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​Ten NTU and NUS postgraduates get prizes totalling US$100,000 for ground-breaking sustainability research

Published on: 09-Jul-2015

A novel sensor technology to accurately detect pollutants in membranes to treat water in desalination and NEWater production has been developed. 

The brainchild of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) researcher Dr Victor Sim Siang Tze, the new water filtration technology can detect pollutants earlier and accurately, allowing for timely maintenance of these membranes. Having clean and unclogged membranes will reduce the energy consumption of the treatment process, leading to greater energy savings.

Another NTU researcher, Dr Natalia Yantara discovered that using a microscopic process called “nanostructuring” to create photovoltaic (solar) cells can produce more energy and reduce production costs by 70 per cent. 

Dr Zuo Jian from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering achieved a breakthrough in biofuel separation technology by developing novel, high performance hollow fibre thin film composite (TFC) membranes that enable the production of bioalcohol, a major type of biofuel, to be more economically viable. This new technology is energy efficient, environmentally friendly and easy to operate. Two patents have been filed for Dr Zuo’s work. 

The exponential increase in nanomaterials production and application has triggered concerns about the potential effect of these nanomaterials to human health and the environment. Dr Magdiel Inggrid Setyawati from NUS Faculty of Engineering discovered the mechanism by which nanomaterials, due their small size, could escape the endothelial cells barrier of the blood vessels, resulting in a higher incidence of cancer metastasis. In addition to explaining the health threat posed by long term widespread nanomaterials exposure and use, the study also contribute towards developing safer nanomaterials.
Dr Victor Sim, Dr Natalia Yantara, Dr Zuo Jian and Dr Magdiel Inggrid Setyawati are among ten postgraduate students from NTU and NUS who have been recognised for their outstanding environmental and sustainability research.

They received the World Future Foundation (WFF) PhD Prize in Environmental and Sustainability Research – an award of US $10,000 each – presented by Dr Feng Lun, Chairman of the WFF, at a ceremony held at NTU Singapore today.

The prestigious prize recognises the students’ achievement for being among their respective universities’ top five completed PhD theses in environment, sustainability and metropolis of the future.

This year’s PhD Prize winners researched into new technologies in diverse areas including renewable energy, membrane technologies, biodiversity, payoffs from sustainability, the potential effect of nanomaterials on human health, and Singapore’s coastal development strategies in response to the possible impact of sea level rise and storm surge floods.  They were assessed on several criteria, such as the novelty, societal relevance and commercial potential of their research, and their passion for environmental sustainability. 

Introduced in 2010, the WFF PhD Prize recognises excellence in doctoral-level (PhD) environmental and sustainability research in Singapore. It is also the highest cash award among student prizes at Singapore’s universities.

Dr Feng Lun, Founder and Board Chairman of the Foundation presented the WFF PhD Prizes to the winners at NTU this morning, witnessed by Professor Yue Chee Yoon, NTU Associate Provost (Graduate Education), Professor Mohan Kankanhalli, NUS Vice Provost (Graduate Education), and about 100 students, professors and guests.

Dr Feng Lun said, “The World Future Foundation is proud to present the PhD prizes together with NTU and NUS for the sixth year running. Over the years, we have recognised 60 bright and promising scientists who have made significant contributions addressing the challenges facing mankind in the face of global climate change. I am delighted that this platform not only provides an excellent opportunity in recognising top young scientists, but also inspires them to make the world a better place for mankind.”

NTU Associate Provost (Graduate Education), Professor Yue Chee Yoon said, “Talent is key to the success of science and R&D activities, and the WFF PhD prize continues to strengthen this by fostering a culture of research excellence. 
“This year, we are deeply encouraged by the large number of research innovations submitted for the award which reflect NTU’s leading position in sustainability research. The efforts and contribution of this talented group of researchers will no doubt inspire Singapore's next generation of research scientists and engineers.”

NUS Vice Provost (Education), Professor Mohan Kankanhalli said, “NUS places a strong emphasis on raising the translation impact of our research. We are proud that the award recipients have demonstrated creativity, rigour and depth in developing high-quality solutions to address real-world sustainability issues. We are deeply appreciative of the recognition and motivation that the WFF PhD Prize provides these talented young researchers with.”

On receiving the prize, Dr Sim said, “It is an honour to win this award and I dedicate this to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. My research direction was inspired by his foresight in recognising the importance of water security which made Singapore a Global Hydrohub today.” 

A Singaporean, Dr Sim’s research innovation also bagged him several accolades, particularly the prestigious American Water Works Association (AWWA) Academic achievement award. This achievement also made NTU the first university outside America to win this award since 1966, triumphing over leading universities such as Yale, Stanford, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

NUS winner, Dr Magdiel Inggrid Setyawati from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering said, “I thank the World Future Foundation for this prestigious PhD Prize in Environmental and Sustainability. The award is a tremendous honour and I really appreciate the recognition of my academic achievement. Winning this award would not have been possible without the support of many people but most importantly I am indebted to my supervisor, Dr Leong Tai Wei, for all his encouragement and guidance through my PhD journey.”

Please see Annex for the full list of winners and their projects. For more detailed information on the WFF PhD Prize, visit:   


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Nur Amin Shah
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Corporate Communications Office 
Nanyang Technological University

Karen Loh
Associate Director (Media Relations)
Office of Corporate Relations
National University of Singapore

About World Future Foundation Ltd

World Future Foundation (WFF) was set up by a group of public-spirited entrepreneurs and professionals from the Asia-Pacific region and was incorporated in Singapore on August 26, 2008. WWF was then conferred by the Government of Singapore as a charity on 20 February 2009.

WFF is a grant-making foundation, based in Singapore, for the world. It aims to financially support a number of charitable organisations and charitable programmes related to ecological and environmental protection, city evolution, research and education and so on. These programmes will bring about changes and benefit the contemporary and future generations from different aspects. WFF is a private foundation and does not raise funds from the public. At present, its funds are mainly from the personal donation of public-spirited entrepreneurs.
WFF’s motto “For Our World, For Our Future” reflects its founders’ ambitions and aspirations.

For more information, visit 

About Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and its Interdisciplinary Graduate School. It has a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).

A fast-growing university with an international outlook, NTU is putting its global stamp on Five Peaks of Excellence: Sustainable Earth, Future Healthcare, New Media, New Silk Road, and Innovation Asia.

The University’s main Yunnan Garden campus has been named one of the Top 15 Most Beautiful in the World. NTU also has a campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.

For more information, visit 

About National University of Singapore (NUS)

A leading global university centred in Asia, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s flagship university, which offers a global approach to education and research, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise.
NUS has 16 faculties and schools across three campuses. Over 37,000 students from 100 countries enrich the community with their diverse social and cultural perspectives. 

NUS has three Research Centres of Excellence (RCE) and 26 university-level research institutes and centres. It is also a partner in Singapore’s fifth RCE. NUS shares a close affiliation with 16 national-level research institutes and centres. Research activities are strategic and robust, and NUS is well-known for its research strengths in engineering, life sciences and biomedicine, social sciences and natural sciences. It also strives to create a supportive and innovative environment to promote creative enterprise within its community.   

This year, NUS celebrates its 110th year of founding together with Singapore’s 50th year of independence. As the island’s first higher education institution established by the local community, NUS prides itself in nurturing generations of leaders and luminaries in Singapore and Asia.

For more information on NUS, please visit Details on NUS’ 110th Anniversary celebrations are available at

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