Zhiming Darren Tan

Favourite Thing: Think! Tinker! Try!



Oxford University (2011 to present), Princeton University (2000 to 2004)


Currently studying for a PhD in theoretical physics

Work History:

Ministry of Education, Singapore (as a teacher and a policy officer)

Current Job:

Graduate student


Currently a student

Me and my work

I try to understand why magnets feel frustrated.

Geometrically frustrated magnets – a surprisingly happy venue where theoretical physics, mathematics, and experimental physics meet. And it’s like a love triangle, shrunk down to the microscopic world – just as full of drama and excitement!

My Typical Day

Reading, writing, while thinking.

I am a theoretical physicist, so a lot of time is spent thinking about problems – seeking ideas and working out the detailed implications. Recently I’ve been spending most of my time writing up my thesis!

What I'd do with the money

Double up the impact by partnering with a winner from another zone.

If I win, I will look at what the winners from other zones intend to do with their money. I will then identify possible partnership(s) where working together can lead to much greater outcomes, especially since working in a team allows each person to play to his/her strengths.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

physicist, poet, person

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Tori Amos

What's your favourite food?

Durian (a tropical fruit with a famous smell)

What is the most fun thing you've done?


What did you want to be after you left school?

A thinker

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Sure, but nothing too outrageous

What was your favourite subject at school?

Physics (probably not hard to guess)

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

The research for my PhD

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?


If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Probably a poet or a programmer

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

That I could also live connected lives in the past, the present, and the future

Tell us a joke.

A neutron walked into a bar and asked, “How much for a drink?” The bartender replied, “For you, no charge.”

Other stuff

Work photos: