Celebrating six women pioneers

Clockwise from top left: Mdm Halimah Yacob, Asst Prof Danielle Anderson, Ms Diane Fletcher, Assoc Prof Leong Ching, Ms Lim Qing Ru and Asst Prof Loh Huanqian are all pioneers in their fields

International Women’s Day is celebrated globally on 8 March. This year, NUS News is shining the spotlight on six women in our community who are pioneers in various areas including community, education, leadership and research.


Madam Halimah Yacob


Madam Halimah Yacob is the NUS Chancellor and the first female State President of Singapore. 

A trailblazer, she has many other 'firsts' under her belt. In 2001, Madam Halimah was the first Malay woman to be elected into Parliament since Independence; in 2013, she became the first woman to hold the role of Speaker of Parliament; and she was the first Singaporean on the governing body of the International Labour Organisation, where she sat from 1999 to 2011. 

Her many contributions to Singapore have been recognised in awards including the Berita Harian Achiever of the Year Award in 2001, the "Her World Woman of the Year Award" in 2003, the AWARE Heroine Award 2011, as well as her induction into the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame in 2014.

An NUS Law alumna, Madam Halimah continues to nurture strong ties with the University. She served as a member of the NUS Board of Trustees from 2006 to 2011, and in 2016 was conferred an Honorary Doctor of Laws in recognition of her distinguished career and service, particularly in the government and public sectors. 

Assistant Professor Danielle Anderson


Asst Prof Danielle Anderson is the Scientific Director of the Duke-NUS Medical School ABSL3 laboratory.

In January 2020, Asst Prof Anderson and her team isolated SARS-CoV-2 from a clinical sample from one of the first COVID-19 patients in Singapore. From this, she helped to develop a test kit for COVID-19, which has vitally assisted the Singapore authorities with its contact tracing efforts.

She is also a graduate of the Women in Science (WinS) Network which provides a platform to connect the women in science and academic medicine in the SingHealth Duke-NUS academic medical centre community for networking, training and mentoring.

Ms Diane Fletcher


Ms Diane Fletcher is the Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel of NUS. 

An NUS Law alumna, Ms Fletcher joined NUS in 2004 as General Counsel and pioneered the expansion in focus of the role from primarily advising the Office of the President to becoming a key University function. Under her leadership, the NUS Office of Legal Affairs was set up and she became its inaugural Director. 

The Office of Legal Affairs is now a separate unit of the University and represents NUS in all legal matters. It also provides legal counsel to the Board, senior management, academic, administrative and research units of the University and related organisations, arising from NUS activities. 

Ms Fletcher has a long relationship with the University. After leaving NUS in 2006 to pursue writing and editorial work, she returned in 2007 to work on the project for the establishment of University Town, before joining the communications team in the Office of the President. She resumed the role of General Counsel in 2010 and was appointed as the first Chief Legal Officer of NUS in 2018. 


Associate Professor Leong Ching


Associate Professor Leong Ching was appointed the Dean of Students on 1 January of this year. In that role, Assoc Prof Leong leads the Office of Student Affairs, which oversees all aspects of student life outside the classroom. She works with the student community to create impactful change and also works with Masters to oversee residential life and campus housing matters. 

New to the role when COVID-19 hit, she rose to the occasion, working with the University leadership to initiate and implement policies to regulate behaviour. She began writing daily DOS Updates to explain the reasons behind NUS’ tough and fast-changing measures, which were put in place to keep the community safe. She also chairs the Board of Discipline, which has given force to NUS harsh sanctions against breaches of Leaves of Absence (LOAs). 

In the midst of great uncertainty, her Updates offered a glimpse of how NUS students, especially student leaders, reacted to the crisis with strength, courage and good cheer. These acts were lauded by Ministers and in Parliament. 

Assoc Prof Leong was a former journalist and presenter with Singapore Press Holdings and Mediacorp. She is currently at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS, where she works on water policies and environmental behaviour. Her work has pioneered the use of quantitative narrative methods, which allow policy makers to understand apparent irrationalities in public behaviour. 


Ms Lim Qing Ru


NUS Arts and Social Sciences alumna Ms Lim Qing Ru is a successful entrepreneur and a self-made millionaire. While just a student, Ms Lim happened across the burgeoning start-up scene in NUS and joined four others to co-found tech company Zopim. The company’s core product was a chat widget to allow businesses to send instant messages to customers and provide real-time customer service.

Zopim was among the pioneers in developing such a software and the start-up went on to become one of the most successful and popular chat providers in the world. 

In 2014, Zopim was bought over by customer service software company Zendesk for close to US$30 million.

Not willing to rest on her laurels, Ms Lim is passionate about helping the next generation of entrepreneurs and NUS students. She has invested her time and money in 20 young, budding technopreneurs and advised a dozen more. Additionally, she is on the Advisory Board of NUS Arts and Social Sciences, where she advises on the Faculty’s strategic direction, and provides students with connections for internships, mentorships and funding.

President’s Assistant Professor Loh Huanqian


Asst Prof Loh Huanqian from NUS Physics and the Centre for Quantum Technologies is a pioneer of the manipulation of molecules at the single-molecule, single-quantum-state level.

By working at the exciting intersection of atomic physics and quantum chemistry, she works towards harnessing these ultracold molecules for explorations of new condensed matter phases, quantum information storage, and more.

On 11 February 2020, Asst Prof Loh was named one of the 15 Rising Talents worldwide by the UNESCO and L’Oreal Foundation’s For Women in Science programme. She also received the 2018 L’Oréal Singapore For Women In Science National Fellowship for the physical and engineering sciences for her research on quantum simulation.


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