CSI’s Young Female Scientists Recognised for Outstanding Research

Our heartiest congratulations to two of CSI’s young female scientists, Dr Polly Chen and Dr Yvonne Tay, who have recently been awarded the President’s Assistant Professorship (PAP). The PAP, awarded by the National University of Singapore, aims to recognize Assistant Professors of very high calibre.

Dr Chen is a Junior Principal Investigator at CSI and she leads a team studying epigenetic mechanisms such as RNA editing and its role in cancer development. Currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Dr Chen also recently won the NUS Young Investigator Award 2014.

Dr Yvonne Tay, who recently returned to Singapore from her Postdoctoral Fellowship in Harvard Medical School, is also a Junior Principal Investigator at CSI and Assistant Professor at the NUS Department of Biochemistry. Her research focuses on investigating the role of RNA:RNA interactions on the transcriptional regulation of tumorigenesis. Dr Tay was also awarded the NRF Fellowship 2015, which seeks to support outstanding, early-stage career researchers to carry out independent research in Singapore.

Women in Science

From left: Dr Polly Chen, Dr Yvonne Tay and Dr Melissa FullwoodToday we also shine the spotlight on young female scientists, who have each carved out successful careers in the field of biomedical science, a profession known to be male-dominated, particularly along the highest career levels. Three of CSI’s young female scientists share their thoughts on their career journeys.

One major reason behind their pursuit of cancer research was the rapid increase of cancer cases over the years. It was unanimous among all that, as one of the biggest health issues facing the global population today, more work needs to be done quickly and effectively.

This becomes increasingly important when statistics reveal Asians to be more susceptible to particular cancers, such as liver cancer, an area that Dr Polly Chen has chosen to focus on for that very reason. Similarly, Drs Yvonne Tay and Melissa Fullwood, both awardees of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Fellowship, are currently involved in research work at CSI focusing on RNA and three-dimensional loops of DNA respectively.


Challenges as a Female Scientist
While female scientists around the world have been spotlighted for notable research and awards, an apparent gender disparity has been noted in leading positions of science and technology. As Dr Fullwood sums up, “I think the challenge is not so much there are no women – at PhD and post-doctoral levels it is not so imbalanced. It’s the time when you transition to a PI (Principal Investigator) that you see a real reduction in the levels.”

“Work-life balance is the biggest challenge, especially for women who want to start a family. There are many commitments…, and this can conflict with family matters.” Dr Fullwood explains. This leads to hesitation to take on larger roles in research management, especially when hours are long and irregular.

Apart from the responsibilities of familial roles, there are additional challenges of pursuing career advancement in a male-dominated field, especially in the current landscape of scientific research management.

Increasing job flexibility for female scientists will have an immense benefit, Dr Tay suggests, at attracting more women to pursue their scientific careers further. Both Dr Tay and Dr Chen have lauded the support from CSI, which has enabled them to balance the needs of both their job and family.