Message from Our Staff: In the trenches of Research Operations

By Wong Kang Ning, Manager, Research Operations, RASS

A typical day for the Research Operations team, may start off at 3 am with an SMS indicating ">>>PtID 328 LAB – L10 – FREEZER ROOM 2 – 2 GENERAL is ALARM, Please Check" followed by multiple calls from onsite technicians updating the status of the freezer and eventually making the decision to rush back to the laboratory to rescue the precious samples in the dying freezer. This is a rescue mission that I could liken to my experience during my time in National Service.

During National Service, I was a section leader and general-purpose machine gun (GPMG) commander. I oversaw my soldiers' well-being and ensured that all the necessary logistical support is in place to execute the mission perfectly. When things got tough, I had to rally my men to push through the mission. Likewise, with my present role as the manager for Research Operations, I oversee a team that takes care of research procurement, maintenance and events, much like a platoon comprising various specialisations such as medics and riflemen.

As the lead for Research Operations, I am tasked with preparing the space and equipment for faculty and researchers to conduct their studies. In addition, I have to be mindful of costs and ensure other aspects such as safety and suitability of equipment are taken care of.

Communication is key in the smooth running of Research Operations. I work with my team to ensure that equipment is maintained so they can run at their best.  Sometimes, the team has to swing into action at weekends to rectify sudden equipment and facility failures. This is critical because no one can afford the loss or damage of cell cultures due an equipment failure. Not only would this affect research results and progress, but these samples and data are precious and would be time-consuming and expensive to replace. 

Running research operations well is my way of contributing to the advance of science. Through my work, I can utilise my education in science and update my knowledge as well. I enjoy this aspect of my work because in a way, I can get a preview of the latest cutting-edge research.  It is exciting to see plans coming to fruition.