Tan Ming Rui Joel,Senior Research Fellow, NTU, SGSR

April 26, 2024

Interview with Tan Ming Rui Joel,Senior Research Fellow, NTU, SGSR

Date: April 2024, SHARE Office, Singapore

Interviewer: SHARE, The Singapore-HUJ Alliance for Research and Enterprise.

Interviewee: Tan Ming Rui Joel,Senior Research Fellow, NTU, SGSR

The Singapore-HUJ Alliance for Research and Enterprise (SHARE) recently had the privilege of conducting an insightful interview with Tan Ming Rui Joel, a distinguished Senior Research Fellow at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. Joel shared captivating insights into his academic journey and research pursuits, highlighting his expertise in material chemistry and his innovative contributions to various interdisciplinary research programs, especially NTU-HUJ-SGSR (Smart Gripper Soft Robotics) program.

Can you share about yourself and your background?

My name is Joel, and I'm currently part of NTU-HUJ's SGSR program. My journey began in Chemistry, where I focused on material chemistry. During my bachelor's, I did DNA origami biochemistry before shifting to inorganic nanomaterials for solar harvesting during my PhD under the NTU-Berkeley Create Programme. Subsequently, I explored the formulation of conductive inks for printed electronics during my postdoctoral under the NTU-HUJ Create Programme. Now, I'm formulating inks for 3D printed soft robotics.

Can you provide an overview of the research program you are currently involved in?

I'm part of Project 10 in SGSR, where my primary role is to enhance material performance. We're focused on developing soft and elastic materials that are also 3D printable for additive manufacturing of soft robots. Additionally, we're working on embedding functionality, such as non-stick or highly tacky surfaces.

What is the expected outcome of the program?

The program has two main goals for my role. Firstly, we aim for industrial licensing, addressing real-world industry needs or providing viable alternatives. Currently, I'm collaborating with industry partners to scale up and test functional materials with end-users. Secondly, we're aiming for scientific publications to showcase our novel ideas and approaches in advancing material properties.

Can you discuss any specific collaborations or partnerships you've been involved in during your research?

Certainly. My collaborations span across various institutions and companies, including NUS, SIMTECH, international MNCs, and local SMCs. Currently, I'm actively engaged with a local chemical manufacturing company, exploring functional materials for additive manufacturing with a focus on environmental sustainability or ESG products.

What initially attracted you to join this research program?

My passion for biomechanical and bioengineering since high school led me here. Although my journey began in chemistry, SGSR provided an opportunity to go into mechanical and bioengineering, fulfilling a childhood dream. The prospect of controlling robotic arms, designing grippers, and even formulating and 3D printing soft robotics materials resonated deeply with me.

What are some of the key challenges you've encountered in your research, and how have you addressed them?

Transitioning from a chemist to learning coding and 3D drawing posed significant challenges. I addressed this by undertaking online courses through platforms like Coursera to grasp coding fundamentals. Additionally, thanks to my technical and design education from secondary school, I managed to familiarise myself with 3D drawing software quickly.

How was the working environment and facilities?

The working environment at CREATE is excellent. With 12 years of establishment, we have access to a wide array of equipment under one roof, streamlining our research processes. This eliminates the need for constant travel between CREATE and NTU for characterization purposes.

What opportunities have you had while working for the project through SHARE entity?

Working closely with industry on product development and collaborations has been a significant and rare opportunity. It's not often that university researchers get to engage with industry at such a close level, making this experience invaluable for me.

What are your long-term career aspirations?

My long-term goal is to serve as a bridge between academic research and industry, while also continuing to mentor young researchers. I'm passionate about empowering industry with cleaner and better alternatives, recognizing human capital development as crucial for Singapore's future in cutting-edge research.

End of interview.