Jackie Yi-Ru Ying
Award-winning researcher in nanotechnology
Having made her mark as one of the university’s youngest full Professors at 35, Jackie Ying could have continued her stellar career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she had already been teaching for more than a decade.
Nevertheless, in 2003, she gave that up. Jackie, a former student of Raffles Girls' School (RGS), returned to Singapore to help start the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), one of the key research institutions set up by the government to fulfil Singapore’s ambitions in biomedical sciences as a new pillar of the economy.
Since then, Jackie, who earned her doctorate in chemical engineering from Princeton, has been the executive director of IBN, where she is in charge of over 160 scientists and students as they try to find ways to apply nanotechnology in science and the environment. With her at the helm, the IBN has achieved an active portfolio of over 505 patents and patent applications.
She herself has more than 140 patents granted or pending and some 320 papers published, and she has presented more than 370 lectures at international conferences.
Jackie has served on the advisory boards of several start-up companies, is a member of the editorial board of 28 scientific journals, and is the editor-in-chief of Nano Today. The recipient of many awards and honours, she is highly regarded among her peers in her field.
For example, she was the youngest member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina; she was also one of the eight women in a list of 100 Engineers of the Modern Era, an honour roll compiled by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
Jackie came to Singapore in 1973 when her father was appointed senior lecturer in Chinese literature at the then Nanyang University. The family moved to New York when she was 15. Jackie went reluctantly as she had grown up in Singapore and had developed a strong affinity with the place.
The Taiwan-born Muslim convert is active within the community of her chosen religion. She is one of the mentors under Mendaki’s Project Protégé, mentoring and inspiring Muslim youths keen on furthering themselves in science, just as she herself was similarly inspired by her RGS teachers.
"To me, this is not a career but a life-time journey that allows me to learn and do many different things. There’s a tremendous amount of growth, that’s the fun part. Even when things are not going smoothly, I persist because I love science and want to make a difference."