Page 1

ALUMNUS JAN–MAR 2013 // issue 92

alumni magazine of The national university of singapore



making of a research university NUS charts a steady course in its quest to be a global player


Ethics of economics

Prof Lim Chong Yah on the impact of income equality

Agent of change

Noor Quek’s remarkable work for breast cancer awareness

Seasons of love Many hands, one spirit of celebration: Among the many Eusoffians who contributed to the Corridor of Love project were Ms Thilaiga Ramakrishnan (Design and Environment), Ms Selena Zhang (Computing), Ms Lim Chern Tze (Arts and Social Sciences) and Mr Ngo Hoang Gia (Engineering).



Advisor Assoc Prof Lim Meng Kin (Medicine ’74) Publishing Consultant MediaCorp Pte Ltd Contact us Office of Alumni Relations National University of Singapore 11 Kent Ridge Drive Singapore 119244 Tel: (65) 6516-5775 Email: Website:


he Corridor of Love project remembers and celebrates students who met and found love along the corridors of Eusoff Hall. Spanning the length of a wall on the lower level of the hall, the mural was painted by the talented student artists of EusoffWorks. “About 15 of us volunteers worked on the

2 10

In The News Cover Story The Making of a research university

20 Changemaker Keeping ABREAST of change

mural,” recalls Ms Andrea Lau (Arts and Social Sciences), the project coordinator. “Whenever any of us had a free moment, we would come and paint it. Many hallmates also helped with a literal brushstroke or two.” A quiet testament to affections past and present that have taken root and

blossomed at NUS, the mural took two months to complete. The response to it has been gratifying. “The Eusoffian community, including many of our alumni, have been really receptive towards the mural,” says Ms Lau. “Some of us even joke about seeing our own photos on the wall one day!”



32 U@Live Featuring Dr Kumaran



Rasappan, Mr Adam Khoo and Mr Tan Chuan-Jin




36 Alumni Happenings





Cover FInal V5.indd 1

1/18/13 5:19 PM

Art Direction: Augustine Tan, Neo Aik Sing


26 Once upon a Memory Dancing his way


through Uni


JAN–MAR 2013 // ISSUE 92



28 Alumni Scene The Path Less Trodden


42 Culture

The AlumNUS Magazine is published quarterly by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations or the National University of Singapore. For more information or to read AlumNUS online, please visit sg/alumnet.

46 Class Notes

Copyright 2013 by the National University of Singapore. All rights reserved.

48 Last Word

Printed in Singapore by KHL Printing Co Pte Ltd.

Jan–Mar 2013


In The News

Of whales and the campus tsunami

The impact of global changes on education and research at NUS — and how the university can rise to the occasion.


hutan, London, the Amazon Basin and Tonga – these were just some of the global touchstones that NUS President Prof Tan Chorh Chuan invoked in his State of the University Address. Speaking at the University Cultural Centre on 12 October 2012 to members of NUS’ extended family, he drew from his experiences in these faraway places to emphasise NUS’ singular commitment to giving students the best possible education. An annual university tradition since 2000, the State of the University Address is one of the highlights of the academic calendar. Among the audience were members of NUS extended family, including members of the Board of Trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and students. Speaking to the assembly, Prof Tan noted how three global trends – a veritable “digital tsunami” – will impact the way students learn. These trends were the commoditisation of and access to information; enhanced connectivity via technology; and the increasingly complex global environment. The key to understanding and addressing these challenges? “We must redouble our central focus on the ‘training of critical minds’,” affirmed Prof Tan. To equip students with the skills needed to take on future challenges, Prof Tan announced that a S$5 million fund would be established to support technology-enhanced learning at NUS. “[We want to create] a learning Speaking to over 250 guests at the University Cultural Centre, Prof Tan also emphasised the need for NUS to scale new peaks in the social sciences and humanities to complement the university’s established strengths in science, technology, engineering and biomedical research.



Experiential learning, through faceto-face interactions and teamwork, is a crucial part of the training of the mind and the development of the whole person, and is part of the unique value of the university experience. NUS President Prof Tan Chorh Chuan environment where students are encouraged and challenged to think about issues differently, to question assumptions and to explore novel approaches,” he explained. The new Learning Innovation Fund-Technology (LIF-T) programme will support proposals from all NUS faculties and schools, as well as selected redesigns of courses with large class sizes and NUS start-ups that come up with fresh learning products. Prof Tan also encouraged students to play a proactive role in their own education. “Experiential learning, through face-to-face interactions and teamwork, is a crucial part of the

training of the mind and the development of the whole person, and is part of the unique value of the university experience,” he noted. Prof Tan closed with a call to action for the university community: “Regardless of whether a campus tsunami comes or does not, we will place ourselves strategically for the future, and make NUS a leading global university centred in Asia.” For more on the State of the University Address 2012, visit And to learn about Prof Tan’s close encounter with humpback whales off the coast of Tonga, go to page 48.

Ready for LIF-T off Students, get ready to expand your horizons. A range of pilot programmes at NUS has demonstrated the great potential of technology-enhanced learning for students. According to Prof Tan, the university’s new LIF-T (Learning Innovation Fund — Technology) programme will support three thrusts to take this to new heights: • An annual call for proposals from all schools at NUS • A targeted programme redesign of courses with large class sizes, particularly in the Faculties of Science, Engineering, and Arts and Social Sciences • Supporting NUS start-ups with novel educational products to demonstrate how these can enhance learning at the university NUS will also seek to transform its IVLE (Integrated Virtual LEarning) platform and build academic support teams to assist faculty in redesigning their courses.

Jan–Mar 2013


In The News

Indonesian welcome

Par for the course Friendly

Enjoying a warm reception from NUS alumni. During a state visit to Indonesia from 27 November to 1 December 2012, Singapore President and NUS Chancellor Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam attended a reception hosted for Indonesian alumni of Singaporean institutes of higher learning. In attendance were more than 200 distinguished guests from various Singaporean universities, including many NUS alumni.

Addressing guests at the reception, President Tan encouraged alumni to maintain their ties with Singapore. “[You] play a key role in strengthening SingaporeIndonesia ties through the friends that you make, the links that you establish, and the experiences that you share,” he noted. “These strong peopleto-people ties underpin the entire bilateral relationship.”

President Tony Tan and Mrs Mary Tan with NUS alumni in Jakarta, Indonesia

Operatic flair

A doyenne of Chinese opera takes the stage at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House.

Mrs Joanna Wong



Photo album WCFC2G

Over two evenings in October 2012, audiences thrilled to a unique theatrical offering, one that brought a fresh twist to a classical art form. The occasion? Two performances of Intrigues in the Qing Imperial Court by the Chinese Theatre Circle at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House. Organised by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations and the NUS Senior Alumni with the support of the NUS National Service Pioneers Association, the event drew appreciative audiences and marked another exciting alumni cultural highlight. Gracing the performance on opening night on 13 October was Guest-of-Honour Ms Priscylla Shaw, Member of the Shaw Foundation. Other guests in attendance were NUS Pro-Chancellors Mr Po’ad Mattar and Mr Ngiam Tong Dow; Mr Edward D’Silva, Member of NUS’ Board of Trustees; Prof Lim Pin; former Vice-Chancellor of NUS; NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost Prof Tan Eng Chye; and Prof Wang Gungwu, Chairman of the Managing Board of NUS’ Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. The opera itself proved as intriguing as its title. Exploring themes of patriotism and love thwarted by naked ambition, it had one remarkable twist: while its stylised movements and splendid costumes were

very much a part of traditional Chinese opera, all of the roles were performed in English. As playwright Mr Leslie Wong noted in his opening remarks to the audience, Intrigues in the Qing Imperial Court is the first-ever full-length Chinese opera to be sung in English. By recasting the dialogue and lyrics, the opera lent a

striking new dimension to a well-loved art form. Another highlight of the night was the performance of Mrs Joanna Wong (Science ‘63), recipient of the Cultural Medallion for Theatre (1981). A doyenne of Chinese opera, Mrs Wong brought a sense of authority, fire and cunning to the role of the Empress Dowager Cixi.

Bouquets and hurrahs A wonderful performance and production by Mr Leslie Wong and Mrs Joanna Wong — our very own alumni. Special thanks also to Dr Rosemary Khoo and the members of the NUS Senior Alumni, truly gems of our alumni, as well as the Office of Alumni Relations for its support. The unwavering passion, professionalism and enthusiasm

displayed by the cast as well as Leslie and Joanna was heartening and overwhelming, and I hope that they can be recognised at a national level and perform to a wider audience! I also hope that this event will inspire our younger alumni to come forth and display their cultural talents. Mr Edward D’Silva (Architecture, Building and Real Estate ’75), Member of NUS’ Board of Trustees

My family and I enjoyed the opera. Being sung in English made it fully accessible, and we could appreciate it better. The playwright’s refreshing weaving together of Western and Chinese cultures kept me riveted the whole night, as did the beautiful costumes. Please extend our grateful thanks to those who worked so hard to bring us an enjoyable night. Ms Fang Mei Chin (Arts and Social Sciences ’04)

competition and a common school spirit forged over many years — these were the presiding themes of our 21st NUS Alumni and Friends Golf Tournament. Held at the Raffles Country Club on 24 October 2012, the occasion saw about 140 golfers taking part. Among the many alumni stalwarts in attendance were Mr David Ho, NUS Alumni Advisory Board member and President of the NUS Society (NUSS) and Mr Simon Phua, President of the NUS Business School Alumni Association. Taking the honours at the InterFaculty Chancellor Challenge Trophy was the Faculty of Engineering, with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences close behind. The Business School Tournament Challenge Trophy was won by the BBA golfers. The guest-of-honour for the evening dinner at the NUSS Kent Ridge Guild House was NUS Pro-Chancellor Mr Ngiam Tong Dow. Also lending his support to the occasion was Mr Lai Kim Seng, former member of the NUS Alumni Advisory Board.

Movie moment

Snake demons, star-crossed lovers and fearless assassins — these were just some of the intriguing characters that graced the screen in November 2012 at the inaugural China Film Festival. Having brought two wildly popular editions of the Canadian Film Forum to campus, the NUS Office of Alumni Relations was pleased to offer this latest cinematic treat in collaboration with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China and the Singapore-China Friendship Association. Speaking to audience members on opening night, Mr Dai Bing, Charge d’Affaires of the China Embassy, noted the enduring appeal of cinema and its ability to entertain and edify. “Film is a window to witness the culture of a country,” he said to the capacity crowd. “Film is also a bridge for people to exchange ideas and enhance mutual understanding.” This sentiment was also echoed by Prof KK Phua, President of the Singapore-China Friendship Association. Among the guests who attended the opening night screening were Prof Tan Eng Chye, Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost of NUS, and an assembly of alumni stalwarts, senior faculty and guests, as well as members of the international diplomatic corps.

Jan–Mar 2013


In The News

Global renewal


Taking over the helm at our Overseas Alumni Chapters.

Mr Brahm Majithia

Mr David Lim Chow Thong

Ms Cheung Wai San

In January 2013, three of our alumni stalwarts handed over their roles to a new cohort of leaders. Mr Brahm Majithia (Business ’00), Mr David Lim Chow Thong (Arts and Social Sciences ’87) and Ms Cheung Wai San (Engineering ’05), the Chairpersons of our New Delhi, Beijing and Hong Kong Overseas Alumni Chapters respectively, stepped down from their respective positions in December. Their roles have been assumed by Mr Prashant Pundrik (Business ’08), Mr Lyon Sun Liyong (Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy ’11) and Mr Tang Kin Ching (Computing ’07) with effect from 1 January 2013. The NUS Office of Alumni Relations would like to thank Mr Majithia, Mr Lim and Ms Cheung for their passionate leadership and distinguished service to their alma mater. We also welcome Mr Pundrik, Mr Sun and Mr Tang to their new roles.

Breast cancer link to ethnicity // A joint study by researchers in Singapore and Malaysia has found differences in breast cancer size, severity and survival rate among various ethnic groups. It was found that 79.8 per cent of Malay patients completed treatment compared with 92.7 per cent of Chinese patients and 90.2 per cent of Indian patients. “As clinicians, we have the impression that breast cancer presentation varies between the three ethnic groups here in Singapore,” explained team member Asst Prof Mikael Hartman of NUS’ Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. “The impression is that Malay women present later and are less likely to accept all treatment options that are offered to them.” The study of 5,200 patients from Singapore and Malaysia was conducted in 2011 and published in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE in 2012.

Mr Prashant Pundrik

Mr Lyon Sun Liyong

Mr Tang Kin Ching

Women in science and medicine // The inaugural ‘Women in Science and Medicine’ dialogue on 5 November 2012 cast the spotlight on outstanding women clinicians and scientists. Jointly organised by NUS’ Cancer Science Institute of Singapore as well as the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine’s Department of Biochemistry and Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the event allowed participants to share their academic and research achievements and experiences in managing both career and family.

NUS has 16 Overseas Alumni Chapters in major cities around the world. To learn more about them, visit

King’s College honours In November 2012, NUS President Prof Tan Chorh Chuan became the first Singaporean to receive an Honorary Doctor of Medicine degree from King’s College London. Honorary degrees at King’s College are awarded “in recognition of an individual’s conspicuous merit as demonstrated by their outstanding distinction.” Three other leading lights who were honoured at the presentation

ceremony on 13 November were renowned science writer Mr Bill Bryson, the award-winning chemist Prof Christopher Martin Dobson of Cambridge University and the Right Honourable The Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. With a medical career in nephrology, Prof Tan helmed the NUS Department of Medicine before being appointed Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Chairman of the NUH Medical Board. He served as NUS Provost and Senior Deputy President before becoming President in 2008. “I am honoured and humbled to be the first Singaporean to receive this recognition by King’s College, alongside other outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions in their respective fields,” said Prof Tan.

Prof Tan is also the recipient of the National Science and Technology Medal (2008), the Singapore Public Service Star (2003) and the Public Administration Medal (Gold, 2004). 6


physicians, nurses and allied health professionals, the course allows students to better understand the challenges faced by patients.

Sharing their experiences at the dialogue session was Guest-ofHonour Mrs Josephine Teo (fourth from left), Minister of State for Finance and Transport, as well as leading women clinicians and scientists from NUS.

Engineered healing // Patients at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) can look forward to more “engineered” help in their recovery process via an Engineering-in-Medicine module specially created by NUS. Since August 2012, a pioneering batch of Engineering students has been learning about rehabilitation medicine by interacting with patients afflicted with stroke, Parkinson’s Disease as well as brain and spinal cord injuries. Jointly conducted by NUS Engineering faculty,

Homegrown innovation // NUS spin-off Clearbridge BioMedics scored three awards at the Asian Innovation Awards 2012, including the top Gold Prize. The first firm to achieve this feat, it also clinched The Credit Suisse Technopreneur of the Year Award and the Audience’s Choice Award at the presentation ceremony in Hong Kong in November 2012. Organised by The Wall Street Journal Asia and Credit Suisse, the awards acknowledge inventions or innovations that adopt creative approaches to improving quality of life or productivity. Sofshell, another Singaporean start-up that develops body armour applications, won the Silver Prize. The company was cofounded by NUS engineering alumnus Dr Davy Cheong. Prof Lim Chwee Teck (right) of NUS, cofounder of Clearbridge BioMedics; and Mr Johnson Chen, the firm’s Managing Director, with their awards

Tech accolades // A team comprising an NUS clinician-scientist and a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) researcher has been recognised at the President’s Science and Technology Awards 2012. At a ceremony on 30 October 2012, Prof Lawrence Ho Khek Yu, Chair of University Medicine Cluster, National University Health System, together with Assoc Prof Louis Phee of NTU, received the President’s Technology Award. Prof Ho and Assoc Prof Phee collaborated on the development of the world’s first robotic flexible endoscopy system. At the ceremony, Asst Prof Chen Wei of NUS was also named one of three winners of the 2012 Young Scientist Award. Asst Prof Chen is attached to the Departments of Chemistry and Physics.

(From left) NUS students Ms Chong Ming and Ms Hui Lin observing patient Mr Joseph Phua (second from right), assisted by SGH Principal Physiotherapist Mr Adon Chan and Dr Ng Yee Sien (right), Head and Senior Consultant at the SGH Department of Rehabilitation Medicine.

Jan–Mar 2013


In The News

Learning legacies // In October 2012, the London School of Economics (LSE) announced that a new building at the university’s Central London campus would be named in honour of Prof Saw Swee Hock (Arts and Social Sciences ‘56, ‘61), member of the NUS Board of Trustees, Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and distinguished alumnus. This honour follows a gift from Prof Saw to the LSE, his alma mater. In 2011, Prof Saw donated S$30 million to NUS to establish the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

LAMP light

Alumni lend a supporting hand to young lawyers-to-be. A collaboration between the Career Centre@Law and the Law Alumni Office, the NUS Law Alumni Mentor Programme (LAMP) connects first- and second-year law students with recent graduates who have pledged their time and mentorship. Launched in November 2012, LAMP has 87 registered mentors and 133 mentees to date, a number that is set to rise. “As an undergraduate, your exposure to legal practice is almost zero – save, of course, if you do internships over the holidays, but even that is quite different,” said Mr Kenny Low, President of the NUS Law Club and a LAMP mentee. “Having a mentor practitioner to share their personal experiences, to clarify doubts and answer questions, is an invaluable opportunity for students.” The response from alumni has been gratifying as well. “LAMP will hopefully give those students insight into the realities of practice and will similarly give mentors the opportunity to keep in touch with the positive developments in Law School,” said Mr Sunil Sudheesan (Law ’04), a partner with RHT Taylor Wessing. “As a mentor, I hope to enrich my mentees with the varied experience I enjoyed in Law School and the vagaries of practice I have seen as a young lawyer. 8


Finally, I am happy that NUS Law School is taking an added step in its preparation of its students for practice. We alumni are proud of where we come from, but the batches that follow us will have more to be grateful for with innovative programmes such as LAMP.”

A scholar’s life // As one of the pre-eminent historians in Asia, Prof Wang Gungwu (Arts and Social Sciences ‘52, ‘56), Chairman of NUS’ East Asian Institute, has made a lasting contribution to the study of the Chinese diaspora and the history of the region. In November 2012, we celebrated the launch of Wang Gungwu: Educator and Scholar, a volume celebrating his life and scholarly writings. Published by World Scientific, the book serves as an essential guide to the contributions of this distinguished historian.

For more on our alumni talents, read Class Notes on page 46.

Mr Gerald Kuppusamy (Law ‘00, left), Senior Legal Consultant with Baker & McKenzie, with his mentees during the launch of LAMP.

Correction // In our previous issue, we mislabelled this photograph; the correct caption should have been: Prof K Prabhakaran (left), recipient of the National Outstanding Clinician Award and Assoc Prof Lim Tock Han, recipient of the National Outstanding Clinician Educator Award. We apologise for the error.

Prof Wang Gungwu

Meeting of minds // On 6 December 2012, about 60 NUS alumni and guests gathered at a reception in honour of Prof Pericles Lewis, founding President of YaleNUS College, in midtown Manhattan. Sharing the vision and mission of the college, Prof Lewis updated alumni on the latest developments about its academic programme. As a publisher of journals and books with a focus on Asia-related social sciences and humanities, NUS Press is committed to enhancing the impact and relevance of scholarly communications in the region.

Prof Saw Swee Hock

Faster, higher, stronger // The NUS Office of Student Affairs celebrated the achievements of teamNUS athletes at its annual NUS Sports Awards Ceremony on 9 November 2012. Held at the University Cultural Centre, the occasion saw our student athletes trading their training gear for evening wear. Guest-of-Honour NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost Prof Tan Eng Chye congratulated the honorees for their achievements. Also in attendance were 600 guests comprising the university community, friends from the sports fraternity, athletes, parents and alumni. The NUS Sports Awards celebrate students who have contributed to the sporting community and represented NUS at various athletic competitions. The NUS President Sports Awards (team and individual honours) went to the NUS Water Polo team and Ms Jasmine Ser for shooting respectively.

Print excellence // In December 2012, NUS Press won accolades for two of its books written by Singaporean authors at the 6th Asian Publishing Awards. Freedom from the Press: Journalism and State Power in Singapore by Dr Cherian George received the Excellence Award for Best Book on the Asian Media Industry. The book analyses Singapore’s media system and serves as a primer on the ongoing debate of journalism and politics in the Lion City. Also winning accolades was Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore by Mr Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh. Documenting the widely differing views of residents in both countries, the book won the Excellence Award for Best Insights into Asian Societies.

Among the notable guests at the reception were Mr Albert Chua (left), Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations, and Mr Daniel Gluck, Director of the NUS America Foundation.

Prof Tan (fifth from left) with our outstanding student athletes.

Jan–Mar 2013


Cover Story

The National University of Singapore has come to be acknowledged as a Top 30 global university with a team of internationally-acclaimed researchers. Deputy President in charge of Research and Technology Prof Barry Halliwell charts the incline of the last 10 years with Alum NUS. By Theresa Tan



t Photos: Getty Images

of a

“A university has three functions: education, research and service to the community. Some people speak of these as if they compete, but in fact they synergise.”



his statement by Prof Barry Halliwell, the Deputy President (Research and Technology) at the National University of Singapore (NUS), encapsulates the strong focus that the university has been putting on research in the past decade. Research is not new to NUS, but building a culture of and reputation for world-class research across many different disciplines – from microbiology and engineering to geography – is a work in progress. Prof Halliwell is the key person responsible for driving this agenda. “NUS is a good university, well on its way to becoming an outstanding one,” declares Prof Halliwell, who is an internationally-acclaimed British biochemist known best for his seminal work on the role of free radicals and antioxidants in biological systems. He is one of the world’s most highly-cited researchers in biology and biochemistry. His h-index – which measures the impact and productivity Jan–Mar 2013


Cover Story

of the published work of a scientist – is 132, a figure that places him in good stead to head NUS’ research strategy. Prof Halliwell, who graduated from Oxford University with a BA (First Class) and DPhil degrees, and who holds a DSc degree from University of London, was a faculty member of King’s College at the University of London. From 1998 to 2000, he was a Visiting Professor of Biochemistry at NUS before he made the move to head the university’s Department of Biochemistry in 2001. That was, as he puts it, “when the [Singapore] government was beginning to realise the importance of research and they were investing funds into it. This was one key factor that attracted highlevel researchers; having worked in the UK and USA, I saw it as an opportunity to try something different in a new environment.” Prof Halliwell also runs his own research group, and his personal research won him the Outstanding Researcher Award from NUS in early 2012. “I was honoured to receive the award; it recognised my work as a researcher,” he says. In his current role, Prof Halliwell demonstrates a keen understanding of what attracts great minds. Proof of this lies in the growing number of internationally-acclaimed researchers who have made NUS their research base, including Brazil-born American Prof Antonio Castro Neto, who now heads the university’s Graphene Research Centre (graphene is the strongest material in the world and its discoverers won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010); and Prof Paul Thomas Matsudaira from the USA, codirector of the Mechanobiology Institute, who was the former Professor of Biology and Bioengineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both joined NUS in 2009.

“In a sense, the university’s philosophy is that we should have a broad range of high-quality research,” Prof Halliwell explains. “It’s a mistake to focus on, say, five topics and say, ‘We are all going to do research on that.’ In any leading university, researchers choose what they want to research on, subject to being able to get resources for it. And when academics are recruited into the university, you are interested in getting people who are excellent researchers. The breadth of research is very important because you never know what you need next. “For example, the Faculty of Science has been doing excellent work on plant science [with] just a handful of people and, until recently, all the emphasis on life sciences has been biomedical. The plant scientists found difficulty getting resources. It now turns out that plant sciences are extremely important for biodiversity, crop productivity, food security and so on. So this group is now getting substantial funding.” What Prof Halliwell is helping to build at NUS is a research ecosystem that avails a wealth of possibilities, from new areas of study to unique collaborations across disciplines. He elaborates: “When you examine an issue like ageing, it really is a big challenge because there’s a biomedical aspect, there’s a basic science aspect – what causes ageing – that we are interested in. “There is another aspect of, ‘if there are more elderly people in society, how should society adapt to that? How do you finance retirement? How do you alter lifestyles to promote healthy ageing? Equally important, how do you persuade people to adopt lifestyle changes? If you have more elderly people working in an industry, how can you adapt the environment and so on?’ And in order to do research on those questions, you need biologists, doctors, nurses, architects, city planners, social scientists, behavioural scientists, economists, mathematicians, etc. And it’s only the university that has that breadth of expertise.” On top of that broad base of research, Prof Halliwell says, “We want to have a number of areas, probably up to about 10, in which really we are exceptionally good – top five in the world – so that these would be the particular areas of research that the university is known for.” Three research areas that he feels NUS is already among the global leaders are quantum science, gastric cancer and lipidomics. Prof Halliwell emphasises that one of NUS’ strong points is being “able to do very good things by bringing people together”. “[When it comes to] research at NUS, people



Photo of Prof Halliwell by Hong Chee Yan; other photo iStockphoto

In a sense, the university’s philosophy is that we should have a broad range of highquality research.

often think of science, technology and engineering. But research into areas like law, humanities, human psychology, social science, philosophy, and history is important in its own right, and especially important because it intersects with all the other different areas to help answer complex questions.” What Prof Halliwell is proudest of is how he has worked with NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost Prof Tan Eng Chye to bring in excellent researchers, as well as enable young local and foreign recruits to develop their careers at NUS: “One thing we put particular emphasis on is getting people to talk to one another. This is very important because one of our strengths in research is bringing skills together. We promote different groups working together; that’s one of our key strategies.” Within one of the newest research buildings, T-Lab, there are several research groups. T-Lab has been designed such that everyone shares a common pool of meeting rooms, pantries and other such areas. “It means people meet each other and they talk to each other and then things happen,” says Prof Halliwell. “On one floor we have people working on material science, a very strong group. On another floor, we have the research centre of excellence on mechanobiology. They are working together now on a number of projects. The mechanobiologists are studying

tissues and how they respond to stress, and so on. The material scientists are constantly creating and studying the properties of new materials. “So now, the mechanobiologists are putting cells on some of this new material to see what happens. And you get all kinds of strange things happening. Take the stem cell, which can become any cell in the body. One of the things that influences this is the level of free radicals in the environment that make it become one kind of cell, as opposed to another one. But the second is what it’s sitting on – is it a soft matrix or stiff matrix or a different material? And that’s where material science comes in.” How has progress been in the last 10 years? “The [university] rankings tell you,” he replies. “There weren’t rankings 10 years ago but if there had been, NUS would have been in the top 300, 400. Now, certainly the university’s reputation puts it in the top 50. If you look at the top 10, they are the same universities all the time and they have been around a lot longer than we have. So that’s very rapid change for NUS.”

Prof Barry Halliwell, Deputy President (Research and Technology) at NUS

Jan–Mar 2013


Cover Story

Prof Paul Matsudaira

Assoc Prof Lim Kah Leong (Science ’92, ’99)

Head, Department of Biological Science, Faculty of Science

Department of Physiology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

An NUS alumnus, Prof Lim also heads the Neurodegeneration Research Laboratory at the National Neuroscience Institute. His passion for neuroscience has resulted in The Brain Book, a book for youth that he co-created with NUS High students.

Before joining NUS, Prof Matsudaira was with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 24 years as its Professor of Biology and Bioengineering.

Recently, you, with your research team at NUS, determined the role of the protein parkin in reducing tumor growth. Tell us about that discovery. In essence, we found that parkin expression in brain cancer cells can determine the survival outcome and disease progression of patients; that is, those who have high parkin expression in their cancer cells tend to survive longer with lower tumour grades than their parkin-deficient counterparts. Instead of generalising malignant brain cancer patients, we can now differentiate their tumours based on molecular characteristics. This is clinically significant as the stratification would allow doctors to formulate the most appropriate treatment for each patient. We further found that restoration of parkin expression in parkin-deficient cells can

Why did you say “yes” to NUS after establishing such a great reputation at MIT? What attracted you here? While on sabbatical in 2008, my family liked Singapore, especially the schools. When I realised that I could push my research in a new direction, saying “yes” suddenly became easier.

Have you seen anything happening in the research here that excites you? Anything that could potentially put Singapore on the world research map? The three Research Centres of Excellence – the Centre for Quantum Technologies, the Mechanobiology Institute (MBI) and the Cancer Science Institute – are doing exciting stuff; NUSNNI (NUS Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Institute) and the NUS Graphene Research Centre are also beacons of excellence. I think they have already put NUS on the world map. You are the co-director of the MBI Research Centre of Excellence at NUS. What standards does it have to uphold and are you happy with it? The biggest difference is that an MBI faculty member is a different kind of biologist, being a cross between a biologist, engineer and physicist. The 14


competition to get an appointment at MBI is keen; the standards set very high. It is better than I imagined it could be. Starting from nothing, in four short years, MBI is on the world stage. With regard to your personal research, what are you working on? We developed a way to look at water and protein in water in the electron microscope. We have described some unusual properties of water at the nano-scale. We are excited at the prospects of watching proteins “do their thing” in real-time. Currently, the field looks at dried or frozen specimens; our work advances the field in a new direction. You are one of very few Heads of Department who teaches an entire course. What do you enjoy about teaching? What benefits does it bring? I am teaching biochemistry to the engineers and having a blast. We are at a university, so teaching is part of our mission. I believe that teaching gives me the “big picture” perspective as well as the significant details. I learn more as a result. It is also a reason why we write textbooks. You become an expert on a broad topic. I am a better researcher because I teach. The students benefit from

learning a unified and hopefully logical treatment of, in this case, biochemistry. Better wait until the term ends; the students may have a different opinion. What is your “Holy Grail” as a researcher? To meet John Cleese. More seriously, I would like to solve the 3D structure of protein from pictures taken while the protein diffuses and tumbles in water. But it will require a new kind of electron microscope. I could use another S$5 million to build one. Where does NUS stand in terms of global research? If you compare us to the University of California campuses, we would be behind Berkeley, UCLA, and UCSF (School of Medicine) but on par or better than the rest. I think we are catching up to UCLA despite it being a much bigger school.

How close are we to a cure for Parkinson’s disease? PD is a prevalent neurodegenerative movement disorder that affects millions that, despite intensive research, remains incurable. The disease presents significant socio-economic, emotional and healthcare problems, which is a concern for Singapore as it faces a rapidly-ageing population. We are trying to understand why and how a select population of neurons important for the regulation of movement degenerates in the PD brain; and also what can be done to stop its relentless progression. We have created different animal models of PD to help us understand the disease mechanism and to test candidate therapeutic compounds. Flies can suffer from PD-like symptoms if we genetically engineered them to carry human disease-causing gene mutations. Notably, we have recently found a potent drug target through such a platform. My standing joke these days is that we have finally found a cure for PD, but you have to be a fly! But seriously, the discovery that we have made with fly PD models is not trivial as we now have the muchneeded roadmap to navigate models that are more relevant to humans.

Understanding the science of life is fundamental, but improving human lives as a result is monumental.

Photos by Ealbert Ho

How does NUS fare in terms of research on an international scale? The papers published by NUS hold their own internationally. We have a solid base of research that is getting better everyday. My department is comparing itself with the top 50 research-intensive state universities in the US, and there is only a handful better than us.

slow down their proliferation rate and dramatically decrease their tumour size. We are currently testing drugs that can mimic parkin’s protective function against the aggression of brain tumours. The above discovery was a result of a multi-institutional collaborative effort that involved investigators at NUS, Duke-NUS, the National Neuroscience Institute and the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences. The study was conceived in 2006 when I noticed a few published reports by others implicating a possible role for parkin in cancer. Mutations in parkin are more commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and neurodegeneration. Cancer and neurodegeneration are such disparate disorders that one would hardly consider them two peas in the same pod. It took a

leap of faith to examine the untested and curious role of parkin in cancer, particularly when my lab is better known for its research into PD. As we got more results supporting our hypothesis, we roped in other experts to help us with the study, and our collaborative effort culminated in a publication in the prestigious Cancer Research journal in 2012.

What do you dream of discovering that could change the world of neuroscience? I once told a reporter: “Winning prizes is motivational, understanding the science of life is fundamental, but improving human lives as a result is monumental.” My dream is simple: I just want to do my science, try my best to understand life with the hope that one day I, too, could save lives. Jan–Mar 2013


Cover Story Prof Venky Venkatesan Director, NanoCore

that do not yet exist in the market, using the latest scientific equipment.” What might some of these new devices be? The number of applications is only limited by our imagination. However, there are already several targets set by industrial giants such as Samsung and BASF: bendable and wearable transparent displays for personal portable devices; low-cost, large-area, highly-flexible solar cells for energyefficient buildings; a new generation of Li-based batteries that can store 10 times more charge than current batteries and can be easily integrated to a “smart grid” of renewable energy; and medicine delivering nano-devices that are bio-compatible and can target specific regions inside the human body. These are just a few examples.

Prof Venkatesan was at the Center for Superconductivity Research at the University of Maryland for 17 years.

What is some of the groundbreaking research that is happening at NanoCore? To name a few: We are making crystalline films of oxides, assembling them literally atom-by-atom such that we can now create some extraordinary interfaces of materials, some of which had never existed before. For example, if we take two canonical insulators, lanthanum aluminate

Distinguished Prof Antonio Castro Neto

Director, Graphene Research Centre and strontium titanate, and create an atomically sharp interface between them, then this interface becomes a metal, and further, this interface also exhibits unusual magnetic properties, even though there are none of the traditional magnetic elements at this interface! Similarly, we are able to take an insulator such as lanthanum aluminate and, by applying a suitable electrical voltage on it, convert it to a metallic state that is completely reversible! In fact, we now have a scheme by which we believe we can tailor the electronic properties of a variety of insulators to make them into conductors. Under this scheme, a material that is a transparent insulator could be made into an opaque conductor, which itself is intriguing! We have novel imaging using helium ions focused to spot sizes of the order of just a hydrogen molecule, which enables us to modify and image objects with incredible spatial resolution.

I hope our nano institute will welcome the most creative minds in Singapore and beyond so that we have a vibrant, exciting environment. 16


What is your vision for the centre in the next 10 years? The greatest ideas are at the interfaces between fields. Part of the reason for this is that such boundaries between fields are the least explored and have the lowest hanging fruits. So it is critical that in order to set up a globally competitive research institute, we create an environment where people of different backgrounds get to talk to each other openly. The greatness of Bell Labs arose from a rich collaborative environment where there were very few walls. You talk to someone in the dining hall and run to your lab to work on a new idea that you gleaned over a plate of eggplant Parmigiana! So I hope our nano institute will welcome the most creative minds in Singapore and beyond so that we have a vibrant, exciting environment. I anticipate that over the next few years, we will be making some major breakthroughs here that will have global impact. Over the next 10 years, we want to be perceived as one of the formidable trendsetters in this field.

Prof Castro Neto is a leading researcher in the field of the recently-discovered super material, graphene.

Photos by Ealbert Ho and Hong Chee Yan

What attracted you to NUS and NanoCore? I was a researcher and manager at Bell Labs and Bellcore for about 17 years, and I spent another 17 years as a Professor at the Center for Superconductivity Research at the University of Maryland. I left Bell for Maryland as I founded my own company, which still exists. I have been involved with the development of a number of technologies and a variety of exciting scientific phenomena over those years, and the most consuming thought in my mind during my last years at Maryland was to set up a research institute equivalent to a mini Bell Labs. When I ran into Prof Shih Choon Fong, the then-President of NUS, around 2006, at a meeting in Harvard, he extended an invitation to me to visit NUS. That is how it all got started: the building of a nano institute in Singapore. The NUS administration held their promise in providing the support I needed and hence, it was possible for me to set up such a facility here.

As director, what are your key goals for the Graphene Research Centre in the next 10 years? Our main target is to be the world leaders in the synthesis, characterisation and development of a new class of devices based on two-dimensional crystals. This is a new and revolutionary technology that uses atomically-thin films of complex crystalline systems as the main components in all sorts of devices, from flexible electronics and solar energy, to medicine and biology. Therefore, this is a technology with huge potential markets. The flexible and transparent electronics market alone is expected to reach US$35 billion in 2020. NUS is investing S$15 million to build a graphene fabrication facility. You have said that “the facility would use graphene to develop new technologies for flexible and transparent electronics and new devices

What attracted you to NUS? NUS is one of the best universities in the world and on its way to becoming the number one in Asia. As the “centre of gravity” of science and technology moves towards Asia, Singapore could possibly become its main hub because it is respected worldwide for its longterm science and technology policies, its serious investment in research and development, its cosmopolitan nature,

its history of social inclusion and the fact that English is a working language. NUS, being Singapore’s most prestigious and respected university, is at the centre of this revolution. Tell us about the collaborative research done between stem cell and graphene researchers. How long before we are likely to see artificial limbs or liver cells? Stem cells in particular grow very well in graphene. This happens because graphene is thin, flexible, carbon-based and hence bio-compatible. Researchers at the Graphene Research Centre have shown that stem cells not only grow very well on graphene, but that graphene can also influence how stem cells differentiate into other types of cells such as bone, muscle or nerve cells. We have also shown that graphene is a very good scaffold for skin cells to grow on, and that it allows the use of graphene in skin grafting for burn treatment. These studies are only in their infancy and it will require much more investment and funding in order to develop these new fields of research before the technology can be applied in hospitals.

Cover Story

Department of Biochemistry, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, and Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science

Assoc Prof Wenk is a leading researcher in the field of lipidomics. The Swiss national is also the initiator and organiser of the biennial Singapore Lipid Symposium. What attracted you to NUS as a researcher? The highly dynamic environment. That was the case when I joined in 2004 and it still is very much the case today. Your work in lipids and lipidomics is groundbreaking. What drew you to this area of study? I have been interested in biomembranes since I was a student, for various reasons. First, it is clear that we don’t understand as much about lipids as we wish to, for example, in the case of nucleic acids or proteins. Second, I was introduced to biophysics as a final-year student and this was a field that was very concerned with investigation into lipid membranes. Third, lipids are often surfaceactive and they form functional micelles and bilayer structures. At the molecular level, many of the most interesting processes occur on surfaces rather than in bulk phases. What is the role of lipids in diseases like cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative illnesses? Lipids play various roles in our body. They have structural roles in membranes, as I have explained. Second, they are closely linked to the energy household in a cell or tissue. Fatty acids, for example, are building blocks of many lipids and are a very effective form of chemical energy and storage thereof. Third, lipids are precursors for a diverse range of 18


Prof Ho Teck Hua (Engineering ’85, Computing ’89)

signalling molecules (eg, pro-inflammatory fatty acyl mediators, soluble mediators that control cellular calcium levels). Many of the current anti-inflammatory medication we use (like aspirin) act by interfering with the generation of such lipid mediators. All these roles are critical for cells to maintain their physiological function. Furthermore, inflammation is common to chronic diseases and infectious diseases. Thus, aberrant lipid metabolism can be expected to be involved during onset of pathology eventually leading to these diseases, in ways that we are slowly starting to understand. Tell us about your current research projects. We are in the process of launching SLING, the Singapore Lipid Incubator. SLING is a major global magnet for collaborating parties in lipidomics – from academia and industry – delivering new technologies and intellectual capital. Our centre offers cutting-edge facilities and a diverse base of investigators and students, anchored at NUS. The main scientific aims of SLING will be to develop novel workflows to characterise chemical diversity in lipids found in various biological systems from microbes to man, and second, to determine and understand natural variation of lipids which are tied to human physiology in the major ethnic groups of the Singaporean population. You have been collaborating with commercial company Novartis on a study on lipid profiling of mycobacteria. What are the potential commercial applications of this and other lipid research you are currently conducting?

Vice-President, Research Strategy

Prof Ho, a Singapore citizen who holds the Tan Chin Tuan Centennial Professorship, wears many hats, including devising NUS’ research strategy, building the university’s Finance and Risk Management Cluster, and directing the NUS Global Asia Institute. As Vice-President of Research Strategy, what are your roles? I devise strategies for developing research excellence in humanities and social sciences at NUS. We are not only identifying and building on our strengths but also investing in emerging areas that are promising and help to differentiate us from others. I also run the Finance and Risk Management Cluster (one of the six major inter-disciplinary clusters within NUS) and we have been doing exceedingly well in enhancing NUS’ brand equity in the global research landscape. In addition, I work with various government agencies, including the National Research Foundation, so that they are aware of the high-impact research NUS has been producing in the past decade. The most satisfying part of the job is attracting and rewarding top research talents. I help identify top

Our centre offers cutting-edge facilities and a diverse base of investigators and students, anchored at NUS. The Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases has been a long-term collaborative partner in pre-clinical research related to mycobacteria, the causative agent of tuberculosis. These activities have led to several publications as well as invention disclosures. One of these projects led to the demonstration that certain mycobacterial lipids isolated from sputum serve as diagnostic markers for TB infection. This proof-of-concept demonstration led to subsequent efforts in technology translation towards other readouts such as antibodybased technologies.

Photos by Ealbert Ho; other photo iStockphoto

Assoc Prof Markus Wenk

research talents in social sciences and business and help to recruit them. I am the chair of the Research Excellence Award Committee for the University Outstanding Researcher Awards. Here, I see many amazingly talented researchers at NUS and how their work changes the world. How does the recruitment process work and who are some of the researchers you have successfully brought to NUS? We all work as a team to attract and impress the stars. Deans and Heads of Departments are constantly asked to identify top researchers by using objective indicators and peer assessments. We would look at individual citation counts and read their highly-cited papers. We also monitor individual invitations to leading conferences and membership on editorial boards of top journals.

We seek opinions from our visitors and advisory panels to determine the market value of the potential strategic hires. Using this approach, the Finance and Risk Management Cluster is able to successfully recruit Prof Andrew Lim from University of California, Berkeley, Prof Steven Kou from Columbia University and Assoc Prof Jussi Keppo from the University of Michigan. All three are tenured professors at their respective universities and we are lucky to have them join us. What are the challenges NUS faces as it strives to develop strengths in research? How can these be overcome? In my opinion, the key challenge in the next decade will be attracting and retaining research talents. We need to have an empowering culture that trusts and embraces talents. NUS started with a highly bureaucratic culture. But we are changing quickly with the definite positive developments under the leadership of Prof Tan Chorh Chuan and Prof Tan Eng Chye. There is still much more to be done. Our processes and procedures must be more empowering and trusting as we get more talented people to join us. As an NUS alumnus, what is your view of where the university is headed? NUS is on an excellent upward trajectory. When I was in the USA in the 1980s, few had heard of NUS. Now it is widely regarded as one of the top three universities in Asia. I think we will have a shot at the global top 10 if we put in dramatically more resources and develop an open culture that embraces and empowers talents. Jan–Mar 2013



Keeping Abreast Of Change

“All four of us,” she says of herself and her three younger siblings, “inherited the spirit of ‘never-say-die’ from our parents.” It is this spirit that led her, together with like-minded friends, to found BCF in 1997. The charity organisation, which has a membership of 7,000, has a mission to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease. It all began when a close relative of Mrs Quek’s discovered she had breast cancer. As Mrs Quek accompanied this relative on visits to doctors, she discovered that not much was being done to alert women to the importance of early detection. “My relative eventually had a lumpectomy, followed by radiation treatment. She survived and today she is 15 years cancer-free,” she said. This episode led Mrs Quek to have her own breasts checked. Dr Ng Eng Hen (Medicine ’82, ’88), a surgical oncologist and now Minister for Defence, looked after her. “They found some calcifications,” she recalls. “And Dr Ng said, ‘You can choose to wait or do the biopsy.’ I had the biopsy done and it was fine. We got

Mrs Noor Quek (Business ’72) has had an impressive career in banking but even more remarkable is her work to increase awareness of breast cancer. by theresa Tan



Graduation Day, 1972

says, “brought a new dimension to the concept of Asian family office advisory services”. She is also a founding member and President of the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF). Her work at NQ International is an extension of her former banking work as an expert in financial advisory solutions. “When we started, Asian family offices [were] being serviced out of Europe. Even the concept of ‘family office’ seemed to be littleknown. Many thought I was working for my family,” she said. “Holistic Asian family office advisory services the way we offer them are still rather limited. We do not manage funds but instead engage the many professionals in the market.

Our job is to be devil’s advocate and ensure clients get the best-in-class solution. There’s much more to it than investment management – risk management, leveraging, philanthropy… these tend not to be addressed.” Her work and clientele are global, spanning Southeast Asia and Europe, but family comes first for Mrs Quek, who is very close to her parents. Both are former nursing staff – her father was the first male matron at the Singapore General Hospital. Mrs Quek, or Noorhayati Kassim as she is known to her university mates, is married to financier Raymond Quek, and has three children of her own, now aged 35, 33 and 30. She is also a grandmother to five.

Photo by Justin Loh


rilliant, vivacious and blessed with a wonderful sense of humour, Mrs Noor Quek is known among her cohort as ‘Connie Francis’, thanks to her talent for belting out Where the Boys Are and other hits made famous by that American top-charting female vocalist of the 1950s and 1960s. In July last year, she played emcee at the annual Alumni Day @ Bukit Timah Campus homecoming and sang Those Were the Days by Mary Hopkin. “Usually I would sing one opening or one closing song, and that would usually be Those Were the Days,” she says. Mrs Quek spent 30 years in banking and finance. Among her many designations: Director and Head, Business Development (Southeast Asia), the Citigroup Private Bank; Director, Business Development (South East Asia), GE Capital; and Deputy Managing Director, Rabobank Asia Ltd. These days, Mrs Quek, 62, runs NQ International, a company she founded in 2007, and of which she

along very well, and I was eager to do something about breast cancer awareness. I realised then the importance of early detection.” So, roping Dr Ng in as “he had all the breast cancer statistics”, she started gathering friends to push forward the idea. This founding group included former Speaker of Parliament Mr Tan Soo Khoon; Mrs Sheryn Mah, the wife of Member of Parliament Mr Mah Bow Tan; retired politician Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon; Mrs Fang Ai Lian, Chairman of Great Eastern Holdings; Mrs Fang’s sister Ai Kuan; and Ai Kuan’s sister-in-law Mrs Noor Quek Catherine Ng and her husband Jackie. “Everybody played a part, including my neighbour Mrs Arfat Selvam, who drafted the constitution,” she says of BCF’s founding days. In all there were 10 founding members. BCF grew in momentum through the founding members’ relentless passion to get the word out about breast cancer awareness. “We met the Ministry of Health people [shortly after we started] and they all understood the cause. We started it very fast: we had the first Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and then we started collaborating with Estee Lauder,” Mrs Quek recounts. The Estee Lauder Companies funds BCF’s Evelyn Lauder Wellness Room and supports its events. “It wasn’t always easy. Dr Ng said that we shouldn’t wait for the government to do something; if we feel strongly and it’s the right cause, we should organise it ourselves, and that’s what we did,” she says. “We went to Mr Koh Poh Tiong [then Managing Director of Asia Pacific Breweries] and we got the APB Foundation to help us with the Mammobus, and we

went out and screened 22,000 women (between 2001 and 2005).” The Mammobus, a vehicle equipped with mammography equipment, was handed over to National Healthcare General Diagnostics in 2005. Mrs Quek is pleased with the role BCF plays in the bigger picture of caring for breast cancer patients. “At BCF, we have established our name as [the body for] advocacy and awareness; we don’t touch research. So when we work with the National Cancer Centre we are complementary; we add value.” BCF has a full schedule of programmes, from weekly support group meetings and monthly talks at corporate offices to educate women about early detection and self breast examination, to yearly fundraising efforts. In 2012, to mark its 15th year, BCF set up a S$300,000 fund to subsidise mammogram screenings. As Mrs Quek tells it, it was NUS that allowed her to discover and exercise her many gifts. She had applied to Medicine but got into Dentistry. To her surprise, the Bursar, Mrs Lu Sinclair, offered her a place in Business Administration, which was just in its fourth year. She took it and proved a natural. “There was an Economics test I had to take, and I had no background. So I simply drew a supply-and-demand chart. I got an A, and never looked back,” she says with a smile. “In between tutorials, we would play the piano and sing on the upper and lower court [at the Bukit Timah Campus], and our tutors would come and join us,” Mrs Quek remembers. “We called our tutors by their first names, and we had ‘real’ conversations with them. I found that openness wonderful. “The Class of ’72 is still very close. Today when one of us is sick, we visit. When someone is successful, we celebrate with them. “We are a happy lot.”

At BCF, we have established our name For advocacy and awareness.

Jan–Mar 2013


My Word

The conscience of Economics

Sciences ’82), whom we sent to the University of Western Ontario. Notice that we spread our talents in all the different top universities around the world? They all came back and became professors. As the Dean, what I remember very proudly is that the University Senate nominated me to be the Public Orator on behalf of the university to prepare and read out a citation for each of the candidates they were going to bestow honorary doctorates on. One of them was Dr Sanggar Affandi (Honorary Doctor of Letters ’74) from Indonesia, the greatest painter in perhaps all of South-east Asia. There was also Dr Lim Kim San (Honorary Doctor of Laws ’82) who

Prof Lim Chong Yah (Arts and Social Sciences ’54), now Emeritus Professor of Economics at NUS, talks about the impact of income inequality and his years as Dean and department Head. by Yong Yung Shin

Why is the understanding of economics crucial to Singaporeans, or people in any developed country, for that matter?

It’s important so that we can participate more rationally and more 22


effectively in promoting the economic welfare and well-being of the country and its citizens. And is this the reality in Singapore?

Yes, it’s generally true. The standard of economic consciousness is very high. We don’t go for scapegoat theories; in other words, we do not have the habit of blaming other countries for our shortcomings or difficulties. We are able to adjust to changes in the regional and global environment, and we have done very well. That’s why we have been so successful economically, transforming ourselves from a third world economy to a first world economy within a span of 40 to 45 years. You are an outspoken proponent for narrowing income inequality, most recently advocating wage hikes by at least S$50 for those earning below S$1,000 a month. What do you foresee in the years to come if the country’s status quo remains, and we continue down the path of a widening income gap?

If we continue this trend toward extreme inequality in income distribution, we make ourselves unworthy

I think it’s the duty of every Singaporean to ensure that we, as both a nation and society at large, remain non-corruptible.

of being called a great nation and an inclusive society. An increasingly divided society of haves and have-nots is not desirable. Those earning below S$1,000 is a group that has to be specially taken care of. If we are a poor society, that’s a different story. But since we are affluent, we have a moral duty to ensure that a sizeable group of people does not live near subsistence level. The government is addressing this and much more now.

Prof Lim Chong Yah

– efficiency and corruptibility, the latter being the greatest problem facing many Asian societies, including China and India. In our case, we are lucky that we only need to maintain our position of non-corruptibility, and I think it’s the duty of every Singaporean to ensure that we, as both a nation and society at large, remain non-corruptible.

The policies that the NWC has recommended through the years, including the 1979 corrective wage policy, were adopted by the government. You have been instrumental in steering the country down the right path. Do you feel that times are changing and this willingness to take good advice is more evident now? If so, why do you think this is the case?

The politics of Singapore have changed; we have evolved into a more participatory society, which is very good. In my view, the government continues to be responsible and responsive. There are two indices we can use to gauge a government

Photo by Steve Zhu


eteran economist Prof Lim Chong Yah is the first name in economics for many young Singaporeans, having written textbooks for that school subject. Over the span of 40 years, he has worn many other hats, among them being the founding Chairman of the National Wages Council (NWC), the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences from 1971 to 1977, and Head of the Department of Economics and Statistics from 1977 to 1992 at NUS. Currently, Prof Lim serves as Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Centre at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University. In 2012, he made the front page of local newspapers for proposing “shock therapy” for the Singapore economy in the form of increasing wages for lower-income earners while freezing the wages of those in the higher-income bracket. His proposal drew much debate.

Under your leadership as Head of the Department of Economics, it became one of the strongest Social Science departments at NUS with a sizeable staff strength and thousands of students. What is the one achievement during your time as Head of Economics and/or as the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences that you are proudest of?

Before I answer, I should preface that

the Department of Economics and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences have been rated as among the very top in world rankings, and that is something which I am very, very proud of. As Head of the Department of Economics, one of the things I can remember very fondly and encouragingly was that we sent our own scholars to the top universities in the world to do their PhDs. We first recruited them as senior tutors, being the very top students in their classes. Among them were Prof Phang Sock-Yong (Arts and Social Sciences ’84) who went to Harvard, Prof Chow Hwee Kwan (Arts and Social Sciences ’85) who went to the London School of Economics, Dr Vincent Chua (Arts and Social Sciences ‘85) who went to the University of Chicago and Assoc Prof Chia Ngee Choon (Arts and Social

started the large-scale building of flats in Singapore and Dr Kwan Sai Kheong (Honorary Doctor of Letters ’73), our former Vice-Chancellor, a very devoted man who so successfully built up our school system. The honour to read their citations was very dear and memorable to me. What has been the one thing that has driven you to pursue excellence in your field for so many decades?

To be useful to society. That is a strong motivation. Who is Lim Chong Yah outside of economics?

I try to be a good husband to my wife, a good father to my four children and a good grandfather to my seven grandchildren aged eight to 26. I think I am a good cheerleader to my grandchildren. I cheer them on, and I often have dinner with them. It is my pleasure and privilege to always have such lively youngsters around me. God’s blessing is complete. Jan–Mar 2013


CASE ASIA-PACIFIC ADVAnCEMEnT ConfErEnCE 2013 March 19–22, 2013 | Singapore

APAC 2013 MAin ConferenCe

March 20–22 | Raffles City Convention Centre

The CASE Asia-Pacific Advancement Conference (APAC) is one of Asia-Pacific’s largest gathering of alumni relations, fundraising, communications, and marketing professionals. Join more than 300 advancement peers from over 20 countries to learn, share experiences and inspire one another. Expand your thinking at plenary sessions, electives and round-table discussions. Join in the Leadership Dialogue, engage in strategic advancement discussions at the Leadership Forum, and build an invaluable global network of colleagues.

2012 round-up II - final.indd 1

1/15/2013 9:02:08 PM

APAC 2013 SChoolS ProgrAM APAC 2013 highlightS March 19 | Singapore American School March 20 | Raffles City Convention Centre

Learn and adopt best practices for schools in the customized Schools Program which addresses topics close to the hearts of advancement professionals from international and independent schools. Pick up theories and practices relevant to Asia-Pacific schools, learn how to grow an advancement office, get tips on enhancing parent-volunteer relationships, find out how you can create and sustain an effective fundraising program and so on.

The Schools Program is chaired by Michael The Main Conference is chaired by Associate Kingan, Chief Advancement Officer, Singapore American School. Professor Lim Meng Kin, Director, Office of Alumni Relations, National University of Singapore (NUS). NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan will be on the panel of speakers in the Leadership Dialogue.

AdvAnCeMent toolkit March 20

Understand the roles that various functional areas of advancement play in promoting and supporting an institution. This halfday program provides delegates with a strong foundation in alumni relations, communications, development, and board governance, and is also recommended for professionals who are new to advancement in schools, higher education institutions, and non-profit organizations. leAderShiP foruM March 21

Specially customized for organization leaders and senior practitioners. Hear from experienced advancement professionals on strategic advancement issues and envision plans that will impact institutions.

APAC 2013 PlAnning CoMMittee The CASE Asia-Pacific Advancement Conference 2013 will feature topics planned by advancement practitioners to meet the professional development needs of fellow advancement professionals. Whether it is learning in the areas of alumni relations, fundraising/development, marketing and communications, or for those working in international and independent schools, the APAC 2013 Planning Committee will ensure that their colleagues go home armed with a clear understanding of the latest developments and trends, strategies and best practices in advancement. Here are the members of the APAC 2013 Planning Committee: Main Conference Chair Associate Professor Lim Meng Kin, Director, Office of Alumni Relations, National University of Singapore

Alumni relations track Members • Sharon Tan, Director, Advancement and Alumni Relations, Singapore Management University • Janet Chung, Director, Development and Alumni Affairs Office, Hong Kong University

Schools Program Planning Committee Members • Emma Silva, Director of Advancement, United Nations International School Hanoi • Murray Happ, Director of Development, St Aloysius’ College

fundraising / development track Chair • Angela Chapman, Director, Advancement & Campaign, National University of Singapore fundraising / development track Members • Ada Leung, Associate Vice President (Development), City University of Hong Kong • Simone Garske, Director, Alumni and Development, Queensland University of Technology Marketing & Communications track Chair • Heather Watson, Director of Marketing and Communications (Advancement), The University of Queensland

Schools Program Chair Michael Kingan, Chief Advancement Officer, Singapore American School

Marketing & Communications track Member • Valerie Wee, Director of Advancement and Alumni Divisions, Singapore Institute of Technology

Alumni relations track Chair Leonie Boxtel, Director of Alumni Relations and Communications, The University of Melbourne

Schools Program track Chair • Tamara Black, Associate Director of Communications, Singapore American School

About CASe The Council for Advancement and Support of Education is a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals who work on their behalf in alumni relations, communications, development, marketing and allied areas. CASE helps its members build stronger relationships with their alumni and donors, raise funds for campus projects, produce recruitment materials, market their institutions to prospective students, diversify the profession, and foster public support of education. CASE also offers a variety of advancement products and services, provides standards and an ethical framework for the profession, and works with other organizations to respond to public issues of concern while promoting the importance of education worldwide.

For more information, contact us via: Web: (enter CASE code: APAC) Email: Tel: +65-6778-3285

Once Upon a Memory Zaini & Friends at the LT13 opening in 1989; Mr Zaini (back) in action

Dancing his way through uni

Camp and the Arts Ball.” These were key events for FASS and required many hours of planning, production and rehearsal. It was also that year that Mr Zaini formed his dance group, Zaini & Friends. “I brought in my other friends from outside campus too, like Gurmit Singh.” Mr Singh had served his national service at SAF’s Music and Drama Company (MDC) together with Mr Zaini. Zaini & Friends would perform at major campus events, such as the official opening of Lecture Theatre 13 in FASS in 1987. Mr Zaini’s involvement with the arts also extended beyond NUS: he was in the dance ensemble of the original production of TheatreWorks’ musical Beauty World in 1988. For some students, such a busy social life would certainly have encroached on one’s academic performance. But “I never had a re,” Mr Zaini says. “Re” is campus slang for “retake the exam”. But he admits that he did cut a lot of classes. “Victor Savage [now an associate professor of Geography at FASS] called me in once because I never attended his tutorials. He had a huge vase filled with rotan canes. He pulled

Z Instead of the usual Ribena stall at the 1988 Arts Carnival, Mr Zaini (left) and his friends ran an Egyptianthemed “fortune-telling” teepee.



aini Mohd Tahir’s tall and lanky frame is as modelesque as it has ever been, 23 years after graduation. And the perennially youthful Consultant for Arts Programmes at Republic Polytechnic (RP) has the energy of a 20-year-old. Anyone who walked the hallways of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) between 1986 and 1989 would probably remember the name ‘Zaini’, because the Geography and English Language major was – by his own description – “everywhere”. “In my first year, I was in the NUS Symphonic Band, which I had joined while I was in the army; I played the clarinet,” recalls the 47-year-old. “I was also in the CAC (Cultural Activities Club) dance group in first year.

“Then I got involved in the NUS Arts Festival in October 1986. I was on the organising committee for the opening. I also acted in a play with a theatre group called Aeksens. I was a finalist in the fashion design competition called Body Covere, and I was a finalist in the Talentime show.” Mr Zaini’s involvement in extracurricular activities grew year on year. “In second year, I got involved in the Arts Club, heading their special projects,” he recounts. “We had a Humanities Day, which was a concert for charity. Of course, there was Arts

Main photo by Steve Zhu; other photos courtesy of Zaini Mohd Tahir

Zaini Mohd Tahir (Arts and Social Sciences ’89) remembers the best of his days outside the lecture halls, spent in a whirlwind of dance, acting, theatre production and modelling. by Theresa Tan

Mr Zaini (second row, first from right) right with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Asian cast of Cats, 1993

one out and said, ‘Zaini, this is for you! You never come to class!’ Then he put it away and we sat and had a nice conversation,” he recalls, laughing at the memory. But there was an instance when he thought his lack of focus was going to catch up with him. “There was a Geography paper, Hydrology. Suddenly I realised the exams were coming and I didn’t know a single thing! I was prepared to tell my lecturer that I would re-sit the paper the next year. But first I spoke to my tutor in the English Language department. She said, ‘Zaini, you are two months away from graduation. We both know you are not going to be doing Geography or English Language in your career. So why don’t you just go for the exam? Try.’” That tutor’s astute advice touched Mr Zaini deeply. Before that conversation Zaini Mohd with her, he felt that NUS was a school that just offered him knowledge and information. “But her words summed up what I felt and how much she understood me. I did what I had to do,” he says. Mr Zaini passed every exam in his third year and graduated in 1989. He also wound up as a Geography and English Language teacher! Mr Zaini credits his comprehensive exposure to the arts on campus for the success of his career. After graduation, he was a freelance dancer for a season before joining NUS Theatre in 1991 and setting up the NUS Dance Ensemble. In 1993, he answered the call to become a teacher, and was at the National Institute of Education (NIE) for two months when

he was offered a role in the travelling company of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Cats, which took him to stages across Asia for nine months. He returned to NIE thereafter, and soon joined Henderson Secondary School, teaching Geography, Language and Art. In 2001, the Singapore Armed Forces offered him a job at MDC, “but I didn’t want to give up teaching”, he says. So in an unprecedented arrangement, Mr Zaini was seconded to SAF in 2001, where he served as Artistic Manager Tahir of MDC for two years. He then returned to teach at Henderson Secondary until 2005 when he rejoined MDC and stayed till 2007. From 2008, he was Assistant Director at RP until last year when he became a consultant to the polytechnic. He continues to choreograph shows such as last August’s National Broadway Company for TheatreWorks. For someone who only began dance training at 19 when he entered the army, Mr Zaini has certainly used his gift well. “I have never had to apply for a job. I think it is the ability to change, to adapt to new things, which I learned in university,” he reflects. “I come from a very traditional Malay family. The floodgates opened when I joined NUS. “It was a platform for holistic development; it was where I found myself. The relationships I build with my students now are meaningful, just like the relationships my tutors like Dr Anne Pakir and Dr Lily Kong built with me: not just dispensing knowledge but sharing values and nurturing good, honest relationships.”

I think it is the ability to change, to adapt to new things, which I learned in University.

Jan–Mar 2013


Alumni Scene


hile most of his university mates were applying for well-paying corporate jobs, Mr Lee Zhihan, now 27, knew he would be choosing a non-traditional career path when he graduated – he had already decided that he would start his own social enterprise. Soon after he received his degree scroll, Mr Lee set up a vocational training company to provide affordable training programmes for out-of-school youths. As if that wasn’t adventurous enough, he decided to base his company in Bago City, a small metropolis in the central Philippines. Hence the name of his social enterprise, BagoSphere. It was on volunteer trips to Laos in 2007 and 2008 that the Engineering graduate developed a strong desire to do more for the less fortunate. These volunteer projects, which he led, allowed him to witness firsthand the effects of poverty on a country and its people.

“I just couldn’t accept the fact that in spite of how advanced technology is, and how developed certain parts of the world are, there are still people who do not have electricity at home or children who can’t afford schooling,” he explains. “I knew I wanted to correct this.” His aspirations, however, gave him no clue as to where he should begin. As part of the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme, Mr Lee went to Stockholm, Sweden, for a year in August 2009, determined to broaden his experiences and, hopefully, to get a concrete idea about where to start and what to do.

The Path Less Trodden Combining heart with business sense, Mr Lee Zhihan (Engineering ’11), has bucked the trend to start his own social enterprise. by YEO ZHI QI



“While working for a medical devices technology start-up in Stockholm, a friend and I organised a small event and invited social entrepreneurs to share their stories with young people. But although I learned from these people’s experiences, it wasn’t enough for me,” he says. Returning to Singapore, Mr Lee then approached NOC with a proposal to start a social enterprise mentoring programme. While positive about his idea, they countered his proposal with the suggestion that he learn from actual experience on the ground. So Mr Lee spent a few months in rural India with a social enterprise that trains uneducated Indian youth and employs them to do basic Business Process Outsourcing work. After this stint, he felt that he had gained sufficient exposure and was eager to “get something going”. It was at this point in 2010 that he met fellow NUS undergraduates Mr Ellwyn Tan (Arts and Social Sciences ‘11) and Mr Ivan Lau (Business ‘11) who

(From left) Ivan Lau, Bago City mayor Ramon D Torres, Lee Zhihan and Ellwyn Tan

NOC was an amazing experience. It was where my journey in social entrepreneurship began.

would become his co-founders; both of them had strong ties with the municipal government of Bago City as they had led a Youth Expedition Project there in 2008. The three 20-somethings Lee Zhihan came together, did a market study, discussed their plans with stakeholders and soon embarked on their journey to help alleviate rural poverty. After ascertaining that there was a market for well-trained call centre agents, the team recruited youths with the help of the city government, who connected them with local high school principals and teachers. With this tie-up, they began hiring Filipino trainers and recruited the first batch of youth trainees in July 2011. Social enterprises are still a new career choice so it was no surprise that Mr Lee’s parents were sceptical when he first announced his intention. “My mum asked me, ‘When are you going to get a real job?’; I knew

that I had to somehow convince her that this is my job.” With constant communication, Mr Lee finally earned his parents’ trust and blessings to embark on his dreams. But gaining his parents’ support was only the first challenge. The struggling start-up faced the reality of running a business that would benefit all stakeholders. Besides generating sufficient revenue for the business, BagoSphere’s core idea of helping rural youths secure employment and break the cycle of poverty needed some re-thinking. “We realised that we cannot simply train youths in English and IT skills and expect them to know

how to pull themselves out of poverty. We needed to intervene to solve this problem, ” Mr Lee says. Realising that financial literacy is as important as helping youths secure a job, the team then adjusted the training syllabus and placed a strong emphasis on financial literacy to help trainees better manage their resources. The new curriculum was rolled out in January 2013 and the team is hopeful that the revised syllabus will help rural youths better manage their earnings. The start-up recently secured seed funding from the Singapore International Foundation and is now in its initial phase of recruiting more staff and finalising the teaching curriculum. Though Mr Lee misses his Hainanese chicken rice and char kway teow greatly, since October 2012, he and his partners have been based

Filipino youths learning English through listening comprehension exercises.

Lee Zhihan (front row, first from left) and his team with students from the pilot class.

full-time in the Philippines in order to grow BagoSphere further. A large part of who he is today can be traced to what he experienced at NUS, says Mr Lee. University life provided him with an environment where he had opportunities to explore and to be challenged. NUS “heavily influenced” his mindset and life goals. “NOC was an amazing experience. It was where my journey in social entrepreneurship began,” he says. “It really empowered me, gave me opportunities such as working alongside CEOs in Stockholm and travelling to India to work with impoverished youths.”

Jan–Mar 2013


Pursuit Of Excellence


Guru Blind since the age of four, Dr Yeo Sze Ling (Science ‘00, ‘06) has not only managed to pursue her studies, she has also excelled in them. by theresa Tan

Photo by Steve Zhu


r Yeo Sze Ling was presented the Singapore Youth Award in June 2012. The nation’s highest accolade for youth – which recognises and commends young people aged 35 and under – the award recognises those who have excelled in their field, given back to society, and are an inspiration to others. “Winning this award was truly a humbling experience for me,” says the 34-year-old. “It just reminds me once again that I have been very blessed in life. To me, it is recognition of the support, assistance and opportunities I have received throughout my life from many people around me.” Today, Dr Yeo is a Senior Research Engineer with the Institute for Infocomm Research at A*STAR and her interest lies in the areas of number theory, cryptography and coding theory. A remarkable career for anyone, but even more so for Dr Yeo because she lost her sight due to childhood glaucoma when she was just four. “Both of my parents were not well-to-do and they had to work hard to bring up my elder brother, my younger sister and me,” Dr Yeo remembers. “They were undoubtedly devastated when my blindness was first detected. I suppose they were just lost, uncertain of how they could help me, and how I could cope in life.” Dr Yeo recalls her parents taking her to visit many doctors. They also placed their middle child in a PAP kindergarten but she was unable to cope. “I guess I was too young to understand the implications of my own visual impairment.

Still, I somehow knew that I was different from most others and was rather withdrawn,” says Dr Yeo. “When it became obvious that I could not cope with writing, my ophthalmologist recommended that I go to the Singapore School for the Visually Handicapped [now known as Lighthouse School]. It was at this school that I learnt Braille and received my primary school education.” School marked the turnaround in Dr Yeo’s life; it was there that she discovered her gift for mathematics. “I enjoyed solving mathematical puzzles and problems even in primary school,” she recalls. She was motivated to work hard because of three things. “One, my passion for math and learning in general,” she says. “Two, it dawned on me at a young age that as a visually impaired person, I would have to try to put in more effort in order to survive in this world. And three, having received much assistance from my teachers, friends and family members through my school years, I understand that having access to reading materials and the opportunity to study cannot be taken for granted and I should make the best use of them.” Dr Yeo progressed smoothly through school and attended Serangoon Junior College before entering the Faculty of Science at NUS and majoring in Mathematics. University proved to be an enriching experience, with her peers and lecturers going the extra mile to ensure she had all the resources she needed. “Honestly, I cannot imagine myself graduating from NUS without the assistance of my classmates and lecturers. As notes were not available in electronic form then, my classmates would help me tape-record lecture notes. I would then listen to the recorded notes and convert them into Braille at home,” she says of that time. “A couple of my lecturers also tried to explain verbally as they wrote on the board, to help me Milestones understand better. Many of them 1997–2000 would also faithfully give me slides Bachelor of Science and notes in advance so that I could (Merit) with a major have them read out to me. Special in Mathematics and arrangements had to be made a minor in Computing for my tests and examinations as Programming and Applications well. During my PhD years, the Mathematics department arranged 2000–2001 for readers to help me read the Bachelor of Science materials that I needed.” (with Honours) in Most important of all, Dr Yeo Mathematics says she is thankful for the opportunities that NUS provided for 2001–2002 Master of Science her to pursue Mathematics right up (Mathematics) to doctorate level – the first totally blind person to do so at NUS. 2003–2006 “I recall that during my unPhD in Mathematics dergraduate years, my Computing

lecturer even bought special software so that I was able to pick up some PC skills and complete a minor in Computing Programming and Applications. My thanks go out to my many classmates who helped me navigate from lecture theatres to tutorial classrooms. Dr Yeo Sze Ling My experience with the NUS community was very positive.” Having received so much support from others, Dr Yeo is greatly aware of the benefit she can bring to others like herself through volunteering. From 1998 to 2001, she helped the Independent Society of the Blind on a Chinese Braille project. “Essentially, the visually handicapped do not learn Chinese in schools mainly because of the lack of knowledge of Chinese Braille,” she explains. “A few of my friends and I went to Beijing to learn about Chinese Braille with the objective to teach them to the younger visually handicapped. One of our contributions was to assist a young girl take her Chinese ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels using Chinese Braille.” Now, she continues to help a number of visually handicapped students with their math and school work, and is also involved with the Society for the Physically Disabled in promoting the use of assistive technology to the blind. “In short, I am aware that I had benefited much over the years and I should try to share my coping strategies with the younger generation,” she says. When not volunteering, teaching or conducting research, Dr Yeo can be found at home where she lives with her parents and younger sister. She surfs the Web and catches up with friends online. The positive young researcher admits that when she was younger, she would imagine what life would be like if she had her eyesight. “I believe I have grown to appreciate how my blindness has benefited me instead,” she says. “Specifically, I strongly feel that my so-called handicap has helped me to appreciate the people around me better and taught me to be humble at all times. “Indeed, I am fully aware that whatever achievements I may have attained, they are not a result of my own effort alone, but rather, a result of the assistance and effort of many people around me. “Neither my parents nor I had ever imagined that I could come this far, and I do hope that my experience shows that given the right opportunities and assistance, challenges can be overcome and the visually handicapped can still contribute positively to our society.”

Honestly, I cannot imagine myself graduating from NUS without the assistance of my classmates and lecturers.

Jan–Mar 2013



One speaker. 10 minutes. Boundless inspiration. U@live is our monthly guest speaker series that showcases NUS alumni who have a passion for making a difference. Hosted by Alumni Advisory Board member and veteran TV presenter Mr Viswa Sadasivan (Arts and Social Sciences ‘83) at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House, the one-hour session is also streamed live on the U@live website. To register for future U@live events, visit Mr Adam Khoo (Business ’99)

Dr Kumaran Rasappan (Medicine ‘10)


What started as a quest to conquer Mount Everest for this doctor resulted in the setting up of a village hospital in Nepal. In May 2012, Dr Kumaran Rasappan made the headlines for being the first Singapore-born Indian to scale Mount Everest. But what happens after the media buzz settles? Dr Rasappan, 28, who is attached to the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), showed his spirit of adventure and perseverance as he spoke about the good, the bad and the legacy he is building from his experience of conquering the world’s highest mountain. The seed for his dream of scaling Everest was sown in 1999 when Dr Rasappan caught a peek of Mount Everest from aboard a plane to Nepal on a community service project with classmates from Raffles Institution. But it wasn’t until years later, as a third-year medical student at NUS, that he saw a picture, posted by a Romanian exchange student and a fellow rock climber, of herself on Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in



South America. Challenged, Dr Rasappan thought to himself, “Why not me?” In 2008, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. By the time he graduated, Dr Rasappan had come up with a plan to combine his twin passions of mountaineering and healthcare – he would take a year off from work to climb mountains around the world in order to raise money for TTSH’s Community Charity. He named the fund ‘No Mountain Too High’. “For every mountain I climb, I want to raise money for patients in financial need so that they too can overcome their metaphorical mountain,” explained Dr Rasappan. To date, he has raised over S$35,000 from corporate sponsors and individual donors. From July 2011 to February 2012, he scaled six peaks in China, Nepal and Argentina – there were failed attempts, episodes of frostbite and near-death encounters when earthquake tremors nearly caused his tent to slide off a ridge. At 6:55am on the morning of 26 May 2012, Dr Rasappan achieved his long-cherished goal. “You are standing at the highest point and everything is below you, the sun is rising from my right, and on the left is the shadow of Everest, and the curvature of the earth. You can see the whole of God’s creation and that is the moment you feel that it’s all worth it,” he recalled. His passion for climbing inadvertently became a platform for something bigger. Through the relationships he built with his Sherpa climbing guides and porters, Dr Rasappan felt compelled to help improve the healthcare services and education in their community. With S$10,000 in funding from sponsors and donors, he helped to set up a clinic in the village of

Phortse, which he managed together with his fiancée and fellow physician, Dr Gayathri Nadarajan. She stayed on to teach the local healthcare workers after he left for his Everest ascent. Dr Rasappan also helped raise another S$10,000 to set up a computer lab at the school in the Nepalese town of Gorkha which he first visited 13 years ago as a Secondary 3 student, equipping the lab with 20 desktop computers. While most may see the conquering of Everest as the peak of his achievement, Dr Rasappan is aware that his real work is only beginning. Doctors and sponsors are now coming forward to extend help and ensure the continuity and sustainability of the clinic in Phortse, where the doctor-patient ratio typically runs as high as one to 8,000. That aside, he hopes to go back to a life of normalcy, completing his residency training programme at TTSH. Said an NUS student from Nepal at the end of the session, “Hundreds of people make their way to Mount Everest each year, but very few make their way to the hearts of the Sherpa people. He has given something to the people. That inspires me.”

For every mountain I climb, I want to raise money for patients in financial need. By Yong Yung Shin

Dr Rasappan spoke on 26 September 2012. Flying NUS’ colours proudly while scaling new heights

To change, Speak up

Having had his own life changed by the power of positive thinking, Adam Khoo now endeavours to help others do the same. It may come as a surprise to many that

the motivational speaker, trainer and author Adam Khoo is an “extreme introvert”, according to the MyersBriggs Type Indicator (MBTI) profiling tool. Evidently Mr Khoo, 38, who has built a thriving empire of business in education and motivational training with a combined annual turnover of S$30 million, does not fit the typical business magnate profile – the outgoing, gregarious, Richard Branson types. A member of the audience had asked the Executive Chairman and Chief Master Trainer of Adam Khoo Learning Technologies Group just how much of his success was due to his personality instead of the efficacy of the positive mindset and motivational techniques that his many training programmes propound. Mr Khoo shared: “When I was younger, I was always the guy holding back and keeping to myself, shy, not good at communication. But I learned how to get out of my comfort zone, to dare to speak up and meet people. “Actually, in my life, I have really only got two friends and my wife. I am not the type who likes to party.” Mr Khoo’s early life did not hold the promise of success. A classic underachiever with behavioral problems and low self-esteem, his life was changed when motivational coach Dr Ernest Wong, founder of a learning centre based in Kuala Lumpur, told him that he could make it in life. Dr Wong taught him innovative learning methodologies that appealed to his inclination toward imagination and visual learning. “I used to believe that for things to change, my teacher must change, the exams must be simpler. But I learned to take responsibility for my

life, and that for things to change, I had to change first,” said the father of two. By utilising mind-mapping techniques and instilling the habit of goal-setting, he went from underachiever to top scorer in his school, Ping Yi Secondary, within a year. Over the last 15 years, this 2011 NUS Outstanding Young Alumni Award winner has trained more than 500,000 students, teachers, profession­ als, executives and business owners to tap their inner strength and achieve their full potential. “I love the feeling of changing someone’s life,” he says. Now the public face of a regional enterprise that spans the fields of finance, business and personal development, Mr Khoo is eager to share his message of positive change with those who need special encouragement. His essential message? “Never write anyone off,” he affirms. During the second part of the forum, Mr Khoo took a range of questions from audience members and online viewers of the session. Asked what advice he had to share with NUS students, he noted the importance of having practical work experience. His parting words encapsulated his own approach to success: “Live with passion.”

Mr Khoo speaking to a capacity crowd at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House

By Yong Yung Shin

Mr Khoo spoke on 31 October 2012.

I learned to take responsibility for my life, and that for things to change, I had to change first. Jan–Mar 2013




U@Live Mr Tan Chuan-Jin (Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy ’08)

Speaking up, responding to opportunities and engaging with one another. The balance between

Mr Tan shared

heritage preservation and his thoughts on the finer points national development of engagement, formed a fitting backdrop trust and leadership. for Mr Tan Chuan-Jin as he tackled the topic of social engagement. In 2012, as the Acting Minister for Manpower and Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of National Development, Mr Tan was at the forefront of many heated debates with various non-governmental organisations representing the interests of nature and heritage lovers when the government announced its plan to build an eight-lane highway through the historic Bukit Brown Cemetery. “If I had a choice, would I preserve it? Yes, I would,” he explained. “But Singapore is both a city and a nation. Over time, with reclamation, we have 700 sq km – within that space, we need to decide where to live, work and play. We all love our social engagement was not so green patches, but we have to choose. much to reach a consensus but to We make choices everyday with the have fully taken into account the finite resources we have.” perspectives from various stakeMr Tan agreed with forum modholders. “I don’t think we will ever erator Mr Viswa Sadasivan that getreach a stage where everybody ting an adverse reaction from voices shares a common perspective and on the ground is preferable to silence, comes to a unanimous agreement,” which implies apathy. “Cynicism he noted. “There will definitely be is better than apathy. It indicates disagreements, but we need to agree that you bother enough to think to disagree, and find a common space about the issue; you care enough to for both sides to move forward from.” read up about it and have a perspecAt the same time, it is not just tive,” said Mr Tan, 43. about “finding out what we can agree During his session, Mr Tan also on, but it’s also the way we disagree stated that the imperative regarding 34


which defines us as a society”, he said. After all, engagement is important not just in the collective interest of a society or nation, but on an existential level. “As human beings, we all want to feel that we matter; we may be inward-looking and self-absorbed but we still want to be part of something meaningful and to be able to shape the world around us,” he said. Furthermore, engagement is not something that can be achieved by going through a set of routine steps, but is really a process by which people engender trust; how one connects with others on an intellectual, emotive and social level. “From a leadership point of view, engagement is about how we connect with people,” Mr Tan explained. “At the heart of it all, are people prepared to follow you? It’s what leadership is about. The key word is trust. “It’s really about setting in place a climate to allow people to speak up; it’s the little things we do that really shape the environment, and all of us are guilty of it in the way we treat people and the things we say. [Communicating is] a two-way process.” The father of two posed a rousing challenge to his audience. “We can blame society for being materialistic and all that, but we are the society,” he noted. “If every one of us chooses to exercise our rights and fight for something we believe in, then society will change. Do you believe you can make a difference? Don’t think about the big differences. When you break it down into bite-sized chunks, it starts with your family, your neighbours – floor by floor, block by block, and you begin to build something. As you live and work in a space where people care for each other, that’s when society evolves.” By Yong Yung Shin Mr Tan spoke on 15 November 2012.

engagement is about how we connect with people.

2013 The NUS Alumni Awards celebrate excellence.

Launched during the NUS Centennial Year in 2005, the biennial awards recognise and celebrate alumni who have made significant contributions to our alma mater and society at large. C








The achievements and contributions of our NUS Alumni Awards winners inspire us to make a difference in our own ways to the world around us. Nominations for the NUS Alumni Awards 2013 will open from 1 February to 30 June. Visit this page for more information:



Eminent Alumni Award Nominees must have distinguished themselves nationally and/or globally for their exceptional and sustained contributions and achievements in public or community service; in the arts, sports, culture or entrepreneurship; or in a profession or scholarly field.

Distinguished Alumni Service Awards Nominees must have distinguished themselves in rendering excellent and sustained volunteer service to NUS, its predecessor institutions and/or the alumni community.

Outstanding Young Alumni Awards Nominees (aged 40 and below) must have distinguished themselves in their chosen fields and/or rendered excellent volunteer service to NUS and/or the alumni community while exemplifying the best attributes of youth in today’s world.

The NUS Alumni Awards Statuette The statuette comprises a human figure and a globe.

The figure’s curvature is shaped according to the letters “NUS”. The legs are positioned to form the letter “N”, the head is shaped to form the letter “U” and the twisting body forms the letter “S”. The stylised figure depicts a people-centred NUS and represents the NUS community as one. The globe depicts NUS as a global knowledge enterprise. The globe and the figure emerge from steps symbolising the recipient’s pursuit of excellence.

Alumni Happenings | Giving

Building blocks


ant to help someone? Help educate them, says Mr Kong Mun Kwong, who has set up the Kong Mun Kwong Scholarship at NUS’ School of Design and Environment (SDE). Mr Kong, who is, among other things, the Chairman of Seacare Holdings Pte Ltd and Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises, has received many awards including the Singapore Meritorious Service Award (PJG) and the Public Service Star (BAR) (BBML). “In this world, everything can change suddenly,” he says, “but no one can take your education away from you. If you have a good foundation in learning, you can survive anywhere. And a well-educated person can benefit many others in a community, far beyond himself.” As a child, Mr Kong lived with his parents and three siblings in a one-room apartment in Chinatown. Having moved to Singapore from Hong Kong after losing everything before WWII, they had to share a kitchen and bathroom with 12 other families. Times were hard but what they received in abundance were family values. “We benefitted greatly from our parents’ teachings,” he recalls. An avid community volunteer for over 35 years, Mr Kong has made giving back his goal. Among his many community projects are the Yellow Ribbon Project and the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which he helped conceptualise and develop. In 2011, he was awarded the Singapore Volunteer of the Year Ms Dong Wenjuan (right), inaugural recipient of the Kong Mun Kwong Scholarship



Award by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) for his lifelong commitment to giving back. Mr Kong, who was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2011, established the Kong Mun Kwong Medal at NUS in 2004 for parttime programmes of BSc (Building) and BSc (Construction Management). When those programmes ceased to be offered, he established the scholarship, which was awarded this year. Mr Kong says that the scholarship in his name at SDE is one way of projecting the giving spirit beyond his lifetime. “Hopefully, this scholarship will perpetuate the same spirit of giving in the recipients.” This wish has already taken root. Inaugural scholarship recipient Ms Dong Wenjuan is a keen student volunteer at NUS. “There’s no better feeling than knowing you have helped someone!” she says.

A Level Playing Field

From left: Mr Stanley Tan, Chairman of the NVPC; Mr Kong Mun Kwong; and Mr Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister for Social and Family Development, and Senior Minister of State for Defence

A fairer start for all was the impetus behind the Yik Luen and Wei Han Bursary, established by Mr Hoong Yik Luen (Engineering ’90) and Ms Chung Wei Han (Law ’91).

In the interests of all Mr Kong’s passion for volunteerism started at the University of Singapore where he received the Loke Hong Kee Scholarship, the Lee Foundation Gold Medal and the Hume Industries Gold Medal. As a student leader, he played a key role in encouraging the creation of the university’s new degree courses in Building and Estate Management,

enabling his cohort and generations after them to graduate with a degree instead of a professional diploma. “As an active student leader during the 1960s, I learnt that the advancement of one’s own interest cannot be exclusive of the interests of others,” he recalls. Mr Kong is also eager to see more alumni stepping

forward. “Through its pool of experience, knowledge and resources, our alumni are in the best position to do more than just provide money and scholarships,” he says. “More interaction among established alumni and undergraduates can be promoted to develop a greater sharing of thoughts, experiences and bonding between generations.”

What inspired you to make this gift to NUS? We have always believed in Illustration: Getty Images

Having established a Medal and a Scholarship, Mr Kong Mun Kwong (Architecture and Building ’71) talks about education as the ultimate gift.

We would like to build up an endowment that will help pay the school fees of 10 undergraduates every year. Mr Hoong Yik Luen and Ms Chung Wei Han

giving back to the community – the only question was identifying the objective and form of giving. Our parents were educators and made us aware from a young age that not only is education the most powerful personal enabler, it is the ultimate social equaliser – which ensures a healthy meritocracy. As a result, we decided to

begin by giving to educational causes. On a personal note, both of us benefitted from student grants, scholarships and bursaries during our time at NUS. It was therefore easy for us to decide to help those who need a quality tertiary education. In addition, Yik Luen has had firsthand experience with endowment funds at some of the top US colleges. This made us realise how important it is for a great learning institution to establish a virtuous cycle of giving by the alumni body to a university’s endowment. This enables a university to undertake research and projects that propel it to world-class standards and also to provide bursaries and scholarships, thereby attracting the best students (regardless of financial background). These students will, in turn, give back to the university as alumni. We hope that NUS can be the first university in this part of the world to adopt and promote such a virtuous cycle. Why did you choose to support bursaries, and what are your hopes for the recipients?

We believe in meritocracy. Students with financial difficulties are disadvantaged vis-à-vis those who are financially worry-free as they may have to work and study at the same time, whereas their classmates can devote all their time and energy to their studies. We hope to help level the playing field for financially-strapped students by taking away the burden of their school fees. We would like to build up an endowment that will help pay the school fees of 10 undergraduates every year. Our only message for the recipients: “Don’t forget to give back one day when you can afford to!” What role did NUS play in your lives?

We have fond memories of NUS. We made many good friends with whom we still keep in touch. Apart from a quality tertiary education, NUS gives

For information on making a gift to NUS, contact us at 1800-DEVELOP (1800-338-3567) or email askdvo@ If you have a story to share, please contact us at whatsyourstory@

Mr Hoong Yik Luen and Ms Chung Wei Han

one a network of friends that is very much a cross-section of Singaporean society. Many of our friends from NUS moved on to become leading researchers, academics, lawyers, financiers, doctors, businesspeople, senior civil servants, politicians, playwrights and accomplished individuals in their respective fields of endeavour. We are glad to be part of this network and to help power Singapore’s development. The Yik Luen and Wei Han Bursary will benefit students at the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Law.

Four times the benefits Mr Hoong and Ms Chung are eager to share how donors can maximise their gift: “We have found a great way of ‘stretching’ the money we are donating – by taking advantage of the ‘dollar-for-dollar matching’ scheme offered by the Singapore government for charitable donations to qualified charitable organisations.” Under this programme, donors can potentially quadruple the impact

of every “net-oftax dollar” given. “Our gift to NUS is made through our endowment account at the Community Foundation of Singapore,” they explain. “With careful tax planning, we hope this will allow us to accumulate greater financial resources over time to give to others. We hope more working professionals will realise that this is a way for them to start accumulating financial resources for charitable causes.” Jan–Mar 2013


Alumni Happenings | Events

Department of Social Work 60th anniversary celebrations



Celebrating this landmark anniversary were (from left) Prof Tan Chorh Chuan, President of NUS; Mr Wong Ngit Liong, Chairman of NUS’ Board of Trustees; Mr S R Nathan, former President of Singapore; Mrs Ann Wee, NUS social work pioneer; Dr Rosaleen Ow, Head of the Department of Social Work; and Prof Brenda Yeoh, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.


In September 2012, the dedicated alumni, faculty, students and staff of NUS’ Department of Social Work came together to celebrate 60 years of service to the community. Among the highlights were a symposium and gala dinner with the theme “Different Voices, One Heart.” At the dinner, Guest-of-Honour Mr S R Nathan (Arts and Social Sciences ’54), the former President of Singapore, received a Chaired Professorship in his name for his many contributions to Singapore (an honour that spoke as well to NUS’ larger Social Work family).

Overseas Alumni Chapters

On 17 November 2012, members of our alumni community in Auckland, New Zealand, got to learn the finer points of investment at a special talk given by Mr Jimmy Koh, Treasurer of the chapter. Over sharing their experiences at NUS, the occasion allowed alumni to reaffirm their ties to their alma mater.

NUS Business School Eminent Business Alumni Awards 2012

A stellar celebration of the achievements of our Business alumni – that was the goal of the NUS Eminent Business Alumni Awards 2012. Organised by the NUS Business School and held on 7 November 2012, this year’s honorees included many leading lights and senior figures from the spheres of business, finance and management. Our warmest congratulations to our alumni for their sterling contributions. 38


Standing (left to right): Mr Bobby Chin, recipient of the Senior Alumni Award; Mr Lim How Teck, recipient of the Senior Alumni Award; Mr Yam Ah Mee, recipient of the Senior Alumni Award; Dr Chung Tang-Fong William, recipient of the Alumni Service Award; Mr Yang Tseng Pu, recipient of the Alumni Service Award. Seated (left to right): Ms Yiru Thomassen (President of the NUS Business School Mandarin Alumni); Dr Michael Teng (President of the MBA Alumni-NUS); Mr Peter Seah (Chairman of the Awards Committee); Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law (Guest-of-Honour); Prof Bernard Yeung (Dean and Stephen Riady Distinguished Professor, NUS Business School); Mr Simon Phua (President of the NUS Business School Alumni Association); Ms Ng Pheck Choo (Director of the Global Alumni Network Office, NUS Business School).


<<< Celebrating their 12th annual dinner in September 2012 was the NUS alumni family in London. This cheery occasion was graced by His Excellency Mr T Jesudasen, Singapore’s High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland, and his wife. Other guests included Sir Sabaratnam Arul, former Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at NUS (1995 to 1997). Alumni and guests enjoyed themselves immensely, many staying until the early hours of the morning.

Engineering Alumni Gala Dinner On 12 October 2012, some 200

Economics Alumni Trishaw Fund-Raising Event On 11 November 2012, 60 alumni, family members and guests gathered to aid the NUS Economics Bursary Fund. The participants sponsored 30 trishaws in total and raised S$15,000, with support from the NUS Economics Department.

Our Shanghai Overseas Alumni Chapter held its yearend gathering on 20 December 2012. The occasion was organised in collaboration with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Shanghai Alumni, the NUS Business School Alumni (China East) and the NUS Shanghai Engineering Alumni, with the support of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations. The event was graced by Guests-of-Honour Mr Ong Siew Gay, Consul-General of the Singapore Consulate-General (Shanghai) and Prof Peng Yuwen, Executive Vice President of the Shanghai Overseas Returned Scholars Association. Close to 200 alumni came together for the occasion. Shanghai

Er Ong See Ho (left)

Another highlight of the evening was the launch of the Faculty’s Heritage and Life Gallery by (from left) Dean of Engineering Prof Chan Eng Soon; NUS President Prof Tan Chorh Chuan; former Deans Prof Goh Thong Ngee and Prof Seeram Ramakrishna; senior alumnus Mr Lim Soon Hock; and Mr Samuel Huang, President of the Engineering Club.

Mr Chan Kok Hong (left)

Engineering alumni, some from as far back as the Class of ’73, gathered to honour their peers for their contributions to the engineering vocation. Er Ong See Ho (Engineering ’77) was conferred the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award while Mr Chan Kok Hong (Engineering ’06) received the Engineering Alumni Service Honours. Our congratulations to both distinguished honorees.

Jan–Mar 2013


Alumni Happenings | Reunions



>>> There are few things more gratifying than seeing old friends after a long absence. For the NUS BBA/ BAcc Class of ’92, the wait ended on the evening Class of 16 November 2012, when old classmates of reunited for a memorable evening at NUS. At the reunion’s conclusion, a group photo was taken, giving everyone a memory of the night’s festivities.

Class of


>>> The Engineering Class of ’92 held a superb 20th anniversary reunion dinner on 29 September 2012. Senior faculty members warmly welcomed 130 alumni of the mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and chemical engineering cohorts back to campus.

’92 Class of

’87 Class of

’77 <<< Celebrating their 35th anniversary reunion at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House on 30 November 2012 were members of our Engineering Class of ’77. Close to 90 alumni attended this special occasion.

FASS alumni at UTown




Classes of



On 3 November 2012, 77 Law graduates came together at the Bukit Timah Campus with about 10 of their former lecturers to celebrate the ties that bind. Joining the homecoming dinner also were Prof Simon Chesterman, Dean of the Faculty of Law, and Prof Tommy Koh (Law ’61), Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.



The Faculty of Dentistry (FoD) welcomed back close to 100 alumni during its 3rd Alumni Reunion dinner on 28 September 2012. Held on the roof-top of the FoD Building, the evening’s highlight was an exhibition of works of art by alumni. This was complemented by a sumptuous dinner that was partly sponsored by Dr George Soh (Dentistry ’80). The air was filled with laughter and lively chatter as alumni caught up with old friends and made new ones.

<<< After months of planning by the class committee and the Global Alumni Network Office of NUS Business School, the NUS BBA/BAcc Class of ’87 finally came together after 25 years for an evening of reminiscences and fun on 23 November 2012. A fast-paced “speed networking” session got alumni warmed up and allowed everyone to become properly reacquainted.

They came, they re-united, but it wasn’t exactly a walk down memory lane for alumni guests who attended the FASS (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) Dean’s Alumni Dinner on 18 October 2012. Prof Brenda Yeoh, Dean of FASS, was joined by over 60 alumni who were invited to dinner and a walking tour of UTown. Having heard so much about NUS’ newest residential and learning space, many were eager to see and experience UTown for themselves. Among those who took the opportunity to organise their own mini-reunion were members of the Geography Honours Class of ’91.

FASS alumni who are interested in visiting UTown may contact

The FASS Alumni Dinner was a meaningful event for us to reconnect, with good friends coming together to reminisce about our days in the modest Honours Room we had called ‘home’, and marvelling at UTown. The dinner heralded a new beginning, a springboard to more reunions. To FASS, our heartfelt gratitude! Ms Zairinah Faizal (Arts and Social Sciences ’91) Jan–Mar 2013




Performances with flair

Shapes – sensual and otherwise – take the spotlight in another thought-provoking series of exhibitions on the Kent Ridge campus.

Celebrating the arts at NUS with style.

Your Voice is Mine

Organised by the Japan Foundation and NUS Museum, this exhibition features six cutting-edge contemporary artists from Japan in an exploration of transcultural collaboration. Until 21 April, NUS Museum

ExxonMobil Campus Concerts Soul of Spain

Flamenco Sin Fronteras Enjoy a traditional repertoire of flamenco and classical Spanish dances as well as a series of flamenco group and solo numbers, in a spectacular choreographic presentation. 8pm, 23 January (Wednesday), UCC Theatre

Textures, Tones and Timbres: Art of Chong FahCheong Soul of Spain

Little Treats for Everyone

Dance Is _____

NUS Wind Symphony Musical selections of familiar tunes ranging from pop and classical to jazz, brought to you by the NUS Wind Symphony’s very own small instrumental ensembles. A sure treat for everyone! Standing room only. 6pm, 25 January (Friday), Town Plaza, UTown, NUS

Ng Eng Teng, Fright (detail), 1979, Ciment fondu, paint, lacquer, NUS Museum Ng Eng Teng Collection

studiothree, Paper Boxes, film still (2012)

The One Left Behind

106 Joo Chiat Place

nuSTUDIOS Film Productions An exclusive screening of five short films by nuSTUDIOS members and alumni, with a focus on those who have been left behind to fend for themselves, in one way or another. 8pm, 30 January (Wednesday), UCC Theatre

Dance Is _____

NUS Dance Blast! In this vibrant series of performances, choreographers explore their inner

nuSTUDIOS Film Productions, Dentist, film still (2012)

selves and key moments in their lives. 8pm, 6 and 7 February (Wednesday and Thursday), UCC Theatre

Ishq – The Essence of Life

NUS Indian Dance Ishq, which means “love” in Hindi, tells a classic Bollywood movie plot through the medium of dance. The concert explores the relationship between Raj and Riya through seven stages in their lives. 8pm, 14 February (Thursday), UCC Theatre

A Comedy of Sex and Politics



Sculpting Life: The Ng Eng Teng Collection

This exhibition showcases a range of works that speak of the artist’s history and his creative explorations. Among the sculptures on display are a series of exciting early pieces as well as drawings and maquettes that give an expansive view of Mr Ng’s practice. Until 31 March 2014, NUS Museum

A Comedy of Sex and Politics (一妇五夫?! )

KEVII Hall Chinese Drama Adapted by award-winning Taiwanbased director Stan Lai from Carlo Goldoni’s 1751 play The Mistress of the Inn (La locandiera), this student production is a light-hearted exploration of romance and politics. 8pm, 20 and 21 February (Wednesday and Thursday), UCC Theatre


NUS Indian Instrumental Ensemble Since the partitioning of India and Pakistan in 1947, the region of Kashmir has existed in a state of uneasiness. Amigo harnesses music and emotion in an attempt to understand this relationship and promote greater friendship and peace. 8pm, 5 March (Tuesday), UCC Theatre

Admission to all performances is free. • Unless stated otherwise, tickets are available at the door (on a first-come, first-served basis) one hour before showtime. • The audience capacity for the University Cultural Centre (UCC) Theatre is 400; each person in line may only collect two tickets.

Details from sculptures of Chong Fahcheong All information correct at time of print and is subject to change without prior notice. Please visit for updates. A Comedy of Sex and Politics photo by Zhou Shuo, Dance Is _____ photo by Back Alley Creations

NUS Arts Festival 2013: NUS’ annual celebration of the arts is back! To find out more about this year’s exciting programme, which runs from 9 to 23 March 2013, visit www. nusartsfestival. com.

Leading sculptor Chong Fahcheong reflects on his winding artistic journey and his process of interacting with and probing nature and the urban sprawl. 1 February to 28 April, NUS Museum

This former residence and artistic space comes alive once more through an accumulation of objects found and collected from the house, placed alongside archival documentation such as newspaper articles and images relating to and of the sculptor Ng Eng Teng. Until 3 February, NUS Museum Makiko Koie, From the series G, Kr-1, 2008, C print mounted on Plexiglas, 73 x 100 cm, Artist Collection

Biography of a Public Sculpture: Salvaging and Conserving

The murals Asian Symphony and Tropical Rhapsody were made by Ng Eng Teng for the Garden Hotel in 1971. Prior to the demolition of the hotel in 2010, the murals were salvaged and donated to NUS. This display of images and artefacts along the conservation corridor records the process of surveying, dismantling and reinstalling the murals. Until 31 March 2014, NUS Museum

The Sufi and the Bearded Man: Re-membering a Keramat in Contemporary Singapore A keramat (shrine) for a 19th-century Sufi traveller to the region comes alive at this exhibition, the culmination of a two-year-long documentary project. Featuring photographs, material artefacts and personal histories, it puts forward new ways to consider our shared heritage. Until June 2013, NUS Museum

Camping and Tramping Through the Colonial Archive: The Museum in Malaya

Inspired by a 19th-century document by a colonial British officer, this exhibition studies the institution of the museum in Malaya. It features writings and artefacts from NUS’ Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, the Asian Civilisations Museum, the National Museum of Singapore, the National Library Board, Singapore Press Holdings, the Singapore National Archives, the NUS Museum, and the Ivan Polunin and Mohammad Din Mohammad collections. Until June 2013, NUS Museum

NUS Museum

University Cultural Centre, 50 Kent Ridge Crescent, NUS, Singapore 119279 Tel: (65) 6516-8817 Email: museum@ Website: www.nus.

NUS Baba House

157 Neil Road, Singapore 088883 Tel: (65) 6227-5731 Email: babahouse Website: http:// museum/baba

Visits by appointment only. Visitors are Opening hours required to sign are from 10am up in advance for to 7.30pm tours (offered (Tuesdays to on Mondays at Saturdays) 2pm, Tuesdays and 10am to 6pm at 6.30pm, (Sundays). Thursdays Admission is free. at 10am and Saturdays at 11am). Admission is free.

Jan–Mar 2013


Culture Your complimentary AlumNUS Card entitles you to a host of benefits and privileges!



Exciting musical moments brought to you by NUS’ Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. Qin Li-Wei and Ning Feng Duo Recital

Winner of some of the world’s most prestigious international competitions, violinist Mr Ning Feng performs with Conservatory Head of Cello, Assoc Prof Qin Li-Wei, in a duo recital for violin and cello. They will be joined by Assoc Prof Albert Tiu for one of Mendelssohn’s greatest chamber music works, Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor. 7.30pm, 29 January (Tuesday), Conservatory Concert Hall Visiting Artist Series / 6th Singapore Chamber Music Festival

The Shanghai Quartet

Visiting Artist Series / Faculty Recital Series / 6th Singapore Chamber Music Festival / SoundBites

Victoria Chiang Chamber Recital

Mozart’s String Quintet features the use of a second viola, originally played by Mozart himself as an extra voice to join the conventional classical string quartet. Ms Victoria Chiang, a faculty member at the Peabody Institute, pairs up with the Conservatory’s faculty members Assoc Prof Zhang Manchin, Assoc Prof Qian Zhou, Mr Ng Yu-Ying and Mr Ng Pei-Sian. 12.15pm, 6 February (Wednesday), Conservatory Orchestra Hall

Faculty Recital Series

Conservatory Orchestra Series

Qian Zhou and Bernard Lanskey – Violin and Piano Recital

Alongside three contrasting works – each central to the violin and piano canon (Beethoven, Brahms and Debussy) – this recital presents two perhaps lesser known masterpieces, Ysaÿe’s evocative Poème élégiaque and Ginastera’s dance-like Pampeana. 7.30pm 5 February (Tuesday), Conservatory Concert Hall

Led by Principal Conductor Jason Lai, the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra opens this programme with an overture written by Beethoven in 1807 for a play inspired by the tragic story of the Roman General, Gaius Marcus Coriolanus. In the second half of the concert, the sunny pastoral energy of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 provides relief from the opening heroic tragedy. In between, Zhang Yiliang, winner of the Conservatory Concerto Competition Wind and Brass category, is soloist in Ferdinand David’s Concertino for Trombone, Op.4. Qin Li-Wei

Jason Lai

The Shanghai Quartet



Alan Bennett

ATOS WELLNESS Rejuvenate with signature wellness therapies at a privileged rate of S$28 only. Choice of Renewal Face Spa (60 min) or Thermal Spa Retreat (Body Therapy: 45 min) worth S$180. T 6841-9926 W Victoria Chiang

BEER MARKET 10% discount off all drinks all night long. W Ning Feng

Folk Heroes

Venue booking: T 6516-7700 E

APOLLO LEARNING 10% discount off the first six hours of tuition. W

T’ang Quartet

Seasons and Scenes of Life and Love

Presented in collaboration with the School of the Arts, the programme explores the different stages of life and love through selections from Tosti, Finzi and Schumann. Prof Alan Bennett is the Conservatory’s Head of Voice and Dr Choi Hye-Seon, vocal accompanist at the Conservatory, is also piano faculty at the School of the Arts. 7.30pm, 15 February (Friday), School of the Arts Concert Hall

Enjoy a 25% discount off venue rates for event bookings at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House

Qian Zhou

Faculty Recital Series

The Shanghai Quartet returns to the Conservatory for a one-week residency. Renowned for its passionate musicality and impressive technique, the quartet has become one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles. Its elegant style melds the delicacy of Eastern music with the emotional breadth of Western repertoire, allowing it to traverse musical genres from masterpieces of Western music to cutting-edge contemporary works. 7.30pm, 30 January (Wednesday), Conservatory Concert Hall

Get your AlumNUS Card at

ADAM KHOO LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES GROUP 10% discount off regularpriced Adam Khoo PLUS courses. W

This concert is held in conjunction with the NUS Arts Festival 2013. 7.30pm, 9 March (Saturday), Conservatory Concert Hall, tickets at $15 from SISTIC 6th Singapore Chamber Music Festival

The Power of 5

The Conservatory Percussion Ensemble presents another fresh take on chamber music, this time exploring quintets in eclectic and dramatic fashion. The phenomenal T’ang Quartet joins forces with nine percussionists in the eagerly anticipated première of Jonathan Fox’s orchestration of Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57. Rounding out the programme are various percussion quintets of wildly different styles and instrumentations. 7.30pm, 16 March (Saturday), Conservatory Concert Hall

All information correct at time of print and is subject to change without prior notice. Please visit for updates. T’ang Quartet photo by Aloysius Lim

Visiting Artist Series / Faculty Recital Series


PHILIP WAIN Enjoy one-month unlimited gym access to all classes and facilities (Cardi Kickbox, Zumba, Pilates, Yoga and many more!) at S$120 only. Choice of face, body or spa indulgence at S$78. W RASEL CATERING Enjoy a complimentary Rasel’s Signature Shepherd’s Pie with buffet package. W REDOT FINE ART GALLERY 5% discount off any work purchased, up to a maximum of S$1,000. W SINEMA GV Enjoy S$1 discount off Sinema + GV titles. W

GNC 15% discount off regularpriced items. W

SINGAPORE LYRIC OPERA 20% discount off during early bird promotion period; 15% discount off thereafter for all SLO ticketed events. W

JILL LOWE 10% discount off retail price for full courses; attend ongoing event nights for free. W

SUN ASIAN BISTRO 15% discount off total bill with minimum spend of S$15. W

NExT STUDIO S$200 photo-shoot package inclusive of 1-hour photoshoot and all high-resolution pictures. W NUS MULTI-PURPOSE CO-OPERATIVE 5% discount on books, stationeries, PC accessories and NUS logo items. W

THE UNIVERSITY CLUB 25% discount off a la carte items for dine-in only. T 6779-8919 W

Terms and conditions apply. The NUS Office of Alumni Relations and AlumNUS Card merchants reserve the right to amend the terms and conditions governing the offers at any time. All information is correct at press time. Visit for the latest privileges and promotions.

The High Commission of Canada to Singapore and the NUS Office of Alumni Relations joinly present

Class notes


MR HANS TAN School of Design and Environment ’05

Dr Chiong Yee Keow Medicine ’12


Dr Chiong Yee Keow

(front row, in yellow) The 2012 recipient of the Lee Hsien Loong Award for Outstanding AllRound Achievement, Dr Chiong is now a House Officer at National University Health System. An avid community volunteer and the organising chairperson for the Neighbourhood Health Screening project at Taman Jurong from 2008 to 2009, she continues to serve as its mentor and volunteer doctor. Dr Chiong credits her family’s support and the Toh Kian Chui Bursary, which she received as a student at NUS’ Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. “The bursary enabled me to lead a relatively normal student life without having to worry excessively about the financial burden of school fees,” she says. “This was particularly true in my final year when my mother was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and had to take a break from work.” Dr Chiong’s experience as a gift recipient has heightened her commitment to serving others. “It motivates me to continue to contribute as best as I can, to pay this kindness forward,” she says. For information on “We should help making a gift to NUS, contact us at future generations 1800-DEVELOP (1800of students facing 338-3567) or email financial difficulty so that they don’t miss If you have out on educational a story to share, please contact us at opportunities.”


A graduate of the Division of Industrial Design, Mr Tan was one of nine recipients in December 2012 of the President’s Design Award for Design of the Year. Administered by the DesignSingapore Council and the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the accolade honours designers who have developed iconic projects that make an impact on the global design scene. Mr Tan received the award for his work Spotted Nyonya, an industrial re-interpretation of traditional nyonya porcelain wares. After graduating from NUS, Mr Tan studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven on a postgraduate scholarship. A winner of the Martell VSOP Rising Personalities Award 2009 and nominated for the 2009 Designer of the Future Award Design Miami/Basel, Mr Tan’s works have been shown at numerous global exhibitions. He is currently an instructor at NUS’ Division of Industrial Design.


THE CANADIAN Film Forum 2013

13–18 April 2013 SHAW FOUNDATION ALUMNI HOUSE 11 Kent Ridge Drive, Singapore 119244

SHOWCASING THE VERY BEST OF CANADIAN FILM Admission is free. Please visit this page for more information on the films, ratings, synopses and registration.

Mr Hans Tan and Spotted Nyonya (below)

“Film food hasn’t looked this tantalizing since 1996’s Big Night.” – Andrew Ryan, The Globe & Mail

“A light, clever and very enjoyable comedy.”

– Jason Anderson, Eye Weekly

“A solid crowd pleaser about the collision of cultures… it’s a tasty meal.”

– Chris Knight, National Post 46




Last Word

A commitment to excellence In Tonga, I was snorkelling

we can and must, like the superbig whale, be nimble and agile.

with a female humpback whale and her baby when the male escort suddenly came up fast from below. The very large escort was heading straight for me but at the last moment, veered elegantly away. NUS is a very large organisation speeding along on a rapid trajectory. We are not a whale – but we can and must, like the super-big whale, be nimble and agile. We must be able to make strategic adjustments despite the speed and intensity of our path of travel. Challenging as it may be, I am convinced we can do this successfully, and with grace and some elegance. My conviction is founded on having worked closely with so many members of the talented NUS community – our Chairman, Board, senior management, faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends. We are different because we are

always eager to innovate and are bold in action. We are driven by the same powerful impulse – an unrelenting hunger to excel; an unwavering commitment to pursue fresh heights of excellence. With such spirit and energy, we can create a further upward inflexion in our strong trajectory of growth and development. Prof Tan Chorh Chuan President of NUS State of the University Address, 12 October 2012

Alumni Events

January to March 2013

Dates to REMEMBER 28 Feb (THU)

Senior Alumni Tea and Chat

4pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House


U@live with Prof Tan Chorh Chuan (Medicine ’83)

7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House

Enquiries: Ms Irene See

28 FEB (THU)

Feature Flicks: Reign of Assassins 7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Enquiries: Ms Veronica Au

Enquiries: Ms Valerie Vincent

29 and 30 JAN (TUE AND WED)

Our Singapore Conversation @ NUS (for alumni) Enquiries: Ms Lim Teck Shan


16 MAR (SAT)

NUS Open Day

9am to 6pm, UTown Enquiries:

27 MAR (WED)

Senior Alumni Tea and Chat

U@live with Mr Ravi Menon (Arts and Social Sciences ’87)

Enquiries: Ms Irene See

Enquiries: Ms Valerie Vincent

31 JAN (THU)

28 Mar (THU)

31 JAN (THU)

4pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House

Feature Flicks: The Amazing Spider-man

7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Enquiries: Ms Veronica Au

7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House

Senior Alumni Tea and Chat

4pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Enquiries: Ms Irene See

28 MAR (THU)


U@live with Mr Tan Bee Thiam (Engineering ’04) 7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Enquiries: Ms Valerie Vincent



Feature Flicks: English Vinglish 7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Enquiries: Ms Veronica Au


connected to



is now available as an iPhone app! Install AlumNET from the Apple Store and you are well on your way to being informed about upcoming alumni events.

>>> Get in touch with your alma mater and alumni friends!

>>> View posts of upcoming events from the NUS Office of Alumni Relations, Faculties, Schools and Halls as well as Alumni Groups (including Overseas Alumni Chapters and faculty-, hall- and interest-based groups).

>>> Connect with Faculties, Schools and Halls through their websites and Facebook pages.

NUS Alumni Office - AlumNUS Magazine 2013 Jan  

AlumNUS Magazine Jan 2013

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you