Born in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, from an early age, Pooi See Lee was fascinated by how science can be used to find solutions for everyday problems. After her early education in Malaysia, Lee moved to Singapore to kick start her research career. Following a brief stint in industry, where she worked for Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd (now GlobalFoundries), she joined the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University in 2004.
Well known for her contributions to the field of nanomaterials, Lee has been a torchbearer for interdisciplinary research in materials science, breaking down traditional barriers between disciplines. With collaborative research spanning diverse areas of science and engineering, she strives to spur innovative and sustainable solutions for energy, electronics, and healthcare applications.
With an inspiring career at the forefront of green nanotechnology, Lee is keen on translating research into real solutions. She is also an elected fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors.
Who are your role models or earliest influences?
I was intrigued by the depth and breadth of how science addresses many fundamental questions in our daily lives. Driven by curiosity, I continued to pursue my studies in STEM and developed strong interest in science and engineering in order to solve real-world challenges. My parents are very supportive of my pursuits, they always encourage me to make my own decisions, to appreciate my own uniqueness and accept unexpected opportunities in life.
What excites you about your work?
Being a professor in STEM allows me to impart knowledge and cultivate our future thought leaders in the field. It brings joy to me whenever my co-workers or students achieve their aspirations, discover their unleashed aptitudes, made contributions to STEM and our society. Together we can build a better future.
What were some challenges you faced during your career?
While the many “aha” moments brought delight and excitement, a STEM profession also requires multiple skill sets, lots of discipline, and grit along the journey. Challenges in pursuing an academic and scientific research career is the need to constantly strive for funding or grant support to continue our efforts in the laboratory. During difficult times, I persist with an open mindset and [grow] by focusing on creativity and team work to make impact.
Do you feel women are well represented within your field or STEM fields in general?
I’m lucky to be one of those being given similar opportunities to pursue their aspirations in STEM. There are certainly more can be done in promoting STEM as an attractive career of choice for girls and women in all parts of the world. Getting girls exposed to science early and exposing them to role models in the fields from young age may help to excite them to pursue interest in STEM. Retaining young women in STEM career relies on reducing the barrier for them to continue their career while building up a family.
What would you say has been your most impactful contribution to your field?
My most impactful contribution is delivering solutions in sustainability, especially in enabling the use of advanced nanomaterials for soft electronics and energy devices in the field of built environment, wearables, and human-machine interface. The benefits can be propelled into other fields, such as healthcare, in which we are collaborating with clinicians to deploy our technology for rehabilitation and personal health monitoring.
Can you briefly comment on the topic discussed in your Advanced Energy Materials article?
The article discussed stretchable energy storage device which encompasses development of deformable electrode materials and compatible electrolyte. It is an important milestone towards fully bendable, roll-able, and wearable electronics, which enable seamless integrated solutions for autonomous wearables and soft functional devices.
What are your interests outside of the lab?
I enjoy creative works such as music and arts. I’m learning the cello now. It’s important to remind ourselves to practice work-life balance despite our hectic schedule. I enjoy spending time with friends to reconnect, recharge, and relearn. I believe everyone can make time for relaxation as it allows one to be more creative and productive.
To learn more about Lee’s work, read her recent paper published in Advanced Energy Materials, which is part of a recent Special Issue “10th Anniversary Edition, International Collaborations in Energy Research” celebrating the 10th anniversary of the journal.