Meet Jackie Ying, the winner of the Top Scientific Achievement Award

Women are always pushed back to the background, even though they may be doing it better than some of their male colleagues. Just because of their gender, females tend to get less attention for their great job. Inequality is still common in today’s society and often an accusation made against Islam. Today’s generation of women is becoming more aware of what the Islam really says about their rights and obligations. That is why they are getting active and participating. One example is Jackie Y. Ying, an impressive personality to add to the list of Muslimas that are achieving great things. A woman that you should definitely know.  

Jackie Y. Ying was born in 1966 in Taipei. She was raised in Singapore and New York. In Singapore she attended Raffles Girls’ School. A school that has been consistently ranked as one of the top secondary schools in Singapore. When she was 15 her family moved to New York. There she graduated with B.E. summa cum laude (indication of the level of distinction with which an academic degree was earned, meaning ‘with highest honor’) in Chemical Engineering from The Cooper Union in 1987. Afterwards she attended Princeton University, a private Ivy League research university, where she received her MA in 1988 and her PhD in 1991 in chemical engineering. In 2001 she became a full professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT. She was one of the MIT’s youngest full professors.

Currently she is the Executive Director of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore. Prof. Ying has been recognized with a number of research awards. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Society for Biological Engineering, on the Scientific Advisory Boards of Molecular Frontiers and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Catalysis Center. Moreover she is an Honorary Professor at the King Saud University (Saudi Arabia), Jilin University (China), Sichuan University (China) and Nanyang Technological University  (Singapore).

To add to these, she is the Editor-in-Chief of Nano Today, an international peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated to nanoscience and technology, and has 340 publications in leading journals. Also Prof. Ying has over 150 primary patents issued or pending, many which have been successfully licensed for commercialization by multinational companies and start-ups. One of the spin-off companies that she co- founded, SmartCells, Inc., has developed a technology platform that is capable of auto-regulating the release of insulin depending on the blood glucose levels.

The development of glucose-sensitive nanoparticles

How does it work? Prof. Ying’s laboratory developed glucose-sensitive nanoparticles that can auto-regulate the release of insulin depending on the blood glucose level. It’s a drug delivery system that bypasses the need for blood glucose monitoring by finger pricks. Instead of through injections, it allows insulin to be delivered orally or by nasal passage, benefitting the diabetic patients by helping to prevent hyperglycemic and hypoglycemic conditions and the associated organ damages.

Fascinating, right?! For her great work and this research, she won the Mustafa Prize “Top Scientific Achievement” Award on 24 December 2015. A prize that is not only granted to research that improves human life, but also a $500,000 top award in science and technology granted biennially to the top researchers and scientists of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation member states.


A special woman with a brilliant capacity and a role model for every Muslim and non-Muslim woman. Another example that shows the impact of women in science, a field that is mainly performed by men. On top of that a woman who follows the footsteps of different Sahabiyat (the female companions of the Prophet Muhammed) that could be found in politics, in education, in the court of islamic jurisprudence, in the interpretation of Shari’ah, in trade and commerce, in agriculture, in medicine and nursing.

Written by Sumaya El-Zaher