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#Breakingthebias: Girl Bosses Leading the Way in STEM

Shevonne and Angelina.jpg

In celebration of women whose interests STEM from a passion for coding, engineering, and beyond

This International Women’s Day NUS High School of Math & Science celebrates its female leaders in STEM who demonstrate that girls have what it takes, and more, to make them forerunners in fields where women are sometimes seen as scarce, and role models few and far between on the landscape of this as yet, brave new frontier. These bright young polymaths break both boundaries and biases, taking their learning beyond laboratories and the classroom to the community, for its betterment.

The Polymath
A talented young mathematician, programmer, artist, writer, and musician, Shevonne Chia has conceptualised and coded an app-based repository of critical information to facilitate the handling of medical crises by doctors in Singapore General Hospital, the SGH Crisis Manual. Used by doctors as a means of accessing a critical body of information under time-sensitive conditions, the user-friendly app with its streamlined design saves precious minutes in medical work. A self-professed problem-solver, Shevonne revels in more formal challenges as well, most notably attaining a Silver award in the International Mathematical Olympiad in 2021 and receiving the prestigious Maryam Mirzakhani Prize for Asia in the course of the competition. In the same year she went on to attain a Silver in the European Physics Olympiad. Shevonne also enjoys creating digital art and music, which she posts on her independently coded website. A diverse and curious mind and a true all-rounder, she pursues creative writing both on her own time, and also with the school’s Journalism Club. On the joy of pursuing STEM subjects, she notes “In a broad sense, I love it when things come together. Seeing strange similarities across different fields, and concepts being applied in unexpected places, and understanding the underlying reasoning underpinning these confluences. I do believe as a society we're becoming more progressive and hopefully someday the concept of gender-roles in science will be a foreign idea.”

Shevonne with Mr Wang Haibin her Math teacher and mentor at NUS High.jpg
Shevonne with Mr Wang Haibin, her Math teacher and mentor at NUS High

The Engineer for Good
Growing up with a much-loved older brother diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Angelina Wong learnt first-hand from a young age about the significant impact that thoughtful design can make in daily living. When he submitted expressed his wish for an automated umbrella for his powered wheelchair as an idea for World Cerebral Palsy Day in 2014, Angelina undertook to make the very first prototype for him. His delight and appreciation has inspired and continues to inspire Angelina to be in a position to bring this good to others. She independently initiated a project in collaboration with local non-profit organisation Engineering Good to make assistive grip switch toys for children with cerebral palsy to train vital motor skills. 

Angelina with the grip switch toy.jpg
To inspire other girls in engineering, Angelina conceived of conducting engineering workshops to primary school-aged girls who could then contribute their new-found knowledge to the making of the grip switch toys, multiplying the effect of the good she hopes to bring to others through STEM exponentially. The Student Councillor, who is also a member of the Youth Flying Club, Singapore National Youth Orchestra, and President of the school’s Engineering Interest Group hopes to multiply the benefits that a synergy between engineering and humanitarianism can reap, having started the school’s own Engineering Good Student Chapter which will work on four projects this year in collaboration with groups as diverse as underprivileged families to girls in primary school keen on STEM. She shares “I have always been inspired by girl leaders in STEM, both nationally and internationally, and I hope to be able to inspire other girls to explore the field of engineering and become leaders in this field. After all, girls are as creative as if not more so than boys in solving problems and are equally capable of innovating solutions that can make an impact on the world”.

Women in STEM
Two members from the NUS High Board of Governors who are established STEM leaders in their respective fields share their thoughts.     

Ms Soh Siew Choo, Chief Information Officer at MetLife Asia notes “As a technologist, I would like to urge both men and women to do their part to #BreaktheBias about the role of females in engineering. If we start to change the biases that has shaped our mindsets and make different decisions about what is possible, what females are good at, and why engineering is a relevant, rewarding and interesting domain for females, we will do good for humanity as we begin to create a digital world that is better represented and is more inclusive to females.”         

Dr Rosemary Tan, CEO and Founder of Veredus Laboratories observes “Unfazed by circumstances and expectations of their time, many females have followed their passion in STEM and dedicated their lives towards the betterment of society. The path to being a successful STEM leader requires vision and commitment, and for me it has been a rewarding journey as I see the fruits of my labour. I am happy to see many more young female STEM leaders-to-be who dream of making the world a better place.”