SIM University (UniSIM) lecturer Dr Jonathan Leong has won the second prize in the inaugural Asian Scientist Writing Prize competition, which was co-organised by Asian Scientist Magazine and Science Centre Singapore (SCS). Aimed to recognise outstanding science writers in Asia – home to a steadily expanding community of scientists who are driving the region's economic success, the competition attracted over 300 non-fiction entries covering various scientific disciplines from writers all across Asia, including China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines and Thailand.
Dr Leong, who wrote about tribology – the study of how moving surfaces interact, was the only person from Singapore who made it to the top three. The winner, Dr Law Yao Hua, a freelance science writer from Selangor, Malaysia, wrote about the insidious effects of asbestos and its potential impact on Asia while the third prize was awarded to Dr John James Wilson, a senior lecturer on ecology and biodiversity and assistant curator at the Museum of Zoology, University of Malaya, who wrote about the oriental latrine fly – an unfortunately-named animal that might help to ease Asia's food security woes.
In his submission entitled “Slipping through Tribology's Past, and a Pinch of the Future”, Dr Leong discussed the study of friction and how it impacts various aspects of our daily lives. He cited a few examples of how its principles were applied historically, from the ancient Egyptians transporting giant stones to build pyramids, to the early Chinese and Japanese moving their chariots and sledges, and went on to explain its relevance in modern technologies such as cars and smartphones. Dr Leong, who researched on tribology as part of his PhD in Mechanical Engineering, pointed out that the current fad of miniaturisation meant that a greater number of factors played a part in influencing the levels and modes of friction at the molecular level, and substantiated his point with the details of two recent studies that attempted to control friction at the nanoscale. In conclusion, he acknowledged the prevalence of frictionless machinery, but opined that mechanical transfer of force or motion, which requires contact between surfaces, is still the most effective mode of transfer today.
The winners received their prizes – cash and personalised trophies – from Singapore Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat at an award ceremony held on 27 July 2015 at SCS, in conjunction with the Singapore Science Festival 2015 and Science@50 celebrations.
The judging panel comprised senior scientists and journalists representing diverse scientific backgrounds, including Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive Officer of SCS; Dr Benjamin Seet, Executive Director of the Biomedical Research Council at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research; and Assistant Professor Juliana Chan, editor-in-chief of Asian Scientist Magazine.
Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat (left) presenting Dr Jonathan Leong with his prize.
(Photo credit: Asian Scientist Magazine)