It was the love for her country that spurred Ang Seok Khim to join DSO National Laboratories fresh out of university.
“I’ve been with DSO for 17 years and it was my first job. I joined because I wanted to do something to give back to Singapore and DSO allowed me to contribute to the protection of our nation in my own way,” she says.
Seok Khim and her lab partner, Ernest Lau, developed a recipe for creating bulletproof transparent ceramic windows, which can be used in military vehicles and aircraft and other security applications such as use in hotels and airports.
“The whole process was a very challenging. We are working in a very niche area with transparent ceramics and not many people around the world can do what we’ve done,” she explains. “So we didn’t have anything to work off in a way because we’re one of the few scientists worldwide that have done this and that, for me, is really rewarding.”
The material – five years in the making – is lighter, stronger and thinner than traditional glass. They are pending a patent for their efforts, which means the material can be produced on a wider scale in the future.
“We’ve already set up a production plant and we’ve already trained our industry partners to make the material itself so it’s a matter of ramping up the marketing efforts to use this material in the Singapore Armed Forces so hopefully in the next one or two years we can see its real-life application,” she says.
The 41-year-old perfectionist isn’t resting on her laurels, however, as she strives to reach her ultimate goal.
“You would think this would be my proudest moment, but I’m still looking forward to bigger and better things,” she explains. “My ultimate dream would be to get the Defence Technology Prize. It’s the most prestigious prize given to a defence scientist on an annual basis.”
Awarded by the Ministry of Defence, only a handful of scientists are ever awarded the prize. While a woman has won before, Seok Khim hopes to be able to write her own chapter in the history books.
“Growing up I was actually better in the arts and humanities so I took a very different career path to get to where I am today,” she says.
“It was a matter of following my heart. When I was young a lot of people gave me advice on what I should do but I really believe that if you’re not interested in what you’re doing, it’s not going to work out. So, find your passion and continue on the path that suits you best.”
Words to live by: “Never let gender stereotypes hold you back from your dreams.”
Up next: “I’m going to continue my research into new materials for the Singapore Armed Forces.”
The Great Women Of Our Time 2017 is proudly presented by Lancôme.