20 June 2007
18-year old Singaporean Selected to Present in Two International Conferences
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18-year old Nicholas Tan Xue-Wei is probably the only teenager in Singapore to be given an unique opportunity to present his research paper in TWO international conferences consecutively – “The 2007 World Congress in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Applied Computing” (WORLDCOMP'07) to be held in Las Vegas, USA from 25th to 28th June and “World Congress on Engineering 2007” (WCE 2007) to be held in London, U.K. from 2nd to 4th July. 
Next week, Nicholas would present his research findings alongside far more established scientists from all over the world.  It is unusual for a teenager to have a paper accepted for presentation at an international conference and Nicholas’s research paper entitled “Towards A Serum-Free Medium: Growth Receptors And Signaling Pathways That Regulate Multipotency In Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells” was accepted by the review committees of, not one, but two conferences.  It was even nominated for Best Paper Awards competition in WCE 2007. 
Despite a hectic training schedule with Singapore’s National Swimming Squad and a busy school schedule in Raffles Junior College, Nicholas chose to carry out his 1-month research attachment with the Bioinformatics Institute, A*STAR (BII) in October 2006 to pursue his interest in research.  This opportunity arose when he was one of the 100 recipients of the 2006 A*STAR JC Science award and was given an option to decide which research institute he would like to have his attachment with.  BII was his choice and he was mentored by BII researchers – Dr. Vivek Tanavde and Ms. Felicia Ng.
At BII, Nicholas worked on a preliminary screening of human growth factors and molecular pathways that would allow Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) to be grown under conditions that are safe for clinical trials.  MSC is a type of stem cell commonly isolated from bone marrow and the ability to successfully grow adult MSC under safer conditions has many therapeutic implications.  For this project, Nicholas used computer software, instead of lab experiments, to analyze data from the laboratory of biologists to come up with predictions of biological events.  The predictions made in this research study will be useful for the development of serum-free culture media, which is a safer and better alternative to current methods.
Commenting on Nicholas’ success, BII Research Scientist, Dr. Vivek Tanavde said “Nicholas was an enthusiastic JC student who worked with me for a month.  Unlike most other students, after finishing his project, Nicholas diligently collated his findings and communicated the results to two international conferences.  In particular, being nominated for the Best Paper Award at the World Congress on Engineering 2007, in competition with established researchers and PhD students is a rare and commendable achievement for an 18-year-old and a good testimonial of the work he carried out at BII. I wish Nicholas all the best in his scientific endeavour."

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