NUS University Awards pay tribute to six individuals lauded for exemplary contributions to education, research and service

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has recognised six outstanding individuals who distinguished themselves with their achievements and contributions in the areas of education, research and service to the University, Singapore and the global community.

At the NUS University Awards 2023, the prestigious Outstanding Service Award was conferred on Professor Barry Halliwell, Distinguished Professor at the Department of Biochemistry, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at NUS, and Senior Advisor (Academic Appointments and Research Excellence) at the NUS Office of the Provost; and Mr Quek Gim Pew, Chairman of the National Supercomputing Centre Steering Committee, and Co-Chair of the National Quantum Steering Committee, in recognition of their inspiring leadership and dedicated service. Both are accomplished individuals who have made sustained contributions in selflessly serving the University and society.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “As NUS strives to be a leading global university, we want to be known for our commitment to the continual pursuit of excellence. I am very proud of the award winners who have dedicated themselves to scale new heights in their professional pursuits and achieved exceptional results in their journey. They have demonstrated vision, focus and a strong commitment to hard work and continuous learning. My heartiest congratulations to all of them!”

Besides the Outstanding Service Award, the other award categories are University Research Recognition Award, Young Researcher Award, and Outstanding Educator Award.

Outstanding Service Award

Professor Barry Halliwell

Prof Halliwell’s 25-year career at NUS has seen him play a pivotal leadership role in driving the University’s research excellence and global reputation as a top research-intensive university. He was instrumental in promoting NUS as a hub for excellence in life sciences at the Life Sciences Institute, where he heads the Neurobiology Research Programme; and in establishing NUS research institutes, centres and programmes, contributing to successful bids for four Research Centres of Excellence. These are the Centre for Quantum Technologies, Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, Mechanobiology Institute, and Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (jointly with NTU).

An internationally acclaimed biochemist, and one of the world’s most highly cited researchers in biology and biochemistry, Prof Halliwell is distinguished especially for his seminal work on the role of free radicals and antioxidants in biological systems. His transformative research, particularly on Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders, includes identification of the most important antioxidants in the human diet as well as the development of novel antioxidants to treat diseases.

Prof Halliwell’s outstanding contributions have garnered him numerous accolades, including the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine, USA (2008) and Citation Laureate (2021), a distinction awarded by Clarivate to the most highly cited researchers in their field and whose work is of Nobel class. In 2013, he was awarded the Science and Technology Medal by the President of Singapore for sustained and exceptional contributions to Singapore’s science and engineering landscape.

Mr Quek Gim Pew

Throughout his 42-year engineering career, Mr Quek has made significant contributions to the development of advanced defence technologies for the Singapore Armed Forces during his stints as CEO of DSO National Laboratories and Chief Defence Scientist at the Ministry of Defence, as well as the enhancement of Singapore’s capabilities in space, quantum and digital technologies in his roles as former Chairman of the Centre for Quantum Technologies’ Governing Board, and current Co-Chair of the National Quantum Steering Committee.

A strong advocate for STEM education, Mr Quek has initiated various nationwide programmes to enhance the accessibility of STEM education among young Singaporeans, such as the Young Defence Scientist Programme, as well as outreach programmes that promote STEM through space science and satellite technology.

As a board member of various educational institutions in Singapore, including several institutes of higher learning, Mr Quek has contributed to the strategic development of the nation’s education and research capacities, as well as industry partnerships and entrepreneurship efforts at local universities.

Mr Quek served as Chairman of the Governing Board of the Centre for Quantum Technologies hosted at NUS from 2016 to 2022. Bringing his negotiation skills, experience, and connections to the table, he succeeded in uniting different parties in a joint effort to ensure Singapore remains at the forefront of quantum technologies.

Four exemplary educator and researchers honoured

The NUS University Awards also celebrated the accomplishments of four outstanding educators and researchers:

University Research Recognition Award

1) Professor Patrick Tan Boon Ooi from Duke-NUS Medical School’s signature research programme in Cancer and Stem Cell Biology, where he is also the school’s Senior Vice Dean for Research.

The internationally renowned cancer researcher is a pioneer in research using genomic approaches to unlock the molecular and clinical diversity of gastric cancer and other Asian-endemic malignancies, paving the way for advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of Asian cancer patients.

Young Researcher Award

1) Assistant Professor Koh Ming Joo from the Department of Chemistry, College of Humanities and Sciences

Helming the Koh Research Group at the Department of Chemistry of NUS Faculty of Science, he is at the forefront of research on sustainable catalysis and leads global efforts in the drive towards cost- and energy-efficient chemical synthesis with lower carbon emissions and waste generation.

2) Professor Qu Hsueh Ming from the Department of Philosophy, College of Humanities and Sciences

A Provost’s Chair Professor of Philosophy at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, he is an expert in the philosophy of David Hume. As a result of his scholarship, he was recently listed as one of the key figures in Early Modern Philosophy, alongside giants of other subfields such as John Rawls and David Lewis.

Outstanding Educator Award

1) Associate Professor Lee Kooi Cheng from the Centre for English Language Communication

As Director of the Centre for English Language Communication, she is known for driving the conceptualisation and designing of courses that integrate disciplinary knowledge with writing, thinking and communication competencies, through partnerships with university faculties and departments. Holding a joint appointment as Master of Helix House, she also has a keen interest in the impact of experiential learning and living-learning programmes on students’ university experience.