The Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme @ USP-NUS, made possible by Lord Laidlaw of Rothiemay, aims to create the leaders of the future through a mix of training and intensive summer research periods.

Combining the opportunity for students to undertake a unique research project and an innovative leadership development programme, students on this programme will be awarded funding.

This is open to all current first and second year NUS undergraduate students in any discipline on an honours degree track.

Students on this programme in their first summer will be called Junior Laidlaw Scholars and in their second summer, Senior Laidlaw Scholars.



laidlaw scholars2019


Programme Components

Laidlaw Scholars will engage in two main pursuits over the course of 12 weeks: (1) independent research, (2) the development of knowledge, skills and attributes that will train them to be future leaders in their fields by spending 2 weeks (first summer) on a leadership programme and 10 weeks (second summer) dedicated to the development of research skills and the exploration of a specific topic with guidance from a faculty member (research supervisor).

Students may already have in mind a research topic, and
- the programme can help identify a faculty member who can provide guidance on the project;
- can approach a faculty member directly to ask if the faculty member would serve as a research supervisor on the project

The programme can also pair students with faculty members working on research projects that overlap with the students’ general interests (in a field or in research approaches) or place students into a small group who will work with a faculty member working on a research project that introduces the students to a field and to a set of research skills or approaches.

Over the course of this 12-week programme, Laidlaw Scholars will develop, pursue and report on a research question, with their research supervisors.


First Summer – Leadership Programme (2 weeks: mid-May to mid-June 2019)

Junior Laidlaw Scholars will spend two weeks on

a) a leadership programme (12 June - 14 June)
b) workshop on research (17 June)
c) community leadership project
    (i) Strategic Leadership, Innovation and Society in China: 19 May – 27 May or
    (ii) SEA at the Crossroads: 30 May - 11 June

The leadership programme will begin with participation in mentorship programmes and will continue with participation in student development activities in NUS, as well as a formal leadership development programme.

The workshop will help scholars to develop their research skills and exploration of the specific topic with the research supervisor which was identified at the point of application.

Scholars may take advantage of prior participation in these numerous opportunities as background experience to develop a reflective mindset about leadership and engagement with the greater community.


Second Summer – Research (10 weeks: 12 May – 21 July 2020)
Over the course of 10 weeks, Senior Laidlaw Scholars are expected to continue with their on-going research and execute their research plan. They may also spend up to 5 weeks in an overseas university – scholars are expected, however, to research and source for a placement overseas.

Partnerships or collaborations with international universities who also have Laidlaw Scholars programmes are particularly encouraged; please refer to


Laidlaw Research Symposium (29 July 2020)
All Senior Scholars are required to present their research progress at the Laidlaw Research Symposium following their funded summer sessions. These presentations can take the form of a poster presentation or a PowerPoint presentation. The event will be open to the NUS community, and it will be developed and organized by Senior Laidlaw Scholars who have completed their second summer of research, in collaboration with their research supervisors.

In preparation for this event, Senior Laidlaw Scholars will develop an abstract and the abstract will summarize the results of the research conducted during the summer, will place the research in the context of the broader issue being investigated, and will highlight the main ideas and possibly the conclusion of the research (even if those are provisional or tentative). Students will be expected to receive guidance from their research supervisors on these abstracts before submitting them.


Senior Scholars are expected to

- complete a final report or video for the Laidlaw Foundation on their experience of the programme and the impact it has had on them.
- showcase their work at celebration events and will have the opportunity to present their research at external events.

Scholars are ambassadors of the programme and are asked to promote the programme to peers and to keep the Laidlaw Foundation updated on what they go on to achieve in the future.

Upon completion of the programme, scholars may expect to receive a certificate certifying that they completed the Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme.


To be eligible to be a Laidlaw Scholar, student applicants must be:

• currently enrolled as a first-year or second-year student at the National University of Singapore
• have strong leadership qualities and potential
• have good co-curricular activities record
• performing well academically, with preference given to students who have a minimum CAP 4.25, and
• able to undertake all components of the programme throughout its duration


The application is divided into two sections:

- Leadership and motivation: the panel will want to understand your motivation for applying, and how you intend to make use of the programme for your future success.

- The research project: the panel will be looking for enthusiasm for your chosen project, and a well-considered understanding of the research and its potential impact.


To apply, all applicants must submit the following:

1. Curriculum Vitae (CV)

• A CV detailing your education, language proficiencies, as well as any extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, volunteer and job experiences that you think are relevant to your further education

• A copy of your unofficial transcript

• One referee report is to be submitted separately via email by your NUS lecturer or instructor

• A 150-word statement explaining your motivation for applying

• You may also opt to do a 2-minute video to accompany your statement


2. Application Form: The Research Project

Choosing a project: listed research projects
The listed projects usually form part of a larger research project supervisors are running, working at the forefront of their disciplines to push forward the boundaries of knowledge.

You can apply for any project which interests you from this list and does not have to relate to your current studies.
However, as part of your application, you will need to demonstrate that you meet the key criteria for that project - these are listed under each project.

When you have chosen which project you wish to apply for, make sure you read it thoroughly and think about the issues involved.


Projects available for Summer 2019: The Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme
The summer projects you can apply for change from year to year.

(the following list will be updated)

Project 1

Supervisor Name: Dr Bart Van Wassenhove
Supervisor’s Department: University Scholars Programme
Email Address:

Description of overarching research interest
I am interested in exploring the role of wisdom in leadership, broadly defined. There has been a boom in recent scholarship on the transformative role wisdom can play in various domains and disciplines (see for an up-to-date bibliography) and I look forward to supervising projects that build on this existing research and perhaps apply it to a Singaporean or Southeast Asian context.

Possible projects within the area of interest that students can pursue within the programme
I welcome proposals focusing on any domain connected to a student’s major, career plan, or other area of interest; for example: the role of wisdom in law, urban planning, or education. I am particularly interested in projects that focus on a particular case study or localized problem but I also invite more theoretical proposals.

Outputs expected of the Laidlaw Scholar
A research paper and presentation summing up the student’s research and, if appropriate, a popularizing article or opinion piece that can be submitted for publication to a suitable media outlet.

I would also expect students to send me weekly progress reports during the 10 weeks in which they are working on the project.

Will it be completed in the duration of the 10 weeks?

Essential skills the scholars need
- Critical thinking and writing skills and an aptitude for interdisciplinary research
- Qualitative research skills, particularly the ability to independently identify, analyze, and evaluate sources
- Sufficient background knowledge on the proposed domain of study
- For students doing case studies, field work experience is recommended but not essential



Project 2
Supervisor Name: Dr Charles Burke
Supervisor’s Department: University Scholars Programme
Email Address:

Description of overarching research interest
Leaders identify problems in their community and utilize their drive and creativity to work towards a novel solution. As a member of the student community, you surely recognize the rising costs associated with all aspects of a good education: student life, tuition, and educational resources. While advances in online education, open access journals, and open source software have provided greater access to all with the desire and necessary skillset, the cost of textbooks have increased 812% in the last three decades and 88% since 2006 (see here).

Possible projects within the area of interest that students can pursue within the programme
As leaders in education, USP always strives to provide better access and to break down barriers between disciplines through an interdisciplinary approach. However the interdisciplinary approach does pose problems to lecturers and professors looking for quality interdisciplinary texts that not only assist in transferring direct skills and knowledge, but also an understanding of the broader connections that can be made across disciplines. Therefore USP may be uniquely positioned at the nexus to advance the evolution of higher education textbooks based not only on addressing cost and accessibility, but on pedagogical necessity.

The goal of this interdisciplinary research program is for student leaders to reimagine the higher education textbook for 2020 and beyond. To do so, a student may assist the project by engaging market research (Business/Marketing) and social science (FASS) and/or data science (Business Analytics) research through survey, interview, and focus group methods; or by helping to develop and code new user experiences and interfaces for online open textbooks using computer science and software engineering methods.

Outputs expected of the Laidlaw Scholar
The ideal output both be a report that better allows us as educators and students how to improve upon existing textbooks and lower costs, as well as a demonstration of the future of textbooks, likely in the form of a web portal. This demo portal will be constructed in the 10 weeks, with the ability for students working on the project to improve upon it through subsequent iterations following the close of the 10 week period.

Will it be completed in the duration of the 10 weeks?

Essential skills the scholars need
Given the spirt of cross disciplinary leadership exemplified by USP this project will be team based. Students of that team should have some background in survey or interview design, data analysis, and certainly at least one member of the team should be versed in a web coding language. Experience in business start-ups or tech company employment provided by past internships, is helpful but not required.


Project 3
Supervisor Name: A/P Low Boon Chuan
Supervisor’s Department: Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science and Mechanobiology Institute
Email Address:

Description of overarching research interest
Understanding Mechanobiology of Cell Shape, Cell Size and Cell Speed through Protein Interaction Network

Possible projects within the area of interest that students can pursue within the programme
Targeting Cell Signaling Circuits To Curb Cancer Growth and Spreading

Outputs expected of the Laidlaw Scholar
Good research finding that could lead to better understanding of key processes in life.

Will it be completed in the duration of the 10 weeks?
Yes, similar to a full 10-week summer attachment.

Essential skills the scholars need
Good background in either life/biomedical sciences, bioengineering or other physical sciences.

Project 4

Supervisor Name: A/P Tok Eng Soon
Supervisor’s Department: Faculty of Science, Department of Physics
Email Address:

Description of overarching research interest
Lighting and Power from Triboelectricity

Possible projects within the area of interest that students can pursue within the programme
We will explore and examine various methods from the macroscale to nanoscale to make tribo-electricity generation possible, efficient and sustainable. In particular, we will explore the innovation in construction; design and materials selections in determining the viability of this approach to power for example LED based lighting.

Outputs expected of the Laidlaw Scholar
A research report together with (poster and/or oral presentation) and a simple prototype to demonstrate the design, working principles.

Will it be completed in the duration of the 10 weeks?
Yes, similar to a full 10-week summer attachment.

Essential skills the scholars need
Some high school chemistry, physics or math or has done the USP inquiry tier nanoscale-technology module.

Self-proposed projects

You will need to find a suitable member of academic staff within NUS who agrees to supervise you. They should also assist you with the project-related element of your application.

The project needs to be:
• at an appropriate academic level, and
• realistically achievable within ten weeks.

If you are proposing your own project, you will be asked a number of questions about your project proposal.

You should consider these questions together with your project supervisor. Please give as much detail as you can.

The panel will be looking for a convincing, logical and well-considered project which fits well into a ten-week period. However, the panel will not expect you to have worked out every detail at this stage.

If your proposal would require ethics approval, you should factor in additional time for this (it can take months to obtain this). You must have approval in advance of your start date.


In view of the limited file size capacity, where necessary, all applicants are strongly encouraged to upload your CV and application form to an alternative platform and share the link in an email to In the email subject, please quote [Application: Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme]


This programme will be funded in the following manner:

- A stipend of $800 per week over the course of 12 weeks to cover both living expenses and accommodation on campus. Students should not be in receipt of another stipend during the duration of the programme.

- The cost of the leadership programme (during the first summer) and airfare by the most economic route (during the second summer if this segment involves an overseas stint).

Terms and Conditions

The academic performance of Laidlaw Scholars will be monitored and renewed every semester provided the scholar maintains a Cumulative Average Point (CAP) of at least 4.25 (or equivalent) and of good conduct.

If the scholar decides to withdraw from the University and/or terminate the programme prematurely, the University reserves the right to impose repayment of all monies disbursed to the scholar.

Shortlisting Process

Only shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend an interview.
NUS USP reserves the right not to award if there are no candidates of sufficient merit. The decision of the selection committee is final. Enquiries or disputes surrounding its decisions will not be entertained.

How you will be contacted
We will contact all applicants via email with the result of their application.

Key Dates


 Application Period  18 March – 15 April 2019
 Application Outcome  30 April 2019
 First Summer (2 weeks)  mid-May – mid-June 2019
 Second Summer (10 weeks)

 12 May – 21 July 2020

 Symposium  29 July 2020



Applications for Academic Year 2019-2020 commences from 18 March 2019 to 15 April 2019.

For enquiries, please email and quote [Enquiry: Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme] in the email subject.


The Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme is administered by the NUS University Scholars Programme (USP).