Bee Ting Low, Singapore: Human capital is the only resource we have
Meet a winner of the International Green Talents Competition 2010.
The 27-year-old Bee Ting Low is a 2010 winner of the International Green Talents Competition, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and supported by the United Nations University, Bonn. The award is given to outstanding young scientists from around the world, selected for their achievements in the field of sustainability research. Bee Ting works as a senior research engineer at Membrane Technology and Research, Inc. in Menlo Park, USA.
UNU: Why did you choose to become a scientist?
Bee Ting: I love to explore the unknown, and being a scientist is the best career to satisfy my curious mind!
UNU: Where does your interest in sustainable development come from?
Bee Ting: As a native Singaporean, I grew up in a city that is not self-sufficient in terms of natural resources, including water and energy. Human capital is the only resource we have. The need for sustainability is evident and this is achievable by scientific research and innovation. This is what shapes my interest in sustainable development.
UNU: What motivates you to do your research?
Bee Ting: The ultimate goals of being able to solve global concerns and to benefit the society provide my key motivation.
UNU: How does your research contribute to sustainability?
Bee Ting: My research focus is on the area of membrane science and technology. This separation technique is environmentally friendly and can be applied in various fields. Specifically, my research work is on the use of membranes for gas separation, which has potential use in pre- and post-combustion carbon capture. Carbon dioxide is a notorious greenhouse gas that is deemed responsible for the melting of the glaciers and raising the Earth’s temperature.
UNU: In your field, what would you state as a realistic goal and how would it be possible to achieve it?
Bee Ting: I foresee the use of membrane separation for carbon dioxide capture from flue gas as a realistic goal. The development of new membrane materials, and the design and optimization of membrane process are the routes to achieve the goal.
Green Talents Competition
UNU: What motivated you to participate in the Green Talents competition?
Bee Ting: It is an excellent opportunity to interact with young researchers who are working in various fields of sustainable development. It is also a good chance to see the efforts made towards sustainable development in Germany.
UNU: What do you think is the strength of German scientists and German technology and research?
Bee Ting: The high quality of the research work and the dedication to pursuing environmentally friendly technology represent the strengths.
UNU: What would you like to see in Germany? Which institution would you like to visit most and why?
Bee Ting: I would like to see the research infrastructure and the achievements of scientists in Germany. Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Centre for Materials and Coastal Research (formerly known as GKSS), which is one of the world’s well known membrane research institutes.
UNU: What do you like best about the Green Talents competition?
Bee Ting: I like the diverse background of the participants, both in terms of the research and nationality; and the interesting and informative program arranged by the organizers.
UNU: Imagine Green Talents in 2050. What do you think will be the focus of their work?
Bee Ting: This is a tough question! It could be anything under the sun! Regardless of what the focus may be then, the Green Talents in 2050 will have greater and tougher challenges towards sustainable development compared to the current Green Talents.
UNU: What are the biggest environmental challenges of our time?
Bee Ting: One of the greatest challenges is to obtain a balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on the environmental issues.
UNU: What are the biggest challenges that science can help solve in your country?
Bee Ting: In Singapore, the scarcity of water is one of the most pressing issues. The continued innovation in science and technology for the production and treatment of portable water to ensure a stable and reliable water supply is one of the greatest challenges.
UNU: Sustainable consumption is increasingly more discussed. How should our consumption patterns change to be sustainable?
Bee Ting: Make changes to one’s daily life by incorporating the 3Rs; reuse, reduce and recycle.
Role of Scientists in Society
UNU: What do you think should be the role of scientists today?
Bee Ting: Apply their knowledge to solve practical societal issues.
UNU: Do you feel that scientific results are properly taken into account by decision makers?
Bee Ting: I guess this is dependent on the government of the country. However, I feel that generally, policy makers somewhat fail to consider the scientific research, especially for physical sciences. Perhaps, this is because most of the policy makers are well-versed in social sciences.
UNU: What is needed to improve the situation?
Bee Ting: Better communication between social and physical scientists is important to bring out the best of science and research.
Science and Innovation
UNU: How important are young scientists for industry-led R& D?
Bee Ting: Young scientists are at the frontier of science and technology. Hence, the foresights and decisions of young scientists are the driving forces for continued innovation in industrial R&D.
UNU: Why is science important for innovation?
Bee Ting: Science provides the fundamental input for future innovation.
UNU: Can innovation be nurtured?
Bee Ting: In a right environment and with the opportunity, innovation can certainly be nurtured.
UNU: How can innovation be promoted?
Bee Ting: Innovation can be promoted by means of incentives, especially for companies where revenue is of paramount importance.
UNU: Who should promote innovation?
Bee Ting: The government plays a critical role in promoting innovation. Innovation also comes from both academia and industries. The industry sector plays a more important role in identifying potential products and commercializing them. Academia contributes more to fundamental science and research for expanding the knowledge database.
UNU: What are the opportunities for young scientists in your country?
Bee Ting: In Singapore, the government places significant emphasis on research and education. There are many opportunities for young scientists, especially those in the field of biological and chemical sciences. The Singapore government allocates a considerable part of the gross domestic product (GDP) for research and development.
International Research Cooperation
UNU: What role does international cooperation play?
Bee Ting: Everyone has a role to play in attaining sustainability. As such, international cooperation for achieving sustainability becomes inevitable. The collaboration across nations allows for the exchange of ideas which is important in speeding up the transfer of knowledge, expertise and technology.
UNU: What conditions are essential for international research cooperation?
Bee Ting: Effective communication, networking and an open research environment are essential.
Oksana Buranbaeva (buranbaeva[at]vie.unu.edu)
Jessica Rosenfeld contributed to this article.
Contest winners shine with green talent in Our World 2.0
Tags: Asia, Environment, Green Talent, membrane technology, Membrane Technology and Research, outstanding researchers, research, research for sustainability, science, Science for Sustainability, Singapore, Sustainability, sustainability research, sustainable development, talented researchers, UNU, UNU-ViE, women scientists