Published on 18 Sep 2023

Hwa Chong Institution Science Educators engage in Learning Journey at NTU

On 7 to 8 September 2023, dedicated educators from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) had the enriching opportunity to visit the NTU College of Science to exchange teaching pedagogies and methods, and to strengthen the partnership between NTU and pre-university institutions. This insightful event was organised by NTU Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), in collaboration with the four schools under the College of Science (CoS): the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS), the School of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (CCEB), the School of Biological Sciences (SBS), and the Asian School of the Environment (ASE).

School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS)

The first day of the learning journey commenced with the welcome address by Prof Sum Tze-Chien (Director, IAS) and Prof Simon Redfern (Dean, CoS) who gave an introduction about the interdisciplinarity of education in NTU. They also highlighted the value of the learning journey in strengthening the relationship between NTU CoS and HCI. This was followed by Dr Tang Wee Kee (Principal Lecturer, SPMS) who shared about the value of studying physics, citing the importance of solving problems by first principles. He further showcased the potential of mathematics in finance, cryptography and telecommunications.

[Clockwise from top] Prof Sum Tze-Chien and Prof Simon Redfern giving welcome address and introducing the interdisciplinarity of education in NTU | Group photo of SPMS speakers with HCI educators.

Following this was a sharing session on teaching pedagogy by Dr Gary Greaves (Senior Lecturer, SPMS) and Assistant Prof Justin Song (Provost’s Chair in Physics). As a mathematics lecturer, Dr Gary Greaves introduced the importance of making learning accessible, recounting how he used 3D printing to create tactile models for a visually impaired student.  He also discussed innovative approaches to virtual classroom dialogues. Next, from a physics lecturer’s perspective, A/Prof Justin Song engaged the HCI educators with an engaging live demonstration, illustrating how everyday devices could facilitate hands-on learning in physics, emphasising its problem-solving applications.

Dr Koh Teck Seng (Senior Lecturer, SPMS) delivered a presentation on the Odyssey Programme, highlighting the significance of mentor-mentee interaction, student empowerment, and community in cultivating a vibrant research culture. Thereafter, Prof Fan Hongjin, Director of the CN Yang Scholars Programme (CNYSP), introduced its research opportunities, overseas learning trip and overseas final year project.  He also highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary scientific research and pointed out how the scholars are required to attend foundational modules across all the sciences.

In the morning's final segment, Prof Zhang Baile (Assistant Chair of Research & Graduate Studies, SPMS) unveiled the intriguing world of metamaterials and the groundbreaking concept of designing materials based on an object's function. The HCI educators then had an opportunity to visit Prof Zhang’s lab and hear more about his current research. 

[Clockwise from top] Asst Prof Justin Song demonstrating the use of Physics Toolbox Sensor Suite | Prof Fan Hongjin sharing the core features of the CN Yang Scholars Programme | Visit to Prof Zhang Baile’s Lab.

School of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (CCEB)

In the afternoon, the HCI educators were hosted by Dr Zhang Zhengyang (Assistant Chair of Students & Continuing Education, CCEB), who gave a presentation on CCEB curricula. He also elaborated on how integrating the Division of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry (CBC) from SPMS with the School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering (SCBE) in August 2022 opened doors to broader interdisciplinary learning opportunities. The HCI educators then embarked on a tour of CCEB research laboratories, witnessing the state-of-the-art technology used in chemistry research. They also engaged in hands-on activity in the CBC Teaching Lab, using a benchtop Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machine to characterise unknown compounds.

The learning journey in SPMS and CCEB concluded with a visit to the Making and Tinkering Lab, hosted by Dr Ho Shen Yong (Principal Lecturer, SPMS). He explained the significance of providing students with an environment to tinker amidst an education which was heavily enriched with theory and information. Dr Ho showcased past projects, 3D printing technology and other engineering equipment to the HCI educators.

[Clockwise from top] Hands-on activity in the CBC Teaching Lab, and group photo of Dr Zhang Zhengyang and HCI educators | Visit to the Making and Tinkering Lab hosted by Dr Ho Shen Yong.

School of Biological Sciences (SBS)

The second day of the learning journey commenced at SBS, where Mr Frederick Koh (Lead Physician, NTU Chinese Medicine Clinic) introduced the basics of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the extensive Double Degree program offered by the school. He also demonstrated some TCM treatments and their relevance in our physical and mental health, and shared the motivations and inspirations behind career, offering words of wisdom for prospective students. He ended the session with a tour around the NTU TCM clinic, introducing the various tools and herbs used in diagnosing and treating patients.

Associate Prof Marek Mutwil (Assistant Chair of Students, SBS) then introduced the HCI educators to his lab and ongoing research projects, which primarily focus on plant genomics and gene expression, leading to predictions of gene functions. Lab members and students also presented their individual projects, which were well-received by the educators. The tour concluded with Assoc Prof Marek showcasing some of the state-of-the-art research facilities at SBS.

Together with Associate Prof Melissa Fullwood (Associate Chair of Students, SBS), Associate Prof Li Hoi Yeung (Associate Chair of Academic, SBS), Dr Peter Cheung (Assistant Chair of Exchange & Lifelong Learning, SBS) and Prof Sum Tze-Chien (Director, IAS), education experts from both organisations shared teaching pedagogy and expertise to enhance the educational journey for both current and prospective students. Mrs Foo-Lam Woon Keat (Director of Studies, HCI) initiated the discussion by exchanging some educational approaches and methods to suit the various learning styles of students today. This dialogue also sparked the idea of potential workshops and seminars to bridge knowledge gaps between pre-university and university curricula. Additionally, several NTU students provided their insights on the current university curricula. The session was concluded with educators' feedback on the use of technology and generative AI to enhance learning.

[Clockwise from top] Lead Physician Frederick Koh introducing the basics of TCM to HCI educators | Assoc Prof Marek Mutwil explaining his research project to HCI educators | Group photo of SBS faculty and students (HCI Alumni) with HCI educators.

Asian School of the Environment (ASE)

Dr Natasha Bhatia (Associate Chair of Academic, ASE), Dr Shawn Lum (Senior Lecturer, ASE), Clarence Sim Wei Hung (4th Year PhD Student, ASE), and Rachael Goh Tian Hui (2nd Year Undergraduate, ASE) hosted the educators for the afternoon session. Dr Natasha began the session with an overview of ASE, while Clarence shared bout research projects conducted by ASE faculty and students. ASE takes pride in its state-of-the-art facilities and the wide range of research it encompasses, spanning from the genetics of microscopic organisms to the study of tectonic plates. The learning journey continued with a comprehensive presentation of the ASE curriculum, emphasising unique teaching methods such as case-based learning and experiential learning. Rachael and Clarence also shared insights about ASE and student life. Finally, Dr Shawn Lum discussed initiatives aimed at promoting experiential learning opportunities for pre-university students.

Engagement between ASE speakers and HCI educators.

The educators were particularly delighted to reunite with their former students during the informal gatherings over lunch. These heartwarming encounters provided a unique opportunity for both educators and alumni to reconnect and exchange valuable insights. As educators and alumni came together, their conversations naturally gravitated toward university studies and life after graduating from HCI, encompassing fresh perspectives from first-year students to seasoned wisdom shared by those in their fourth year, providing a comprehensive understanding of the evolving landscape of higher education. 

HCI educators reconnecting with their former students during the lunches.

This learning journey proved to be an enriching experience for the HCI educators in their professional development, allowing them to learn more about NTU College of Science and its programmes to provide students with better advice in Education and Career Guidance (ECG).

These are some feedback from the HCI educators

"The learning journey provided a good opportunity for educators to keep up to date with the new and exciting programme offered by NTU. I particularly enjoyed the visit to the lab and the hands-on activity. I appreciate the dedicated planning by NTU. From the moment we step into the building, we had ushers to lead us to the venue to having alumni joining us for lunch. Thank you very much!"

"I had a great time connecting with some of the ex-HCI students. The session also made me more aware about the new things that've developed at NTU, and hence I'm now more equipped to share some of these experiences (e.g. types of scholarships and programmes, learning experiences, etc) with my students."

"The learning journey was well-run. The presentations on physics and math pedagogies, and SPMS Odyssey Programme, were particularly informative. They allowed insights into how lessons at NTU may be designed based on clarity and accessibility, how students are engaged in current research and using data around us to make predictions, and how a vibrant scientific culture may be nurtured in a special programme. Lunchtime was enjoyable as we get to chat with our former students, giving us updated insights into university studies and life after graduating from Hwa Chong."

With the success of this learning journey, NTU CoS and IAS hope to expand the learning journeys to other pre-university institutions in Singapore, aligning with IAS’s mission to bring Science to the next level and to engage the young learners.

Written by Lau Chung Hean (undergraduate, Chemistry) and Ong Jie Hao (undergraduate, Biological Science) who are also HCI alumni.