News Details | 11-Jul-2013

NTU and NUS postgraduates win World Future Foundation’s PhD Prizes totalling US$100,000 for ground-breaking sustainability research


In the near future, the lithium ion battery on your smartphone can be as slim and light as a credit card, and store far more energy.  Nanyang Technological University (NTU) researcher Dr Cheah Yan Ling, 29, is leading the development of high-performing rechargeable lithium ion batteries using low-cost materials, such as olivine phosphate and vanadium pentoxide, which not only enable these batteries to last longer, but are also less toxic and friendlier to the environment. There will also be plenty of applications outside conventional devices, in high-powered settings such as electric vehicles, and highly flexible electronics that open the door to wearable computers and advanced medical devices.

Another researcher from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Dr Tay Ywee Chieh, 30, has pioneered Singapore’s first study to investigate the population dynamics among Singapore's coral reefs using virtual model simulations and genetic information.  This fundamental understanding of how local coral populations are connected, allows identification of key areas that should be conserved: in land-scarce Singapore, prioritisation of conservation efforts is crucial in order to balance our rapid economic development with efforts to preserve our natural environment. The coral study is funded by the National Parks Board and was carried out under the supervision of Professor Chou Loke Ming and Assistant Professor Peter Todd.   Dr Tay is venturing into next-generation sequencing techniques which can be applied in not just population genomic studies, but also be used as environmental monitoring tools.

Dr Cheah and Dr Tay are among ten PhD graduates from NTU and NUS who each won US$10,000 from the World Future Foundation (WFF) for being among their respective university’s top five completed PhD theses related to the environment, sustainability and metropolis of the future.

The WFF is a Singapore-registered charity organisation devoted to advancing the research and development of new environmental technologies. The PhD Prize, introduced in 2010, is the first-of-its-kind award in Singapore to recognise excellence in doctoral-level (PhD) environmental and sustainability research.  It is also the highest cash award given out to students at Singapore 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 Bernard Tan, NUS Vice Provost (Education), and about 100 students, professors and guests.

Dr Feng Lun said, “World Future Foundation is proud to present the PhD Prizes for the fourth year running.  This is a vital platform to recognise young scholars from NTU and NUS and promote sustainability-focused research that will benefit the entire world. This year’s winners are great role models for other young researchers, and they deserve their success.” 

NTU Professor Yue Chee Yoon said, “Our judging panel were presented with some very high calibre candidates, but these students' work shone through. I hope winning this prize will help them to continue their ground breaking work, and conceive innovative solutions that contribute to a more sustainable world. The WFF PhD Prize is a prestigious addition to any young researcher’s achievements. It is also an acknowledgement of the strengths of our researchers at NTU, and affirms the University’s aspiration to achieve global recognition and excellence in sustainability research.” 

NUS Vice Provost (Education), Professor Bernard Tan said, “We are pleased to be a partner in this competition, which recognises some of the best and talented young researchers. This year’s award recipients and their work may come from diverse fields, but they share a common vision of addressing real-world sustainability issues through technological innovation. From protecting coral reefs to developing a porous ceramic membrane that removes soluble oil from water, our winners have demonstrated creativity and commitment in developing high-quality sustainable solutions. The WFF PhD Prize will spur these researchers to further their work in sustainability research. NUS will continue to strengthen our research capabilities to bring about better solutions for a greener environment. ”

This year’s PhD Prize winners researched into new technologies in diverse areas such as renewable energy and membrane fabrication.  They were assessed on several criteria, such as the novelty, societal relevance and commercial potential of their research, and their passion for environmental sustainability. 

On the prize, Dr Cheah said, “I am delighted to have been even nominated for this award, winning it is icing on the cake. Credit goes to my supervisor Dr Madhavi for giving me a lot of encouragement to pursue my research work.” Winner of the L'Oreal-UNESCO for women in science national fellowships award in 2010, Assistant Professor Madhavi Srinivasan was previously Dr Cheah's mentor for her undergraduate final-year project, and took Dr Cheah under her wing as her PhD student in 2008.

Dr Tay said, "Having a good understanding of the connectivity patterns of marine populations is important in making reef management decisions. I am honoured to be a recipient of this award, and am even more motivated to further pursue connectivity studies, especially since it can contribute to the conservation of Singapore’s marine biodiversity." Currently, Dr Tay is a post-doctoral fellow at NUS, continuing her research in marine connectivity under the supervision of Professor Rudolf Meier.

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

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Media contacts:

Feisal Abdul Rahman
Senior Assistant Director (Media Relations)
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: (65) 6790 6687 

Chew Huoy Miin
Senior Manager (Media Relations)
Office of Corporate Relations
National University of Singapore
DID: (65) 6516 6822 

About World Future Foundation Ltd (WFF)

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

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences. 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 four 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.

Besides the main Yunnan Garden campus, NTU also has a satellite campus in Singapore’s science and tech hub, one-north, and a third campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.

For more information, visit

About National University of Singapore

A leading global university centered in Asia, the National University of Singapore 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. Its transformative education includes a broad-based curriculum underscored by multi-disciplinary courses and cross-faculty enrichment. Over 37,000 students from 100 countries enrich the community with their diverse social and cultural perspectives.

NUS has three Research Centres of Excellence and 23 university-level research institutes and centres. It is also a partner in Singapore’s 5th 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.

For  more information, please visit


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