Fruitful ventures

They come from different corners of the world to live and work at NTU. Seasons aside, Siddiqua Ovais finds out how these NTU professors are enjoying their first taste of tropical Asia in sunny Singapore

Superstar scientist who rocks and rolls

She pursued her PhD in Cambridge University under the 1982 Chemistry Nobel Prize winner Aaron Klug. She partied with the likes of David Gilmour, guitarist and vocalist of legendary rock band Pink Floyd. And she worked at the world-renowned MRC Laboratory that had five Nobel Prize winners along a single corridor.

With a dazzling record of achievements and fun, Prof Daniela Rhodes left one of the world’s oldest universities to join one of the world's youngest.

"Singapore, and especially NTU, was buzzing with exciting new developments in science and technology. So when the NTU President asked me to join the faculty, I jumped at it."

A professor teaching at the School of Biological Sciences and Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, she won a large competitive research grant of $24 million from Singapore's education ministry for her research, and leads NTU's Cryo-Electron Microscopy Laboratory, which is addressing important questions related to cancer, old age and metabolic and infectious diseases.

An Italian who grew up in Sweden and spent all of her working life in the United Kingdom, Prof Rhodes came to Singapore in 2011 and has been won over by its tropical charms.

"One of the great things about being in Singapore is the variety of fruits and vegetables you get here all year round." And this abundance of tropical fruits is not limited to the markets of Singapore. "There are durian trees on campus – fantastic when they are in bloom."

"When I was growing up in Sweden, the selection of vegetables in winter was limited to potatoes and carrots. Food was largely meat and potatoes."

Here in Singapore, she gets to continue with her life-changing research and enjoy rich pickings all year round. "Every time I go to the supermarket, I am still surprised by the variety of fruits and vegetables and how beautiful they are, like the dragon fruit. I display them in a bowl in my house – just for decoration," she says.

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