She didn’t like Science right until she fulfilled a tortoise beetle

How’s this for a transformation? She went from hating science to taking Triple Science and seeking to be a Science teacher a single working day. Mikko Lee, a beneficiary of a STEM mentorship programme for underprivileged children, talks about how the proper exposure turned her from mentee to mentor.

By Lee Qing Ping

If you have difficulty convincing a child to like Science, try out introducing them to… the humble tortoise beetle.

tortoise beetle

A tortoise beetle, spotted at the Environmentally friendly Corridor. (Picture credit: David Wirawan, Singapore Geographic)

For Most important 5 Mikko Lee who would groan a little within every Science course, this tiny bug built a huge influence on the training course of her daily life.

Mikko, now 21 yrs old, recounts how she was struggling with Science in primary college and considered of it as a tough, dry subject matter.

But a walk in the Science Centre’s eco-backyard garden, the steering of a patient mentor, and a STEM programme for key college youngsters, adjusted all that.

“I have to do Science exterior of university as well?”

Which is what Mikko to start with imagined when she was nominated by her most important school for the Abbott Younger Scientist programme. Her teacher hoped the exposure may well help Mikko appreciate STEM far more. Jointly organised by Science Centre Singapore and Abbott and supported by the Ministry of Instruction (MOE), this is a mentorship programme for underprivileged major college college students to create their curiosity in STEM. 

“The college requested if I’d like to be a part of [the programme], but I’d in no way heard of it prior to. I imagined, is this going to be a different Science project I have to do?” reported Mikko, recounting her first hesitation. She was to be the 1st batch of college students in the application. “I assumed, probably just try out lor,” she said.

mikko abbott young scientists in 2013

The to start with batch of Abbott Younger Experts in 2013 with their mentors from Science Centre.

So she tried out, and was pleasantly surprised to uncover that carrying out Science exterior of school was additional pleasing than she thought.

“We didn’t just sit in a classroom studying about theories. We received to go out into the eco-yard and have actual-lifetime encounters with Science principles,” said Mikko. “I realised Science isn’t that dull immediately after all. We’re studying a thing that is in fact below I can see it in serious existence.”

Adhering to the place the wild items go

To give them a flavor of Science analysis, the youthful experts experienced to select an location they required to dive further into. But they weren’t thrown into the deep conclusion – each scholar was assigned a mentor to go about their research venture together.

Cue Ms Mok Li Hui, Mikko’s mentor for the a single yr she was in the programme. At the time, Ms Mok was a Master Science Educator in the Science Centre Singapore, instructing most important and secondary school Science to children via the Science Centre Singapore’s programmes that complemented the college syllabus.


mikko young 1mikko with young scientist mentor ms mok


Mikko and her study poster of the lifecycle of a tortoise beetle at the programme’s concluding science honest, and (base) with Ms Mok.

Ms Mok made her search over and above the classroom when choosing a analysis subject, to not confine herself to what she presently is aware. Round about then, Mikko took a fateful stroll in the Science Centre Singapore’s eco-yard and crossed paths with the tortoise beetle. “It appeared so intriguing. I experienced in no way seen 1 right before!” she marvelled even at the recap. “So I decided I desired to find out additional about their habitat, and what they take in.”

Mikko adopted the beetle and introduced it home in a container, collectively with the leaves that it was evidently experiencing. “It eats curry leaves,” she added, pleased she can share this entertaining simple fact. About the pursuing couple of weeks, she viewed the beetle increase, took pics of the process, and recorded it in her journal.

Apart from beetles, Mikko commenced gathering other not-so-creepy crawlies like caterpillars and watched them improve.

It was then that she realised that though she could wrestle with science in the abstract, she comprehensively loved understanding about biology, ecosystems and living organisms.

That was her eureka minute, when items fell right into put. She determined to target her research matter on lifetime science, and with Ms Mok’s support, turned her interest in her pet tortoise beetle into a research job.

A adjust of head, a change of class

Following the programme concluded, Mikko went on to get all a few of the Science topics in secondary college, to the shock of her close friends.

“They ended up like, ‘Huh? You really want to try Triple Science?’” Mikko claimed, laughing. She would go on to signal up in 2019 for a Foodstuff Science & Technologies diploma study course in Singapore Polytechnic, and intern in areas like Nestle and the Company for Science, Technological innovation and Investigation (A*STAR). 

mikko science centre 3Mikko as a teen and a Science Explainer at the Science Centre Singapore below, she is detailing the eye illusion show to a visitor.

What does a sensory science intern do? “We consider items centered on buyer responses and what the industry needs,” points out Mikko. “With consumers’ preferences in intellect, we make much healthier nonetheless tastier dietary solutions for all to delight in.”

All through her internship, she done industry analysis, took portion in product tastings, panellist evaluations, and learnt to consolidate details and conduct testimonials. This gave Mikko an exposure over and above the classroom and options to take a look at the miracles of innovation and creation. It also presented a pathway to condition her potential in STEM. 

As part of Abbott’s corporate social responsibility team, she also assisted organise outreach programmes and industry outings to the nourishment production facility for learners and their mother and father to study about careers in STEM.

The circle of lifetime: When a beneficiary gives back

Of late, Mikko has been supplying back again to science the similar way that science has sowed into her life. She joined the Science Centre Singapore as a Science Explainer. The position requires detailing what the exhibitions are about to the visitors, accomplish demonstrations, conduct tours, and guide in stay exhibits. “I received to see Ms Mok all over at the Science Centre at times!” suggests Mikko merrily.

Ms Mok carries on her get the job done at the Centre, running casual science programmes for pupils. At the start off of the Abbott Younger Scientist programme, mentors were recruited from among the Science Centre’s employees. They now include pupils from JC as perfectly as Institutes of Larger Discovering.

Fittingly, Mikko also bought to be aspect of the Abbott Younger Scientist Programme – this time as a single of the organisers, and with her two younger sisters as contributors. They have been also selected by their school for the programme.

“I favored this component of my internship the most. 10 a long time ago, I was the participant. Now, I’m the 1 setting up it,” Mikko claims, beaming. She provides alumni talks and shares about her journey given that joining the programme.

Mikko (above) at 11, Abbott Young Scientist Award 2013, receiving book prizes from Mrs Chua-Lim Yen Ching, then the Deputy Director – General of Education (Professional Development), and 11 years later, when she met Mrs Chua-Lim on stage again, this time as an alumnus.

Mikko (over) at 11, Abbott Younger Scientist Award 2013, getting e book prizesfrom Mrs Chua-Lim Yen Ching, then the Deputy Director – Standard of Schooling (Skilled Improvement), and 11 decades later on, when she achieved Mrs Chua-Lim on phase again, this time as an alumnus.

mikko and sis mikki

Mikko as an intern with Abbott and her young sister Mikki, who was also chosen to sign up for the Abbott Youthful Scientist programme when she was in Main 4.

The upcoming chapter of her training journey

Unsurprisingly, Mikko has picked to important in Organic Sciences for her Bachelor of Science programme at Nanyang Technological College. “After I graduate, I want to perform in the company entire world initial to achieve more working experience,” she continued. “But my very long-expression aspiration is to develop into a teacher.”

She credits the Abbott Youthful Scientist programme, which has supported 362 students for the past 10 several years, for inspiring her to go beyond her restrict. “Being in schooling will permit me do the similar for students no matter of their background,” reported Mikko. “I want to aid much more young youngsters obtain their way via existence and explore what they can do in the foreseeable future.”


mikko science centre 2

Mikko in 2022, at the Science Centre Singapore.

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