On Assignment
How I Spent My (Home Team) Summer: Work-from-Home Edition (Part 1)
Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the learning doesn't stop. Three undergrads share their internship journeys with the Home Team.

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GRAPHIC: Home Team News

Over 12 weeks, a group of students from various educational institutions stepped out of the classroom and into the world of applied psychological research, taking on a variety of topics as interns with the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre (HTBSC). 

With the guidance and support of their supervisors and fellow interns, an internship that began with awkward Zoom calls soon blossomed into a valuable learning and bonding experience, one made memorable by remote working and research. Here’s what they learnt! 

COMMUNICATING RISK DURING A HEALTH CRISIS
Jason Wong is a third-year undergraduate pursuing a Double Major in Psychology and Economics at Nanyang Technological University. For his research project, Jason delved into risk communication during health crises and its implications for the Home Team. 

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PHOTO: Jason Wong

Why did you decide to intern with HTBSC?
In Singapore, there’s often limited information available to students regarding career paths for Psychology majors. I decided to intern with HTBSC to gain some real-life experience on what it’s like to work in the Behavioural Sciences sector, as well as get relevant insights from professionals in the field. 

Why did you decide to work on the topic of risk communication during a health crisis?
I was assigned the general topic of risk communication at the start of the internship. After discussing it with my supervisors, I focused my research on the context of health crises as it’s highly relevant in light of COVID-19. 

As part of my project, I analysed comments on social media to find out what psychological needs people have during a health crisis. I found it meaningful to work on this project as it offers effective practices to communicators if similar crises arise in the future.

Share your most memorable experience of the internship.
It was during the HTBSC Webinar in July 2020 when I presented my research findings to around 80 participants that included our supervisors, professionals in the field and my fellow interns. This was the first time I’d spoken to such a large audience. Also, my fellow presenters had given really engaging presentations, so I wanted to match their standard. Fortunately, thanks to numerous rehearsals and much preparation, the Webinar was successful!

What are your key takeaways from your internship?
Other than improving my research skills and gaining applicable knowledge in risk communications and Psychology, I developed my self-discipline. As I worked remotely, this helped me to better motivate myself and ignore distractions in order to fulfil my tasks. 

I’ve also learnt to be more open-minded and proactive in communicating with others. This enriched my interactions with the other interns, whom I’ve formed lasting friendships with.

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Zooming in: To give interns a better sense of the research and career possibilities available to them, HTBSC supervisors organised a series of online "fireside" chats with officers from HTBSC, the Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Prison Service. PHOTOS: HTBSC

I also learnt how the different Home Team Departments work closely together. Officers from other Home Team Departments were occasionally invited to share their experiences with us over "fireside" chats on Zoom, which I found really interesting as I got to learn more about their roles. 

What’s your advice to other students who are keen on internships with HTBSC?
This internship is really useful for anyone considering a career path in Psychology, as you gain many valuable opportunities and get to experience what it’s like to work in this field. Don’t hesitate to apply for an internship, and prepare to work really hard. 

SAFEGUARDING ORGANISATIONS AGAINST ONLINE SCAMS
A final-year Psychology undergraduate with the National University of Singapore, Siti Mariam Mengin based her research project on Business Email Compromise (BEC) scam syndicates. Her research revealed the reasons why organisations are susceptible to such scams, and how we can counter them locally.

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PHOTO: Siti Mariam Mengin
 
Why did you decide to work on the topic of BEC scams?
I’ve always been interested in those who work behind the scenes to solve crimes. This started at quite a young age when I found myself hooked on TV shows like CSI, Criminal Minds and so on. Over the years, however, I came to learn that the ease with which crimes are solved on TV is definitely not what happens in real life, and it has always intrigued me why criminals do what they do, and how officers find and stop them. When the opportunity to do an internship with HTBSC popped up in my email, I knew I had to go for it. 

BEC scams are sophisticated cyber-attacks on companies and organisations. Between January and September 2019, the Singapore Police Force received over 250 reports of BEC scams, with at least $32 million lost. As I read more about such scams, I realised that although some organisations are already taking precautionary measures to safeguard themselves, they are still vulnerable. I was curious about the reasons for this. Was it the way the organisations communicated their cyber-security messages, or perhaps there were issues with their organisational security culture? Such questions guided me to my research topic.

What was the most challenging part of your research topic?
It was finding a relatable and concise manner to help someone who hasn’t studied Psychology or has no knowledge of BEC scams to understand my findings. It was very rewarding for me to see how the report eventually came together and to learn that other people, besides my supervisors and myself, found the topic interesting. To know that my work was worth the read is very encouraging. 

How has COVID-19 affected your internship?
It was rather intimidating to start the internship while working from home as I was unsure of the dynamics at HTBSC. Moreover, as someone who enjoys interactions in person, my motivation and focus were sometimes disrupted. 

However, the opportunity to work with other interns on various welfare-related activities definitely reminded us that we weren’t alone. It was always refreshing to have a short online get-together over lunch, and to watch shows or play games before we went back to work. Overall, I’d say it was definitely a different experience, but a memorable one. 

Share one thing you didn’t know about the Home Team before your internship.
I didn’t know that the work culture would be so positive and that the people in the Home Team would be so inclusive, responsive and supportive of my work. It was really encouraging to feel that we belonged to a larger group than just the interns, despite the fact that we were all working from home and couldn’t meet up. 

How has this internship influenced your career path?
My interest in pursuing research as a career in the future has increased. While it is not always easy work, the feeling of accomplishment one gets from completing a piece of research makes it worth it!

Any advice to your younger self who may be considering an internship?
Take a leap of faith and don’t worry. Through this internship, I’ve learnt so much more about myself in terms of my capabilities and values.

UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON JOBS
Wilson Lim is a final year Psychology student at University College London. His research project examines the psychological impact of unemployment, with a particular focus on that resulting from COVID-19. 

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PHOTO: Wilson Lim

Why did you decide to work on the topic of unemployment?
It’s a pressing issue as many individuals have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Research on this topic can help the increasingly large group of unemployed individuals, and I hope to contribute by informing relevant stakeholders about appropriate measures to address the psychological impact on unemployment.

I was very interested in interning with HTBSC after attending a career talk in London and learning more about its work for the Home Team. I’m keen on psychological research and have had previous experiences in academic research in London and Singapore, so I wanted to know how HTBSC’s research can be applied to policymaking. 

What did you look forward to in a typical day as an intern?

As we were all working from home, what I looked forward to depended on what day of the week it was! Highlights included the weekly welfare activities planned by my fellow interns, or casual lunches and games over Zoom with the team. Such activities really helped the interns know one another better. I’d like to thank our supervisors who helped us throughout our internship and really made us feel comfortable and well-looked-after from Day One! :) 

What are your key takeaways from the internship?
My key takeaway is a greater understanding of the variety of work that HTBSC does, and how its work can be applied in a multitude of areas within the Home Team, and also with its partners. 

I also gained insight into the research process in the Public Service and how HTBSC’s research can have an impact on policy decisions. After seeing the meaningful work done by HTBSC, I’d consider pursuing psychological research within the Public Service. This was something I hadn’t considered much before my internship.


Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre (HTBSC)
Based at the Home Team Academy, HTBSC provides support to Home Team officers by conducting pioneering research into areas where Behavioural Sciences can act as an operational multiplier. HTBSC internships are open to Polytechnic and University students. For more information, email MHA_HTBSC_COMMS@mha.gov.sg.

© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.


  1. by Vivian Moh
  2. 13 August 2020
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