Friday, March 13, 2020

The 'Women in Science' series aims to break down gender inequalities and celebrates the achievements of our female scientists and researchers in A*STAR. Hear their stories and discover how their unique personal lives and perspectives shape the great work they do.


Q: Tell us about what you do at A*STAR.

A: At the Diagnostics Development (DxD) Hub, we focus on the development and productisation of diagnostics solutions and products for clinical adoption. As a principal manager, my research work ranges from molecular diagnostics to immunoassays to cyto- and histo-pathology based diagnostics.

Most recently, I’ve been leading the productisation of A*STAR’s Fortitude Kit 2.0, an In Vitro Diagnostics assay for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 virus, a pathogen that causes the current COVID-19 outbreak. Special thanks to the DxD team, and our colleagues from EDDC and BII for their hard work and dedication. It would not have been possible without everyone working together tirelessly around the clock to fast track the development and production of the diagnostic test kits.

Dr Ruifen Weng and team

I am passionate about what I do. It is meaningful and intellectually stimulating.

Q: How did you get into the field of diagnostics?

A: I had initially pursued a research career in basic science. However, after the loss of my loved one from advanced cancer, I’m convinced that the key to medicine is early diagnosis and disease prevention. I therefore chose to build my career in diagnostics.

Dr Ruifen Weng with team member Ms Felicia Heng

Diagnostic screenings can be invasive and often a barrier to early detection of diseases. In my role at DxD Hub, I hope to improve the ease of access to early and effective diagnosis.

Q: What is your biggest achievement to date?

A: I’m still trying to achieve what I have set out for myself. It is often rewarding when colleagues from the hospitals send us a text saying that they really like our products.

Q: What does being a woman in science today mean to you?

A: It is fulfilling yet challenging at times, especially as a working mother with young kids. In order to do this well, it requires great amount of passion, hard work and commitment, as well as strong family support.

Q: What do you have to say to young girls who want to pursue a career in science?

A: Be ambitious and set your goals high. Be passionate in what you do. Be humble in your work.

From left to right: Mr Daniel Wu (Senior Research Officer), Mr Su Jinyao (Regulatory Affairs Manager), Ms Jilian Chan (Intern), Ms Felicia Heng (Associate), Ms Grace Wong (Senior Research Officer), Dr Ruifen Weng (Principal Manager) and Dr Dominic Phua (Senior Research Scientist)

My personal tagline at A*ccelerate is 'Artisan Driver',
which truly reflects my strong interest in diagnostics and baking.

Q: What are your favourite pastimes outside of work?

A: Baking and gardening! I feel that baking is both a science and an art, so is developing diagnostics products. It is about determining the most desired recipe/protocol with the right choice of ingredients/Bill-of-materials, to produce a final product that suits the taster’s preference/market’s need. This is what we call Target Product Profile (TPP) development. It is important to identify the unique selling preposition of the final product, whether it’s a cake or diagnostics product. A delicious cake that nobody eats or an effective product that nobody uses will be of no value.

My personal tagline at A*ccelerate is Artisan Driver, which truly reflects my strong interest in diagnostics and baking.

Q: If you weren’t a researcher/scientist, what would you be right now?

A: Probably a baker and a medical social worker, who would spend her spare time doing gardening at home.

Q: Coffee, tea or bubble tea?

A: Coffee!