The Silver - Vogel Partnership
Relationship: Husband & Wife (13 years)
In Duke-NUS/Singapore since January 2012  



Designation: Associate Professor, Program in Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders & Director, Graduate Studies

Designation: Assistant Dean, Graduate Studies & Associate Professor, Office of Clinical Sciences
Nationality: American/German

The Insider (TI): Was it a joint decision move to Singapore?

David Silver (DS) & Silke Vogel (SV): Definitely.

DS: I was first approached as a potential recruit to the Duke-NUS Program in Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders (CVMD). By chance, the management also recognized Silke’s expertise in basic sciences and education as a good fit for the school.  

It turned out to be an excellent opportunity for both of us. The main attraction to move to Duke-NUS and Singapore was the forward-thinking commitment to biomedical research and the opportunity for us to contribute to the new and exciting research and education environment here. 

SV: I move to a different country every 20 years. When our family first visited Singapore in September 2011, I immediately recognized the uniqueness of Duke-NUS and the interesting challenge in building a first class graduate program. 

TI:  Both of you have cross-functional roles in the PhD program and research.  How did that arrangement come about?

DS: I serve as Director of Graduate Studies, but honestly Silke does all the heavy lifting in the PhD IBM (Integrated Biology and Medicine) program. I think I bring to this position my experience of many years of graduate school committee work that can be applied to improving our program. 

SV: When I first arrived at Duke-NUS, I was appointed course director for our core graduate course Molecules to Medicine. As the program grew, we recognized that a strong administrative and operational office was needed in the graduate school. This led to the formation of the Office of Graduate Studies, which I currently lead. 

TI: Is this the first time you worked professionally so closely together? 

DS: Not at all. In fact, it started with diaper changes with our elder son. Professionally, we worked together briefly on scientific projects at Columbia University when Silke was an Assistant Professor overseeing a research laboratory with a focus on obesity and insulin resistance. 

SV: It’s easy working together with David because we can usually reach a consensus when faced with challenges. David is not as serious or scary as he appears. 

TI: After work…

DS & SV: We help our sons with homework and that means-relearning trigonometry and ancient history. We also always find time to have fun with them.

David and Silke took their boys skiing and snowboarding in Furano, Japan.

TI: David, congratulations on the publication of the research papers on DHA Omega-3 Fatty Acid recently. Tell us about more about this project.

DS: Prior to Duke-NUS, my lab has been working for many years on a transport protein called Mfsd2a. We were trying to identify the chemical it transported in the human body. 

We knew it was important because mice that lacked this protein had small brains. This suggested that whatever it transported was critical for brain growth. It was only after joining Duke-NUS that my lab made the breakthrough that Mfsd2a is the primary transporter of DHA to the brain. 

The success of this project was due to the outstanding individuals: namely lead author on the project Long Nguyen, and including colleagues like Asst Prof. Eyleen Goh and her lab at Duke-NUS and Assoc Prof. Markus Wenk and his group at NUS. Additionally, I believe that this discovery was made possible by the strong funding support I received from the National Medical Research Council and the overall first-rate research environment at Duke-NUS. 

Comrades-in-science: David heads the Lab of Mechanism of Lipid metabolism at Level 8, Duke-NUS.

TI: Silke, we heard that you are the co-director for the Centre of Regulatory Excellence. Tell us more.

The Centre of Regulatory Excellence (CoRE) at Duke-NUS was recently launched and is headed by Executive Director John Lim. Our goal is to promote regulatory leadership and policy innovation in regulatory science in Singapore and the Asia Pacific region. It is very exciting as there is already a huge interest in our Centre from regulators and regulatory affairs in industry. The expectation is that we will be able to solve all existing problems. We are currently in the stage of assembling the CoRE team and mapping our programmes and goals. 

Silke and her Voice Annotated Presentation Management team (not in picture: Eugene Seah). They are located at Level 4, Duke-NUS. 

TI: Both of you have worked in other Universities in America.  How different or similar is the work and culture in Duke-NUS?

DS: Duke-NUS has a diverse community and is full of talented people. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and by coming together to share their ideas and experiences, it creates a positive learning environment. 

TI: Any hidden talents? 

SV:  Unlike David who is a great cook, I can only cook three standard dishes. I am a pretty decent baker though and my German heritage is probably responsible for this. Whenever we had guests over for afternoon coffee (Kaffeeklatsch), for a company of six, my mother would prepare six different kinds of cakes. This set the standard!

TI: We are thankful for…

DS & SV: Having wonderful friends and colleagues in Singapore.