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EXPERIENCE

Pushing the boundaries of science, data and tech to boost human performance
By Glenn Wong

HTX scientist Leong Hin Fong helps enhance the operational efficiency of Home Team officers, while minimising their risks of injury

Senior scientist Leong Hin Fong derives great satisfaction from a purposeful career with Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX), helping Home Team officers to succeed in their work.

She has donned bullet-resistant vests and bunker gear, zipped around in watercraft at high speeds, and even tried fighting fire and firing arms. These thrilling activities are not normally part of a scientist’s job scope, but Ms Leong Hin Fong is not an ordinary scientist. 

Armed with first-class honours in Sport Science and Management from Nanyang Technological University, the 30-year-old is the research and development (R&D) lead for human performance at HTX’s Human Factors and Simulation Centre of Expertise. She has been part of the R&D Team since HTX’s inception in December 2019.

A crucial role in empowering frontliners

As a human performance scientist, Ms Leong gets to “marry science, data and technology” to develop solutions that not only enhance the safety and well-being of Home Team frontline officers such as policemen and firefighters, but also optimise their performance.

For example, her team develops predictive models to forecast the performance of the officers, as well as customise novel training programmes for them. She also works on proof-of-concept projects to predict and prevent common injuries among frontline officers to help improve career longevity.

Developing real-world solutions

One of Ms Leong’s career highlights is setting up and co-managing the recently launched Emergency Responders’ Fitness Conditioning & Enhancement Lab (EXCEL), which is jointly developed by the Singapore Civil Defence Force and HTX. The R&D and training facility enhances the performance and capabilities of emergency responders across the Home Team through the use of cutting-edge technology. 

EXCEL has five purpose-built labs with distinct research thrusts, but draws heavily on applied exercise science – in particular, biomechanics, exercise physiology and thermal physiology. 

One of the labs is STRiVE (Strength, Conditioning & Rehabilitation in Virtual Environment), an advanced biomechanics lab that enables the study of human movement and collection of objective human performance data in interactive virtual environments. It can also simulate realistic operational situations in training and evaluation of the officers.

Ms Leong, who now leads EXCEL’s R&D efforts, also plays a key role in developing acclimatisation programmes under the Heat Acclimatisation and Thermoregulation (HEAT) Lab. Within an environmental chamber, her team can assess the operational fitness of firefighters across various scenarios – such as when carrying fire hoses or casualties, climbing ladders and stairs, as well as when conducting a search-and-rescue mission. 

Because the Home Team comprises a variety of vocations, each with its unique requirements and training needs, there is no one-size-fits-all approach or solution. That challenge, which requires her to have both depth and breadth of knowledge in her work, as well as its purposeful nature, keeps her motivated. 

She adds: “I have a soft spot for Home Team officers since they put their lives on the line every day to keep Singapore safe. It is fulfilling to work and interact closely with them to understand and experience their work, and find ways to help them succeed in their jobs.”

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