Lastly, Annabel offered some practical tips. “I would advise aspiring scholars to to ask themselves if their career and developmental aspirations in their field of interest are aligned with the agency’s key business functions ,” she highlighted.
So if you want to sustain Singapore, no matter in what shape or form, the SSS and its agencies have a place for you.