One finds joy in weaving new worlds with a stroke of a pen. The other, in propelling himself through the water, as fast as he can. These two passions may appear completely different, but both led Windle Charles Jordi and Ng Jian Yan to pursue a career with HTX. They were both recipients of the MHA Merit Scholarship 2021 under the Science and Technology track, meant for individuals keen on strengthening Singapore’s security in a civilian role.
In this article, we find out more about how their unique passions tie into their interests in science and technology, and their desire to join HTX.
Charles – Weaving Worlds through Writing
Photo credit: Windle Charles Jordi
Exploding spaceships, resistance fighters, and intergalactic wars…these futuristic elements are all part of Charles’ stories. For the Raffles Institution graduate, writing is a way to explore new worlds. He takes inspiration from classic science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov, whose novels are set in alternate universes involving galactic empires and space travel. “For me, writing is an outlet for expression that allows me to give voice to my thoughts and emotions,” Charles shared.
But his interest in writing also overlaps with his interest in science. “When you read a good science fiction or fantasy novel, the world created feels a lot larger than the constraints of the story itself. My favourite novels feature worlds brimming with details about imaginary species or star systems, creating the sensation that there’s so much more to the story’s world than the glimpse the narrative arc gives you. My interest in science and technology stems from the same concept. The field of Chemistry, for example, is so staggeringly large that we’ve only scratched its surface. There’s so much more waiting to be discovered.”
To Charles, storytelling and science are closely intertwined. “In both fields, you can create anything you want, as long as you have the capabilities. When HTX scientists develop a new piece of technology, they go through repeated rounds of testing, and there’s immense gratification when the final product come to fruition. In the same way, staring at a final story draft, after I’ve incorporated all the necessary edits, is incredibly satisfying.”
Charles at work on one of his short stories (Photo credit: Windle Charles Jordi)
Charles’ interest in science and technology began in his youth. “When I was younger, I used to get lost on the science-related articles on Wikipedia, jumping from page to page because I just found it so interesting,” he quipped. In primary and secondary school, he would eagerly sign up for science programmes and research attachments, such as the Science Mentorship Programme, or the Junior College Science Research Programme. He was also Chairperson of the Alchemy Club, where he would organize sharings with external speakers, about chemistry-related topics beyond the syllabus.
He discovered HTX from a career webinar, where Dr. Portia Loh, then-director of Forensics at HTX, shared about the exciting work HTX was doing. The prospect of being able to save lives through his work piqued his interest, and he took the initiative to contact Dr. Loh, who encouraged him to apply for the MHA Science and Technology scholarship.
Charles will be studying Natural Sciences in Cambridge University, and is looking forward to joining HTX after completing his degree. “When I write, the goal is to make the story come together in a compelling way. Similarly, with every piece of technology HTX develops, there’s an overarching goal to aid the Home Team in safeguarding Singapore’s security. That’s something I’m excited to be contributing to.”
Jian Yan – Making Waves in the Pool
Jian Yan swimming laps in the pool (Photo credit: Ng Jian Yan)
For Jian Yan, there’s nothing quite like the sensation of slipping into the pool, and letting the water envelop him. “Swimming is one of those unique sports where you’re actually detached from the rest of the world,” he remarked. During his schooling years in the Singapore Sports School, Jian Yan was a competitive breaststroke swimmer, participating in regional and international competitions such as the FINA World Cup. “It may be an energy-consuming sport, but every time I swim, it feels like it’s just me alone in the water, and I use the time to reflect and destress.”
Jian Yan believes that swimming and science are more similar than most people think. “Swimming is all about pushing yourself beyond your limits. It’s not easy to jump into a cold pool at 6am day in, day out. So what’s important is motivating yourself to keep going. When developing a scientific project, you often meet with roadblocks when your hypothesis fails. Perseverance is key to success in both fields.”
He also sees teamwork as a key similarity. “Most people think swimming is a solo sport. But you’re still part of a team – swimmers cheer each other on, jump into that cold pool together. Similarly, sometimes HTX scientists work alone developing different parts of a project. But at the end of the day, all these different parts need to come together, so close communication is important.”
Jian Yan would go so far to say the processes of swimming and science overlap significantly. “I actually used the scientific methodology to improve my swimming,” he revealed. “The scientific methodology involves coming up with a hypothesis, gathering evidence to support that hypothesis, and then reaching a conclusion. My coaches used a similar method to help us improve our dives. We would experiment with different techniques of diving to see which was most effective, and repeated these ‘experiments’ multiple times.”
Jian Yan in SCDF bunker gear, during training (Photo credit: Ng Jian Yan)
Jian Yan’s interest in HTX stemmed from his time serving NS with SCDF. “Responding to fires with SCDF showed me just how important science and technology was to the Home Team. I was one of the first few people to use the Responder Performance Vehicle, a new vehicle equipped with advanced capabilities to treat heat injuries of responders.” He will be studying Biotechnology in Imperial College London, and saw HTX as the perfect way to use his passion for science and technology to contribute to the Home Team. “I wanted to make a positive difference by saving lives with the Home Team, and HTX allows me to do that while not giving up my interest in science.”
Writing and swimming - seemingly disparate passions that ended up leading two very different people down the same path. In the coming years, we’re excited to see what Charles and Jian Yan will accomplish upon returning to HTX!