Why Dr Eng Kai Er deserves no sympathy - Alvinology

Why Dr Eng Kai Er deserves no sympathy

Dr Eng Kai Er (picture via Straits Times.com)
Dr Eng Kai Er (picture via Straits Times.com)

I read with amusement, the strange news on A*Star scholar, Dr Eng Kai Er, challenging her employer. If you find her name familiar, she was the A*Star scholar who streaked naked along Holland Village back in 2009. Now, she decided to fund an arts scholarship with her own pay to make a statement on her being forced to work in a job which she has no passion for.

At first, I wanted to be sympathetic, but when I got a more complete picture from this Straits Times report, I have no sympathy for Dr Eng at all.

Here’s why:

1. Dr Eng has a choice to break her bond and pay back her tuition fees. Let me post a very blunt comparison – not all Singaporean guys enjoy serving NS. We do not even have a choice. If Dr Eng really hates her job so much, she should just break her bond and stop whining.

2. Dr Eng took TWO scholarships from A*Star. She spent three years studying as an undergraduate at Britain’s prestigious Cambridge University before returning to Singapore to do a one-year research stint at A*Star in 2006. At the end of that, she took up a second scholarship to study for a PhD in infection biology at Swedish medical university Karolinska Institute. She completed this at the end of 2012 and now works in an A*Star research institute studying infectious diseases. If she did not like science, why did she take the second scholarship? Granted she may be only 18 when she took the first scholarship and can partly be forgiven for her youthful folly, but at 22? Why do a PhD in infection biology if you do not like science?

3. Dr Eng deprived others who are more deserving by taking up the scholarships in the first place.

4. Dr Eng wasted a lot of taxpayers’ money. A*Star is answerable to the government of Singapore on how they spend our money. Back to point 1, Dr Eng should just break the bond and pay back her tuition fees if she is so unhappy.

5. Dr Eng is being extremely self-centered. Many of us are in jobs which may not be that fun either, but we know we need to do so to earn a living. Dr Eng wants a free overseas PhD education, only do what she like for a living and kick up a fuss when she do not get what she wants. Grow up and stop being a baby.

6. Dr Eng can pursue the arts in her free time while holding on to her scientist job. If she really love the arts so much, I am sure she can find a way to balance it with her work. Otherwise, she just have to endure for a few more years and she will be free.

7. Judging from the sarcastic way she wrote her tumblr blog, one tends to form the impression that Dr Eng will not be treating her work seriously at A*Star and will just wither away her time there. She belittled her own scientific achievements. As a scientist with a PhD from the world’s top universities, she is smarter than so many of us, but so much more irresponsible too.

I know there are some who are praising her for being brave to protest in what she believes in and to encourage others to follow their dreams. However, I believe that she has a choice now(she can break the bond and pay back) and she made a choice then when she signed with A*Star. As such, her actions are extremely immature and unbecoming.

Sorry, but I think Dr Eng Kai Er do not deserve any sympathy at all.

I have more respect for bond breakers than Dr Eng. At least they have the courage to face up to the consequences of their choices. Dr Eng, on the other end, wants to have her cake and eat it.


  1. I don’t understand a need to write an article so harsh about someone else’s life, deeming no sympathy is deserved when we have yet to walk in her shoes.

    1. Because she is wasting tax payers’ money, that’s why. Nobody gives a load of crap if you wanna streak naked in public, just don’t waste people’s money.

  2. Much as I agree with you, I do think you ought to clean up your grammar before feeling qualified to condemn other people. If you don’t, why, you sound like a simple-minded child incapable of educated, sound, thought

    I do, however, completely agree with you about her. Still, don’t you think that by continuously dwelling on this, you are simply giving her the attention that she is not worthy of basking in?

    1. Disagree. He is eminently qualified to condemn other people without “cleaning up” his grammar. You need to clean up your run-on sentence in your first paragraph too.

  3. She should be terminated on grounds of unacceptable behavior as an employee if the organisation and be ordered to pay liquidated damages for bond not served.

  4. anyone considered the fact that 1) if one decides not to pursue PhD under a*star bond, he/she will need to pay off the bond or accept some random admin job within the institute? 2) that breaking bond would, to many scholars, essentially mean selling both your kidneys and probably you mum’s, dad’s, and probably sister’s?

    “stop whining”, yes. ” just break her bond”? you just made me angry.

    1. She has gone overboard with her actions, sure. But your blog post also shows that you are heavily judgmental, condescending, and reflects extreme simplicity of thought.

      Stop trivialising what these scholars go through. “Just break her bond”? Go and face the wall and reflect on this phrase that you said.

      1. It is great to see that at least someone in Singapore can sense the grave difficulty of the situation Kai is in. Hopefully her actions will ultimately help to change a couple of policies and your high profile scholars will gain more rights and affordable alternative options and will be happier to come back to their own country to serve it one way or another. The original blog post is uninformed on some important issues, such as the ST originally presented a wrong account of contract history between Kai and A*STAR, provoking this awful and disgusting wave of accusations and hate. The author of the original post is one who deserves no respect. Deciding to publicly defame someone who has no other option to defend herself than to silently swallow this flowing from such pages flux, is outrageous from any human moral stand point.

  5. I heartily agree with Alvinology. I hated NS but gritted my teeth and did my job during NS to the best of my ability and even won early promotion ahead of my peers before completing my stint of service. While I never won any scholarships (not being as smart as Dr. Eng), I did love my chosen field of study of Computer Science and lucked out in having a profession, occupation and hobby that is all one and the same so it could be claimed that I never “worked” a day in my life as I was “merely practicing my hobby for money”. There was a time while working on Wall Street as a Systems Analyst doing C++ programming (which I loved) where I got “arrowed” to become a Sybase DBAdmin, a Buildmeister and even handle all tech support for the team by dint of being the low man on the totem pole and nobody else wanting to do those jobs. But I also put my head down and powered my way through those unsavory tasks which later provided some side income to my own startup firm where I was able to handle a variety of such tasks for clients (as it brought in much needed funding) when I was actually more interested in the Computer Networking space. Sometimes, we just have to doggedly manage the low points of life because it’s necessary to get to the next stage and Dr. Eng’s sense of entitlement and immaturity to handle the shit that life can throw at one irks me no end.

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