How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

I am a junior principal investigator at the Genome Institute of Singapore. Together with talented colleagues, we are pioneering the application of spatial transcriptomics on biological tissues.

Spatial transcriptomics is a cutting-edge technology that performs high-resolution molecular profiling within an intact piece of tissue. The goal of this technology is to create a Google map for any tissue, which would help doctors develop new paths for treatment.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?

Thus far, we have completed a proof-of-concept reconstruction of human brain development in a model system at high resolution and scale. This map will shed light on the human brain while the instruments and analysis tools developed could transform digital pathology, diagnostics and scientific discovery.

What is one unexpected learning from 2021?

The technology is so new that our team needed to engage instrumentation engineers to build prototype equipment and computational scientists to improve data acquisition and analysis. Witnessing how interdisciplinary science drives and accelerates innovation was mind-blowing.

What’s your favourite memory from the past year?

I got to present a plenary talk at the international 2021 Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference, the pre-eminent meeting on genome technologies. This was possibly the first time in years that Singapore was represented at this international stage.

What are your priorities for 2022?

My vision is to develop new ways to decode mental illness and other mysteries of the human body.

Who are the mentors and heroes that inspire you?

All the female Nobel laureates!

What gets you up in the morning?

The hope that someday our work can improve the quality of life. The human brain is a black box, yet it controls our cognition, behaviours, emotions – everything. If we can harness genomics technologies to accelerate our understanding of the human brain, we can, within this lifetime, begin to tackle the many debilitating brain disorders that afflict our loved ones.