Dr. Keith FOO Choon Chiang|
Engineering Mechanics (EM)
Dr Keith Foo leads the Soft Matter capability group in IHPC’s Engineering Mechanics (EM) Department. We sit him down for a chat about his work and more.
Q: What is Soft Matter and why is it an important R&D area in engineering?
A: Soft matter research deals with the study of materials that can be easily found in
biological systems and daily life. Examples include elastomers, gels, and muscles. As an emerging
field, it plays an increasingly important role in commercial applications and new technologies.
However these materials behave fundamentally differently from traditional engineering materials.
The research in this field is still at a relatively nascent stage.
Q: What is life like as the capability group manager leading the Soft Matter team?
A: It has been an honour, and a challenge at the same time, to lead a team that
comprises some of our most experienced and senior scientists in the Institute. My job has been
made easier by the fact that I’m surrounded by a group of very capable and talented scientists, who
are committed to developing our capabilities for the Institute.
Q: What do you see as your team’s mission?
A: The key mission of the Soft Matter Group is to develop theoretical models and
simulation tools, so that we can understand the mechanical behaviour of soft materials, which
may be used in engineering and biomedical applications.
Q: How did you end up pursuing a career in research?
A: When I was an undergraduate at NTU, I attended a talk by A*STAR about a Pre-
Graduate Scholarship. The scholarship offered financial support for my undergraduate studies
and monthly allowances. It was attractive and I always thought I wanted to be a scientist, so I
applied for it.
Q: When did you realise that R&D was a career worth pursuing?
A: While doing my PhD, I was spending almost all waking hours thinking of ideas, running
simulations, and writing my dissertation – at the expense of spending time on other things that are
important to me as well, such as my family and friends. It was then I realised how much I enjoyed
research and wanted to be successful at it.
Q: What is your philosophy as a scientist?
Being a scientist is about working on challenging problems that other people care
about. Being a scientist is also about learning to work closely with colleagues and collaborators to
further your own science.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working at IHPC?
A: I like that we have flexibility to work on projects that are impactful and
meaningful to us, so long as our work is aligned with the strategic directions of the Institute. I
also appreciate the support from my colleagues and department, as well as the management
Q: Away from work, how do you relax and recharge?
I run to take my mind off work. I find that my best ideas come to me after a good run
and also in the shower. Recently, my wife and I have a new baby boy. So now, I am his designated
(Editor: Congratulations, Keith!)