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Problem-Scout to Problem-Solve

While many seek to avoid problems, some thrive on cracking them. There is nothing like a good problem that keeps Matthew Chew invigorated. He cites this quote from Sherlock Holmes that always lingers on his mind, “My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work”. 

Matthew is currently an engineer at HTX’s CBRNE (Chemicals, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive) Centre of Expertise. In his job, he is constantly challenged to find creative ways to solve new problems that impact Singapore’s safety and security.

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Matthew at the Protective, Analytical & Assessment Facility (PAAF) at ICA’s Pasir Panjang Scanning Station. This facility houses equipment and systems used by HTX scientists to aid ICA officers in detecting CBRNE threats. (Photo: HTX)

An example is the Lab Information System (LIS) he has built to digitise and simplify the COVID-19 clinical testing workflow and optimise manpower. 

He said, “During our initial operations in March, one of our biggest pain points was the heavy manual process of churning out test results. It was, in fact, not an overstatement that an entire production line was required to generate just one report!” 

Matthew then sought to automate the lab report generation to the extent that it can be managed by a computer with minimal to zero human intervention, even when there was a surge in test samples. With the LIS, his colleagues can now divert their energies to analysis of the swab samples instead. 

Happy to have made the workflow much less onerous, Matthew said, “To me, this exemplifies what it means to be an engineer – someone who recognises a problem and resolves to provide a solution.” 

He has also developed a mobile application known as HTX Collect to facilitate, digitise and streamline the sending and picking up of samples by lab test collectors. With this application, the ops teams can not only monitor the number of sample loads, but also adjust their manpower resources accordingly and receive pick-up requests in a similar manner to how Grab or Uber functions and digitally record down essential details of the handing over process.

The work of CBRNE drew Matthew to HTX. He said, “Having a passion for all things related to nuclear, radiation and engineering, I was drawn to the prospect of developing detection systems for nuclear and radiological materials. 

“Although Singapore does not have any nuclear plants or materials, the possibility of someone bringing in such dangerous substances through our borders implies the chances of a dirty bomb being set off. Such an incident would have devastating effects on our country. I wanted to help safeguard Singapore and ensure public safety.”

Matthew’s job is to design and develop systems that can enable CBRNE scientists and Home Team officers at the borders to better detect CBRNE threats such as the presence of Security Sensitive Materials. Such systems include digitisation of the lab documentation and processes, various types of scanners (e.g. CT X-ray scanners) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) detection models to be used on the scanners. 

The self-proclaimed “technology futurist” looks forward to the day where just one single officer is needed to oversee an entire array of security scanners at our border checkpoints, with confidence that our cutting-edge technologies would effectively detect and intercept unsuspected and hazardous materials. 

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Matthew (bottom right) and his fellow emcees displaying an X formation, illustrative of HTX’s vision of eXponentially impacting Singapore’s safety and security 

Matthew has this to say to young S&T enthusiasts like himself, who is among the inaugural batch of young officers in the HTX S&T Associate Programme: “While politicians and philosophers expound on ideas and visions of the future, it is the scientists and engineers who can materialise them.

“Our greatest leaps in scientific history – such as the discovery of vaccines, study of quantum physics leading to the development of the silicon transistor, and creation of the internet – they all came about due to scientists who studied the phenomena and engineers who tapped that knowledge to make it useful.

So, if you have a vision of the future, come venture into the S&T field to turn it into reality!”

Find out how Matthew unlocked eXceptional solutions to eXponentially enhance HTX's COVID-19 swab testing ops!