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Speech by Dr Kenneth Lee
SPEECH BY DR KENNETH LEE
BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL, A*STAR
AT THE POLYTECHNIC'S 54TH GRADUATION CEREMONY
FRIDAY, 23 MAY 2014 (SESSION 4)
Mr Hee Joh Liang
Deputy Principal, Singapore Polytechnic
Parents and Graduands
Staff of Singapore Polytechnic
Ladies and Gentlemen,
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- Good afternoon. It gives me great pleasure to be here today at the 54th Singapore Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony. I applaud all graduands
and award winners from the School of Chemical & Life Sciences (CLS) on your achievements.
- This must be a proud moment for you and your family. Today's ceremony marks the end of a significant phase of your life and heralds the beginning of
your next phase in the outside world.
- Instead of rigid timetables, regular assignments and examinations, the world outside is filled with uncertainty, be it natural, economic, political or
- [Something that appears routine and certain like an airplane flight or a ferry trip can turn into disaster with no warning. Many a time, external forces
are at play beyond our control. Living in an increasingly interdependent world, we can be sure that many of such uncertainties will impact us.]
- In the corporate world where I spent the last 20 years of my career before joining A*STAR, it may surprise you to know that the average life expectancy
of a multinational corporation is only about 40 - 50 years - according to a study by Arie de Geus, the former head of strategic planning at Shell.
- Ever heard of Kodak? It was a household name, at least in your parents' generation and when I was growing up. It dominated the photographic film
industry during most of the 20th century. Sadly, as you may know, Kodak had to file for bankruptcy in 2012 because it was superseded by digital
photography. 43,000 Kodak employees worldwide lost their jobs.
- Once respected companies like Kodak and Nokia are facing enormous turbulence today because they became complacent. Both companies failed to sense the
winds of change, failed to reinvent themselves, failed to move away from their comfort zone.
- My question to our graduands today: Are you in a comfort zone today? Are you prepared to exploit opportunities in a fast-paced, turbulent and
ever-changing world? Are you prepared to adapt and innovate? Only you have the answer.
- However, I can assure you that your education in Singapore Polytechnic plays a key role in your holistic preparation, whether physical, mental,
emotional or intellectual. With your diploma, you are perfectly positioned to take advantage of what this modern world has to offer.
- You should perhaps spend some time reflecting on the differences between your younger self 3 years' ago and your current self. You will be pleasantly
surprised at the many changes that have taken place, making you a stronger and more capable person.
- I am heartened to observe that Singapore Polytechnic and the School of Chemical & Life Sciences (CLS) are constantly adapting and innovating - in
tune with, or even ahead of developments in the outside world.
- One example is the successful inauguration of your Perfumery and Cosmetic Science Centre in January this year. This is timely because Asia will be the
engine of growth for the global fragrance and cosmetics industry. And Singapore is poised to be the Asian innovation capital for this industry.
- Some signs: Procter & Gamble (P&G), a global leader in consumer care, recently invested $250 million to establish a mega research &
development (R&D) centre in Singapore, creating more than 500 jobs. This will be P&G's lead R&D centre in Asia, and will develop products for
P&G's 4.8 billion consumers globally. Takasago, one of the top 5 flavour and fragrance houses, recently opened a $60 million plant in Singapore. All of
these developments offer opportunities for those of you with the right skills.
- As part of SP's 60th anniversary commemoration, Diploma in Perfumery & Cosmetic Science (DPCS) students have been tasked to formulate a
SP@60 perfume. The winning formulation created by student, Teh Ru En, was aptly named SPLASH to describe its fresh, marine and ozonic scent. Not to rest on
its laurels, the School of Chemical & Life Sciences is currently working with an industrial partner to have the fragrance commercialised. Well done!
- While encouraging its students to excel in their studies, the School of Chemical & Life Sciences has not forgotten its social responsibility to the
- A noteworthy example is Lim Yu Jie, a graduate from the Diploma in Biomedical Science (DBS) and a recipient of the Model Student Award. Being the
President of the DBS Student Chapter, he has made many contributions but one stands out above the rest. He established a community service partnership with
Lakeside Family Centre, allowing current and future batches of DBS students to participate actively in its community services.
- It is also inspiring to learn that students of the School of Chemical & Life Sciences have also been active overseas.
- Commended during the National Day Rally 2013, and cited as a leading example of overseas youth volunteerism by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Project
Never Ending Passion and Love (NEPAL) involves students from the Diplomas of Applied Chemistry with Pharmaceutical Science (DACP), Chemical Engineering
(DCHE) and Perfumery & Cosmetic Sciences.
- The team has fond memories of constructing classrooms and rainwater harvesting systems for the community of Shree Janakalyan Lower Secondary School in
Nepal. Working through erratic weather - from blinding sunshine to cold windy nights and even hailstorms - they slept in tents and had to forgo the usual
creature comforts. Despite the hardships (or perhaps because of them), the team unanimously found their efforts rewarding when they witnessed how much they
could improve the lives of the local community.
- Another example is Fiona Poon of Chemical Engineering (DCHE), who attended the Youth Leadership Workshop at Stanford University to learn about
sustainability and creativity in the context of entrepreneurship.
- I am a believer in overseas exposure because it allows students to be away from their comfort zones. Forced to think, adapt, improvise and overcome the
challenges of a foreign environment, your worldview is enriched in the process.
- For those of you dreaming of heading overseas for further education and yet are hesitant because of the significant cost, take inspiration from Aggie
Susanti Lawer who graduated with a Diploma of Applied Chemistry with Pharmaceutical Science (DACP) in 2011. She acted on her dream and was awarded the
University of New South Wales Golden Jubilee Scholarship to study chemistry.
- Another example is your senior who graduated in 2006 from the Diploma in Biotechnology (DBT), Lim Yok Zuan. Cast into EM3 in primary school and normal
academic class in secondary school, he has since come a long way to emerge with a First Class Honours degree in Biological Science. This earned him the
prestigious A*STAR scholarship to pursue his PhD studies in Immunology at Oxford University.
- I am also heartened to know that students of the School of Chemical & Life Sciences have emerged winners in various competitions.
- For example, a team of chemical engineering (DCHE) students clinched the 1st prize in the
World Engineers' Summit 2013 Young Engineers' Competition. They successfully converted sugarcane waste (or bagasse) into a 100% natural fibreboard named
"EverGreen Board" through an environmentally friendly approach.
- Another SP multidisciplinary team, involving a DACP graduand, Liu Li Ying, clinched the Gold Medal at the Amazing Science-X Challenge 2013 by putting
on an exhibit that showcased innovative applications for a metal alloy that could bounce back to shape with just a little heat - truly a material with
It is said that truly precious minerals are never found on the surface. You have to search deep for them. For you graduands, I believe that the true
gems you have unearthed from your polytechnic education are the positive mindset and never-say-die attitude.
These attributes are the culmination of your learning journey in Singapore Polytechnic, which for some of you, may not have been smooth sailing.
Nonetheless, all of you have emerged stronger and more resilient, and ready to take on the challenges in the next phase of your life.
- I'll leave you with a few quotes. One from Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time according to the US National Basketball
Association (NBA): "
I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've
failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.
- Here's one from Steve Jobs: "
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way
to do great work is to love what you do.
I extend my heartiest congratulations on the successful completion of your studies at Singapore Polytechnic and wish each of you success in your career
and further studies.
- Thank you.