Dr. Terence Chong is currently the Director of the School of Applied Science Republic Polytechnic in Singapore. Some prior appointments he held included, Research Fellow IMCB, Senior Officer (Biotech/Food/Agrotech) NSTB, Assistant Manager (Life Sciences/Project Review) NSTB, Regional Director San Francisco Center NSTB, Deputy Director North America TIF Ventures.
“I joined the IMCB in 1987 as a Junior Research Fellow. I had the privilege of starting in an empty building on Kent Ridge and contributing to its initial development. By the time I left, I had completed a PhD and a stint as a post doctoral fellow. Needless to say it was an experience that changed me, for there were times when our achievements were very high and Singapore did not seem that small when compared to the rest of the world.
When I left the IMCB in 1994, I stepped out of the laboratory into public administration at the then (Singapore) National Science and Technology Board. New modalities were needed to deliver the goals of this science and technology promoting agency, but the work still boiled down to solving problems and getting things done – skills I was well-equipped with from my time at IMCB. From administering research grants to husbanding technopreneurship, the challenges came fast and furious. Once it became clearer that S&T policy was about intellectual property, the agency geared up to not only promote IP-generating research but also to examine ways to protect it and translate it into something with economic value.
My path moved with the latter – and where else does this better than the San Francisco Bay Area? The stimulus of living and working in the Silicon Valley when asked to start the NSTB San Francisco office showed me that individuals can make a difference. This was driven home by witnessing the unfolding of ideas that literally changed the world.
After almost five years away, I returned to a different Singapore. IMCB was looking at its move to the Biopolis and parts of NSTB became A*STAR with various other spin off entities organized somewhat along the lines of promoting, protecting and commercializing IP. I was in one of those entities which were destined to fold into organizations with more relevant missions for the times.
I then was got caught up in another development cycle that involved the start of a new institution. The Republic Polytechnic started in 2002 and I joined to build its School of Applied Science. It was a clean break from my second career. Once again I had the privilege of walking into new buildings and helping pieces come together. Except now I had the additional task of seeding a culture for an Institution of Higher Learning.
In IMCB, I worked in a team that was effectively five in number. In NSTB my immediate work teams were also about five in number though a larger group was just an e-mail away. In the Republic Polytechnic, the team I worked in grew rapidly. By the end of 2007, the School of Applied Science was about 120 strong and still growing. It is a continual journey, where learning never stops and lessons learnt are applied. However, problem solving skills remain relevant and evidence-based arguments and solutions based on logic take the day time and time again. What was impressed upon a young man on the bench at IMCB – “to not give in to open-ended problems” – still remains relevant! A career that started out on the laboratory bench that became a career in public administration and changing once again in the service of a team bent on delivering a unique educational experience is what became of one IMCB alumni. And the journey is not over.
Dr. TERENCE CHONG (IMCB/NUS), 1994