Jing Fung Tan discusses his award winning research

My thesis presents methodologies for the production of star-shaped polymers and their variants (such as star-like and multi-star polymers) with reference to improving their versatility and commercial viability for use in a variety of products.

An aspect of my research focused on delaying macrogelation in star-like polymer paint formulation, to reduce the impact of volatile organic compound emission on the environment and is particularly applicable to the automotive industry. The work developed organic polymer coatings for more robust paints containing reduced volatile organic compound content. This star-like polymer technology is presently being developed for other commercial applications including engine oils, anti-corrosion and self-healing coatings and synthetic blood.

Another aspect of my research focused on using multi-star polymers as targeted drug delivery modules. The work paves the way for the development of multifunctional drug delivery modules capable of releasing different payloads in response to different stimuli, which may provide a means for treating multiple diseases with a single therapeutic dose.

I am honoured to win MERIT’s Best PhD thesis in Engineering award, especially amongst a field of brilliant PhD students. Research, in my view, is an individual’s contribution to the collective knowledge of mankind. Regardless of whether an experiment results in success or failure, the outcome contributes to the knowledge pool and advances our society, be it increasing life expectancy or developing technologies that make living more comfortable (I certainly cannot imagine having to type this article on a typewriter by candlelight). Having experienced the thrill of discovery and the anguish of failure (more anguish than thrills, as most PhD students would agree), I appreciate and relate to the effort of researchers in developing their ideas into useful technologies. As such, being presently in the patent attorney profession, I am committed to ensure that inventions receive their deserved protection. This prize further cements my determination to safeguard the interests of researchers, as I would of my own research.

Finally, despite this prize being an individual award, I dedicate it to my supervisors, Professor Greg Qiao and Dr Anton Blencowe from the Polymer Science Group. Their work ethic and dedication to research inspired and helped me develop as a scientist. And to all PhD students, my humble advice is to never give up. Self-belief is the key to success – if you believe your research can save (or improve) the world, someday, it will.