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The scientist that conducts research to keep Singapore safe

Dr Malcolm Tessensohn’s research is being translated into real-world capabilities to help the Home Team fight crime and save lives

Dr Malcolm Tessensohn, 34, spends most of his time in a laboratory, poring over chemical reactions that take place at the sub-atomic level.

A skilled expert in the field of electrochemistry, the forensic scientist at the Home Team Science and Technology Agency’s (HTX) Forensics Centre of Expertise is looking for faster and improved ways to detect drug consumption and the presence of prohibited drugs in various items.

“The presence of drugs can never be hidden forever, it is only a matter of time before they are detected and uncovered,” says Dr Tessensohn.

Faster and more powerful screening tools will help law enforcement officers at the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) to combat drug trafficking and fight the scourge of drugs, especially with the worrisome trend of a high proportion of drug offenders being first-time abusers and who are younger than 30 years old.

He holds a PhD from the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and after spending a decade in academic research, Dr Tessensohn decided to join HTX in 2019.

Having served in the Singapore Police Force (SPF) during his national service where he could see his contributions directly impact the lives of citizens, Dr Tessensohn felt that by joining HTX, he can leverage his skillsets to help make a difference for the country once again.

HTX was set up to bring together science and engineering capabilities across the Home Team Departments to empower Singapore’s frontline so as to enhance Singapore’s safety and security. Their crime scene and drug forensic specialists provide on-site investigation support to both SPF and CNB, while forensic scientists conduct applied research to generate new capabilities for the Home Team Departments.

Dr Tessensohn’s work, in particular, contributes to CNB’s effectiveness to keep Singapore safe from the harms of drugs. He ventures into undeveloped fields of science, explores unorthodox ideas, experiments with emerging technologies, and cross-deploys existing instruments and various techniques in new application areas to generate intelligence leads for investigations, enforcement and surveillance.

HTX has a forward-looking and innovative culture, according to Dr Tessensohn, and he credits his supervisors and colleagues at HTX for being very supportive and approachable.

“Failing can point us in the right direction if it is positively received, as we are often reminded at work,” he said.

“I would have seized the HTX Scholarship with both hands if it was available during my younger days, as the many opportunities in the agency to explore, learn and develop within and outside of my field of specialisation would be valuable to me and anyone interested in forensic science today.”

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