Statistics, research and genetics. These are not the most common topics discussed among youths these days.
Yet on experiencing research scientist Teo Yik Ying's infectious enthusiasm in talking about his work, one can't help but see these topics in a different light.
"It's actually really interesting and exciting to be in a profession where the things I work on constantly changes," said the associate professor, explaining the "fun factor" in his job at the National University of Singapore.
"Tomorrow I may be finding out the genetic contributions to malaria or obesity, and the day after I will be trying to find out why genetically are East Asians different from Caucasians or Africans," said the 32-year-old.
"All of these essentially boils down to the clever use of statistical tools to tell stories behind all the complexity in genetics, medicine and modern healthcare."
It is perhaps this enthusiasm that has propelled Assoc Prof Teo to excel in his field, garnering multiple accolades. He was, for instance, the Singapore National Academy of Sciences' 2010 winner of the prestigious Young Scientist Award and Singapore's National Research Foundation's Research Fellowship 2010 recipient.
Come Sunday, Assoc Prof Teo will add another award in his collection. He will be awarded the Singapore Youth Award (for science and technology), the highest national honour conferred on youths 35 and below.
Assoc Prof Teo, who conduct regular talks at junior colleges and mentors two Dunman High students, said he hopes to inspire youth "to follow their dreams and to do what they enjoy doing".
"I enjoy teaching, I enjoy climbing, I enjoy using mathematics and statistics to learn about biology — these are things I enjoy doing," he said. "I believe if you end up doing something that you genuinely enjoy, you will become really good at it. That is what has happened to me."
A total of five Singapore Youth Awards will be given out by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the Istana on Sunday.
The other four awardees are filmmaker Boo Junfeng (Arts & Culture award), entrepreneur Darius Cheung (entrepreneurship award), youth leader Terence Chia (Community & Youth Services award) and Touch Cyber Wellness (Community & Youth Services team award).
Boo has made significant strides in both the local and international scene with his evocative films. The 27-year-old's first feature film, Sandcastle, and short films have been well received internationally with the former winning several international awards.
Boo has also been involved with community projects to develop young Singaporeans' interest film and to encourage them to express their appetite for life.
Cheung, 29, founded his first start-up, tenCube, in 2005, pioneering applications in mobile security. Within a year, tenCube was named the grand winner in a national business plan competition and went on to garner international acclaim. In 2010, tenCube was acquired by McAfee Inc, a global market leader in security software.
Cheung, who believes strongly in creating a sustainable and vibrant community of entrepreneurs, continues to work with the local start-up community by providing start-ups with guidance and investment.
Chia, 30, began his involvement in community service in his schooling days and has since been at the forefront of projects such as the ASEAN+3 Youth Festival. The multiple award winner also led the Singapore delegation at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Voices of the Future Forum in Sydney in 2007.
In his personal time, he volunteers with the Darul Ihsan Orphanage, where he works with youths.
Touch Cyber Wellness is a 10-year-old organisation that has reached out to over 800,000 people through various programmes on cyber wellness. It has established itself locally and regionally as an industry leader in promoting cyber wellness, healthy gaming and online safety and is a key partner in the government's education efforts.