NUS Science Summer Camp 2019 Reviewed

NUS Campus

The campus is huge. Almost every indoor place is air-conditioned. The university buildings have an admirably modern architecture. I often found it difficult to distinguish between the city buildings and the campus itself. The campus is a beautiful place, full of greenery and lively people.

There is a lot of interesting infrastructure here. So be sure to visit the various buildings. You should find it useful to talk to a professor and request him to authorise you to visit labs of various departments to get an idea of the kind of research goes on at NUS.

Transport

There is a free internal bus system at NUS takes you around. Buses move around every 15–30 mins depending from route to route.

However, make sure that you know exactly which buses to take to reach your destination. Maps are available at bus stops and the routes for buses are also displayed. There is also an app for this job. You don’t want to wander off in this huge campus.

Availability of Things and Food

The food here is not great, at least for a vegetarian. There is not much vegetarian food available in the food courts here. However, there is a subway here which does have good options available.

There are various vending machines with ice creams and chips available as well. There is also a 7/11 and Cheers here which have decent stocks.

You may have some problems conversing with shopkeepers here due to the accent. So you might want to use a translator to convert it to Chinese.

Rooms and Halls

The rooms are great here. They are very spacious and have ample light. The views from the windows are especially amazing. The air conditioners are very effective and there is ample furniture with enough space for all of one-person’s luggage to be fit at least twice. There is a shared lounge in each apartment as well. There is only one shared bathroom in each apartment (4–6 people) which is okay.

Microscopy workshop

This was a fantastic workshop. We learnt about the functioning of the SEM and did some math to figure out how much we can zoom in with a SEM as compared with a light microscope. We got to observe various parts of different specimens with an actual SEM. We also learnt about things at the nanoscale. I especially remember the discussion on why hexagons are so common in nature. We were also given printed copies of the SEM photographs we took before SSC 2019 ended.

Cryptography workshop

This was a rather less intense workshop and I didn’t learn as much as I thought I would. Also, the workshop was titled Maths Workshop which did not really tell me what to expect.

Primarily, we were told about the various forms of encrypting data: Caesar Cipher, Simple letter transposition, columnar transposition and finally the asymmetric key method used nowadays.

Wavelet lecture

This was a thought-provoking lecture in which I was actually forced to pay full attention in order to not lose track of what was going on. This workshop was not at all on the physics concept ‘wavelet’ but it was just math. It was about a new, more efficient method of image processing; primarily image compression but also image enhancement tasks like the removal of motion shakes and focused compression. It was truly mind-boggling.

I managed to understand a concept so complicated that I cannot explain it in any way possible.

Smartphone Microscope

There was not a lot to learn from the lecture but it was quite interesting. We used a substance called PDMS and used a micropipette to drop it over a slide. Then we heated it at 200°C for a while till it solidified. We then took the freshly made lens out and put it to our smartphone cameras. The camera was magnified vastly. This was amusing though focusing it was a difficult task. We viewed various specimens using this camera. We also learnt about the various factors that affected the shape of the lens and therefore its magnification.

Science Demo Lab

This was a good two hours spent learning some physics with various demonstrations like the Faraday’s Cage. We were explained every concept surrounding each demonstration well and we spent the last half an hour exploring the places on our own. The workshop conductor was always there to explain in case we didn’t understand some experiment.

DNA Workshop

This was a very interesting workshop that was held in the Science Centre. We dealt with the murder mystery of OJ Simpson using two tests: the Castle-Meyer Test for Blood and DNA Analysis to figure out who was the actual killer. The workshop was pretty fun. We also learnt about a substance called Agarose Gel and the impacts of irresponsible handling of DNA Samples.

Omni-theatre Movie

Unfortunately, we were unable to watch what we were supposed to due to the lack of time. Hence, I shouldn’t say anything. However, the setup was great. Just that it didn’t suit me.

Physiology Workshop

The workshop was split into two sections. The first dealt with taste and sensitivity. I learnt about the fact that it was surprisingly difficult to recognise flavours with the nose pinched. This was amusing. This was the reason why we felt that the food was bland when we were ill and also the reason it is considerably easy to eat something horrible with the nose pinched.

The sensitivity part taught me about the fact that some regions of our body were more sensitive than others. The evolutionary reason (Our index needs to be more sensitive than our elbow since it was more important for reflex actions.) and the reason that there were less neural connections to our shoulders than to our hands were both explained well.

The second part dealt with the amount of carbon dioxide in our breath while resting compared to after exercise. This was rather pointless.

City Tour

The content delivered was fine but the manner in which it was explained was a bit boring. However, I managed to stay up since I thought some questions in the quiz would come from this as well. We were told of the history of Singapore and the stories behind the Singapore river. We were also demonstrated some aspects of the olden times using sculptures near a bridge at the mouth of the Singapore river. We also visited the Marina Bay sands briefly and spent a good 45 mins in China Town.

Later on in the day, we were left at Sentosa for the evening. Don’t forget to carry your swimming equipment!

3d Printing Workshop

This was a pretty fun and useful workshop. We learnt about 3d printing and various methods to do that. We also understood how it printed and the role of a slicer. The utility of 3d Printing was also discussed. We also learnt about the power of 3d printing and some possible ethical problems like copyright that could arise in the world with advanced 3d printing. Some advantages and disadvantages of 3d printing were also explained.

In the second half, we used Fusion 360 to design a simple trophy. Overall, it was a great learning experience. We also saw it print live.

Gastronomy Workshop

This was an interesting workshop that demonstrated the power of gastronomy and gave us a great overview of gastronomy. We learnt about the science of food and how it can enhance the taste. We tried different methods of making green tea and compared them in terms of taste and smell. We also compared the effect with mineral water. As the workshop came to an end, we also tasted some carbonated grapes which were pretty good!

Nanotechnology Lecture

This was a very fun lecture that gave us an introduction to nanotechnology. The professor spoke in a very fun lecture and had various demonstrations to explain his points. The speech was very effective in conveying the messages. We learnt about optical tweezers and some applications of nanotechnology. By the end, I was pretty much convinced that the future of Nanotechnology is bright.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Walk

Unfortunately, we were unable to do this activity to its full. This was due to heavy rain at the wrong time. The place was quite intriguing since we encountered a snake even before we entered the main area.

Science Quiz

This was supposed to be a fun science quiz but it clearly wasn’t so since the questions were extremely objective and many questions didn’t even concern science. About 8 out of the 40 questions were from the Sungei Buloh Trip which we didn’t even do. Hence the questions were removed. In our case even though there was negative marking, as we mathematically calculated, guesswork was better than leaving blanks! Beware!

As expected more questions came from content-heavy workshops so if you want to win, pay a lot of attention.

The teams in the quiz consisted of 5 randomly-divided people. Unexpectedly my team won!

Admissions Talk

This talk was rather less informative but this will be your opportunity to ask questions to the officer. In case you think that your question may be considered stupid, ask just don’t say it over the mic.

Tips for future participants

  1. Do your background research on NUS. Read up speeches and blogs on the NUS websites. Read on their initiatives and college life.
  2. Make sure to read up on the concepts workshops may be dealing with briefly so that you know what you’re going to listen to and are aware of what the key terms mean. This will enhance your understanding during the workshops.
  3. Explore the campus as much as possible. You probably don’t have the time for this in the day so you might choose to go at the night or early morning.
  4. If you are vegetarian, make sure you have ready to eats and packs of chips since the food available may not look appealing to you. Hot water dispensers will be there nearby. You probably won’t have access to the kitchens though.

Side Notes

Please note that our group stayed in the Yale-NUS campus in Saga College. Other areas might differ in terms of quality.

You will be given a handout for each workshop/lecture. This may be a printout of slides, notes, further readings or worksheets.

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