Posted by: garispang | August 19, 2009

Singaporean PhD Graduate from Stanford Fired by A*Star & Drives a Taxi

dr cai ming jie

Dr Cai Ming Jie became an SMRT cabby last November after spending 16 years as a researcher at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

His career switch has become a talking point online after he started a blog earlier this year. Alongside his experiences as a cabby, he takes issue with the circumstances of his departure from IMCB last May.

An SMRT spokesman confirmed that the former researcher is a driver with SMRT Taxis, but Dr Cai declined to add more beyond this: ‘All that needs to be said is on the blog online…It should be IMCB that needs to be asked questions, if any.’

The China-born Dr Cai, who became a Singapore citizen, obtained a PhD in molecular biology from Stanford University in 1990. The Straits Times learnt that he did a two-year postdoctoral fellowship after leaving Stanford at the University of Washington, under famed genetist Professor Lee Hartwell, who won a 2001 Nobel Prize in physiology.

He joined IMCB two years later and worked as a principal investigator in the field of cell genetics up till his departure.

A spokesman for A*Star, meanwhile, said renewal of all its researchers’ contracts is based on a number of factors, including the time taken to train PhD students, their performance and their contributions to the research institutes and the agency in general.

Dr Cai’s work, like that of all A*Star researchers, was assessed by an external Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), which recommended his contract be terminated.

Still, in spite of the submission of countless curriculum vitaes and applications to universities, government agencies and companies since he was told he would be let go in 2007, Dr Cai failed to get a successful response.

The former researcher now drives a four-year -old Toyota Crown. ‘At a time like this, the taxi business is probably the only business in Singapore that still actively recruits people,’ he said.


What Dr Cai Ming Jie has to say on his blog:

Since the takeover of leadership by some western “big shots” a few years ago, the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) of ASTAR, Singapore, a place I have worked for 16 years as a PI (principal investigator), a place that was once flourishing, promising, and pleasant to work in, has been in a mess. Bestowed with the kind of power they had never seen before, these once reputable scientists turned everything in the institute upside down. The previous democratic and consensus-oriented management system that had worked well for more than a decade in the past was thrown out of window and replaced by one that was marked by domineering, manipulation, and incompetence. What they lacked in experience of management, adequate understanding of the institute, and proper respect for fellow scientists as their colleagues, they made up for in arrogance, prejudice, and naked muscle of political power. Some PIs were sent packing, and some were promoted, all up to the new leadership’s manipulative and twisted standards. Despite my considerable contribution to building up this place into what it is today, I was among the first few PIs to be told to go. My employment contract with IMCB was terminated by May, 2008, without any forms of compensation given…



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