Dr Victor Tong Joo Chuan

Victor Tong Joo Chuan

Dr Victor Tong Joo Chuan (pictured right), NUS School of Computing Class of 2002, has won the coveted TR35 award for his work in personalised vaccine design.

The first native Singaporean to win the international award, Dr Tong is also a researcher who has received his university education wholly from the National University of Singapore.

The award, given by MIT Technology Review, recognises the achievements of 35 outstanding researchers worldwide under the age of 35 each year.

Among this year’s winners, only four are from outside the United States, and only one from Singapore.

Dr Tong began his tertiary studies in NUS with the School of Computing, graduating with a Bachelor of Computing (Honours) in Computer Science in 2002.

He went on to pursue graduate studies with NUS Biochemistry Department. By the time he obtained his PhD in 2007, he had already published 10 papers and clinched an outstanding examiners report.

In his research work, the researcher, who is with A*Star’s I2R, has to call into use tools that have a strong basis in Computer Science, such as algorithms and three dimensional modelling.

In his award-winning work, Dr Tong had developed algorithms that take into consideration the genetic variations among people when finding antigens for creating vaccines.

Three-dimensional models of the interaction between human-leucocyte-antigen (HLA)-antigen complexes are created, and then learning algorithms are applied to find different variations in immune recognition patterns.

With the patterns, antigens with the best potential for use in future vaccines can then be identified.

Commenting on the role that his studies in Computing has played in his research, Dr Tong said: “As a child, the beauty and elegance of computer science has never failed to fascinate me. it is amazing how a series of 1s and 0s can do so much in such a tiny box. In 1998, I came to NUS School of Computing (SoC) full of passion, and without a clue of what programming is all about.”

“Picking up a new language is never easy, the good thing is it sticks to you once you learnt it, and becomes an art once you mastered it. The four years at SoC showed me that there was so much more to the field than I had imagined. It opened my eyes to the deep and beautiful foundations on which computer science is built and how to apply it to the world around us,” he added.

This year, some 300 people from various parts of the world were nominated for the TR35 award.

Click on the following links for news reports on Dr Tong’s TR35 win: