Published on 06 Feb 2024

16th International Science Youth Forum (ISYF)

The 16th iteration of the International Science Youth Forum was held over the span of 5 days, from 8 to 12 January 2024, receiving a total of 123 delegates and 42 educators from 13 countries. This year’s theme: “Science and Technology for Humanity: Building a Sustainable Future” highlighted the important role of science and technology in driving sustainable and inclusive development while reflecting the need for a holistic approach to science and technology, with consideration for their benefits for humanity and accompanying ethical considerations in addressing societal challenges.

Delegates, educators, facilitators at ISYF 2024.

Throughout the 5-day program, delegates were immersed in a variety of engaging activities designed to enhance their scientific curiosity and critical thinking skills. They participated in an interactive lecture by Prof Sow Chorng Haur at NUS, explored the fascinating biodiversity at the new Mandai Bird Park, and had the opportunity to admire their peers' research during the Research Poster Exhibition. In addition, cultural performances by international delegates provided exposure to different cultures, while teamwork and problem-solving skills were honed through collaborative efforts to tackle challenging mathematical problems.

At Masterclasses, delegates had the opportunity to learn from Nobel laureates and eminent scientists across numerous disciplines, which deepened their understanding of various fields of research. One of the speakers was Sir Richard Roberts (Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology, 1993), who shared about his scientific journey and the amazing discovery of intron splicing. His session culminated in an exciting question-and-answer session, during which delegates asked questions not only about the technical details of his work, but also about his opinions and views of upcoming trends in molecular biology. Sir Richard’s friendly demeanour and unique insights inspired the classroom of aspiring young talents.

Prof Dame Sue Black (President of St John's College at Oxford) provided delegates with insights into the disparities between forensic science as depicted in the media and its reality. Through case studies, she illustrated the true nature of forensic science, allowing delegates to grasp its intricacies. Prof Black's clear and engaging presentation deepened delegates' understanding of the intriguing yet mysterious field of forensic science, prompting them to contemplate whether it is a field they may wish to pursue in the future.

In addition to learning from overseas speakers at masterclasses, delegates also get to hear from our local scientists and experts. Assoc Prof Soo Han Sen (School of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, NTU) explored how artificial photosynthesis systems can be used to upcycle plastic wastes with the delegates. He shared his academic journey as well as key highlights of his research in the Onion Reports. His interactive approach not only engaged the audience but also ignited inspiration among young aspiring scientists to delve deeper into their scientific interests.

(From left) Prof Dame Sue Black, Assoc Prof Soo Han Sen, Assoc Prof Wu Wei and Assoc Prof Sierin Lim speaking at ISYF masterclasses. 

Assoc Prof Wu Wei (School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, NTU) explored Singapore’s geothermal energy sources in great depth with the delegates. He gave them a glimpse into Singapore’s underground storage facilities as well as how we can harness Singapore’s natural geothermal resources, such as hot springs, to provide a reliable source of energy. His session was not only informative but also deeply inspiring as he shared his academic journey from freshman to graduate school.

Assoc Prof Sierin Lim (Associate Dean of Global Partnerships, Graduate College, NTU) spoke about the role of biotechnology in building a sustainable future. Her presentation facilitated delegates in comprehending how professionals from different fields collaborate to develop bioengineered nanoparticles and highlighted the interdisciplinary aspect of her work, inspiring delegates to consider careers in bioengineering. Drawing from her academic journey, she shared valuable wisdom with the delegates, motivating them to persevere in their studies. 

(Left) Assoc Prof Sierin Lim with delegates and facilitators at her masterclass. (Right) Prof Duncan Haldane delivering his Keynote Lecture  on  quantum entanglement.

In addition to the masterclasses, the Keynote Lecture, given by Prof Duncan Haldane (Nobel Prize in Physics, 2016) of Princeton University, was one of the main events of ISYF 2024. His lecture titled "Entanglement, Quantum Mechanics, and Topology" was truly enlightening. Furthermore, his advice for future researchers resonated with the students, and was indeed inspiring. 

In the span of just 5 days, the ISYF enabled delegates to interact with like-minded peers who are passionate about science, and forged friendships that will last a long time. It is our wish that delegates will leverage the insights and inspirations gained from the forum to embark on research endeavors aimed at fostering a more sustainable future, benefiting humanity as a whole.

Written by: Phoebe Lee Yixuan, Ho Si Jia, Zong Huiwen and Lim Zhi Fei

Photographs by: Isabel Choo Faith, Boo Jin Xian, Lau Yixuan, Nguyen Thien Minh Tuan and Zhang Bo

**For more information on ISYF, read the paper by Dr Kelvin Tan (School Scientist, Hwa Chong Institution) on the Annual Forum's contribution to nurturing science talents since 2009.