Looking back at my journey…

By Paula Nazarene Evangelista Say

How it all began

Enthralled by forensic science since young, I would spend entire afternoons fiddling with those fascinating big, blue injection-like things and tasty-looking agar with holes which turned out to be micropipettes and agarose for gel electrophoresis respectively.

My 1st research project. From left: Mentor Ms Oh Wei Ting, Paula, her group mates Germaine and Alicia, and mentor Mr Arthur Goh.

Little did I know that that a DNA analysis workshop in Science Centre would spark my ever-growing passion for science.

It was further fuelled by yearly visits to Science Centre, to catch a glimpse of the Singapore Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF) and support my friends who were fortunate to be finalists. Numerous rows of poster booths lined the hall, which unfailingly intrigued my affection for science at every showcase.

It was during these SSEF exposures in Science Centre that I realised I was craving for something more. So what if I discovered that adding sunflower oil to sunblock would block more UVA and UVB rays? What’s the use, if no one else knew about it?


Road to Victory

Alas, the motivation that I needed finally came when 3 of my seniors made it to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in the United States. Visibly inspired, it was then that I told myself that I wanted to do research for the last time, and this time I wanted to do it independently.

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Fast forward a year later, I was stepping through the familiar doors of SSEF, only this time as a finalist. To be around legends, who were finalists for the 4th year running; to be setting up my booth around the nation’s brightest minds in Science, it was just surreal.

I was visibly shaken during the awards ceremony, and continued to feel so afterwards.

What I was not prepared for was when my name was called not just for the final Gold Award, but also for the honour to represent Singapore for Intel ISEF 2017 in Los Angeles, California. I was on cloud nine.

The win was followed by numerous training sessions for ISEF, and in no time, we were off to the United States to compete with the brightest minds on the planet.

Eventually, I was blessed to have clinched the 4th Grand Award in my category of Translational Medical Science. Going up the stage during SSEF was nothing compared to standing in front of thousands of finalists, teachers, judges, and professionals during ISEF’s Grand Awards Ceremony.

The moment that I treasure the most, however, was when I waved to the camera while going up the stage. This was witnessed by my parents on a livestream.

The Early, Rapid and Label-free Biomarker Detection transforms ICU Diagnosis of Multiple Organ Failure and Acute Coagulopathy via EIS-based Electrochemical Biosensors.

My Final Thoughts

My International Science and Engineering Fair booth

My SSEF and ISEF experiences are things that I will never be able to fully convey in a single blog post. I am thankful to Institute of Microelectronics (IME), A*STAR, National Junior College and the Science Centre for giving me the opportunity to not only pursue what I love, but the platform to do so as well.

Since ISEF, I’ve felt so grateful and plan to give back by setting up a Singapore Intel ISEF Alumni to help train future Singapore ISEF teams and hopefully inspire young people to dream big, much like how Science Centre’s programmes like SSEF have influenced me.

To all the young people out there, really, I urge you to dream big, to think beyond what others have thought of before. To do little things out of fascination, and you might just end up advancing knowledge. Find the opportunities available and grab them!

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