AT the prestigious NUS Alumni Awards 2017 held on 23 November, 15 alumni were recognised for their outstanding achievements and contributions. Held biennially, the Awards recognise alumni who have excelled locally and internationally, and have made significant contributions to the University and society. The Awards were presented in three categories, namely the Eminent Alumni Award, Distinguished Alumni Service Award and Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Among the 15 award recipients, four were from NUS Engineering.
NUS Engineering alumni receive honours at the NUS Alumni Awards 2017
Eminent Alumni Award Recipient
Mr Wong Ngit Liong (Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Venture Corporation, former chairman of NUS Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2016) was conferred the Eminent Alumni Award, which is presented to alumni who have distinguished themselves nationally or internationally for their exceptional and sustained contributions and achievements in public and community service; in arts, sports, culture or entrepreneurship; or in a profession or scholarly field.
Mr Wong is honoured for his achievements in industry, his spirit of public service, as well as his exemplary service to NUS and the University’s larger alumni community. Graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Electrical Engineering in 1965 from the University of Malaya, NUS’ predecessor institution, Mr Wong was the Chairman of the NUS Board of Trustees for 12 years from 2004 to 2016. Under his steadfast leadership and bold vision, NUS was transformed from a respected local teaching institution dedicated to manpower development, into a leading global university today, highly regarded for its scholarship and research. Mr Wong contributed his insights, expertise and time to Singapore’s overall progress and development. He has served on the boards of several key agencies including the Economic Development Board, Trade Development Board (predecessor to International Enterprise Singapore), DBS Bank and Singapore Exchange. He was also on several high-profile committee, such as the Committee to Review the Salaries of the President, Prime Minister and political appointment holders, the Constitutional Commission to review the Elected Presidency, and the 2002 Economic Review Committee.
Outstanding Young Alumni Award Recipients
This year, NUS presented the Outstanding Young Alumni Award for the first time to a team. The recipients of the team award were the co-founders of Carousell: Mr Lucas Ngoo Cheng Han (NUS Engineering alumnus), and Mr Quek Siu Rui and Mr Marcus Tan Yi Wei (NUS Business alumni).
Ms Betty Tsai, Associate Scientist, R&D, Procter & Gamble, and Mr Jeffrey Tiong Jee Hui, Founder and CEO of PatSnap Pte Ltd, were two other NUS Engineering alumni honoured for their achievements and outstanding contributions to their chosen fields.
A full description of the award recipients’ accomplishments is appended.
NUS ALUMNI AWARDS 2017 – ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF RECIPIENTS
NUS Eminent Alumni Award
Mr Wong Ngit Liong
Mr Wong Ngit Liong helmed the National University of Singapore as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for 12 years, from 2004 to 2016. Under his steadfast leadership and bold vision, NUS was transformed during that period from a respected local teaching institution, dedicated to manpower development into a leading global university, regarded for its scholarship and research.
Mr Wong’s appointment was also during a turning point when NUS took bold steps in becoming an autonomous university. Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister and Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam who was the Minister for Education then, invited Mr Wong to be the Chair of NUS Council to steer NUS through the process of institutional autonomy. Mr Wong was noticed by Singapore’s leaders because of his leadership abilities, international perspective, entrepreneurial zeal and ability to transform large organisations. Following corporatisation, Mr Wong worked hard with the NUS management team to establish a robust governance framework, appoint a Board of Trustees, and establish a new culture of collaboration between NUS management and the new Board.
The greater autonomy afforded by corporatisation enabled NUS to excel and differentiate herself. It was, however, a complex and difficult journey which included substantial restructuring of NUS’ administrative, financial and corporate functions and processes. Mr Wong also strengthened key capabilities such as strategic planning and built fresh competencies in development and investment. The hard work and successful corporatisation of NUS was a major enabler in the University’s steep trajectory of growth. In the subsequent years after corporatisation under Mr Wong’s careful, forward-looking and conscientious oversight, he developed NUS from “a good to a great University”, with emphasis on raising NUS’ reputation and performance in Education, Research and Enterprise.
NUS achieved many milestones, including the development of the University Town with Singapore’s first residential colleges, as well as the establishment of new schools – Duke-NUS Medical School, Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Yale-NUS College and most recently the School of Continuing and Lifelong Education in support of the national SkillsFuture initiative. In education, NUS improved its offerings by implementing a grade-free first year, a wide range of overseas programmes including the highly successful NUS Overseas Colleges and the Centre for Future-ready Graduate’s Roots & Wings programme. Top researchers in their fields sought to call Singapore home, and created an intellectual buzz on campus. Today, NUS scientists are amongst the most cited in the world. These outcomes are reflected in NUS’ strong global standing, and truly, Mr Wong’s efforts have made NUS stronger and more respected both locally and globally.
Having studied in the USA and Canada, Mr Wong saw the value of a global education. He began his career in the USA with Hewlett-Packard (HP) Company, where he held a series of management positions. He returned from Silicon Valley in the late 1970s and set up HP’s office in Singapore. He was noticed for his deep insights into the workings between top levels of business and governments and that he was able to deepen these collaborations for the mutual benefit of industry and community. When Mr Wong left HP, he successfully built Venture Corporation in 1984 and is now its Chairman and CEO. By 1989, the Singapore-grown company that designs and manufactures electronic and engineering products reported a turnover of $25.4 million. By 2016, revenue reached $2.87 billion, and the Venture Group has grown to comprise 40 companies operating globally, employing 12,000 people. Among its many accolades, Venture Group was voted one of the 100 Best Managed Companies in the world by Forbes Magazine in 1994, 1996 and 1998. It was also named a Top Performing Global Growth Company from East Asia by the World Economic Forum in 1997.
Mr Wong himself has received many awards including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Master Entrepreneur Awards in 2002, as well as the Businessman of the Year awarded by DHL Worldwide Express and The Business Times in 1998. In 2012, Mr Wong was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the Singapore Government in his capacity as Chairperson of the NUS Board of Trustees.
Mr Wong had a deep interest in the NUS community. He attended countless NUS events and arranged Board visits to the faculties and schools. He and his fellow NUS Board of Trustees members met regularly with alumni, students and faculty which strengthened the bonds between the NUS Board and the NUS community. Even as NUS became increasingly successful as a leading global university, Mr Wong constantly reminded NUS about the need to create even greater value and impact for Singapore. He stressed that NUS should always uphold the spirit of service and community.
Mr Wong also contributed his insights, expertise and time to Singapore’s education scene. He was part of a high-level committee to look into the establishment of the Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI) in 1981 to address the shortage of engineers. A major figure in our community – Mr Wong has served on the boards of several key agencies including the Economic Development Board, the Singapore Trade Development Board (predecessor to IE Singapore), DBS Bank and the Singapore Exchange. He was also on several high-profile committees such as the Committee to Review the Salaries of the President, Prime Minister and political appointment holders, the Constitutional Commission to review the Elected Presidency, and the 2002 Economic Review Committee.
NUS President, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan has said that Mr Wong is a “proven, world-class global business leader with a sharp, perceptive intellect, great wisdom, deeply held values, and excellent judgement. He is also remarkably modest, quiet, very patient and kind.” At an appreciation dinner organised by NUS for Mr Wong’s tenure as NUS Board of Trustee Chairman, Mr Wong encouraged everyone to contribute to the advancement of NUS. He retold the story about how Mr Tan Jiak Kim raised $87,000 to start a medical school which would become a leading global research university. “No matter how small we may think our contribution is, seemingly small deeds can lead to very impactful outcomes,” Mr Wong said.
Mr Wong was top in his cohort in school in Malaysia. He graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Electrical Engineering in 1965 from the University of Malaya and went on to obtain a Master in Electronics Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. Mr Wong also holds a Master of Business Administration (with distinction) from McGill University under the Canadian Commonwealth Fellowship.
NUS Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Co-Founders of Carousell:
Mr Quek Siu Rui, Business ’12
Mr Marcus Tan Yi Wei, Business ’11
Mr Lucas Ngoo Cheng Han, Engineering ’13
While on the NUS Overseas Colleges programme, three undergraduates became inspired by the strong entrepreneurial spirit and passion for technology they witnessed in Silicon Valley. The experience marked a turning point for them to pursue their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs in earnest.
The result was Carousell – a mobile classifieds marketplace application that combines engaging social media experience with the convenience of mobile commerce – which was launched in 2012. Within three years of inception, Carousell had received US$41.8 million in funding. It is currently one of the world’s largest and fastest growing marketplaces, ranked as the top lifestyle and shopping app in Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
The team has come a long way from when they first started out with scarce financial resources. As a team, they complement and motivate each other, and are deeply involved in product strategy and international expansion. The visionary Mr Quek sets the overall strategy and direction; self-taught designer Mr Tan oversees the design and operations; and passionate data science engineer Mr Ngoo focuses on building a team of world-class engineers.
The three alumni keep their connection with their alma mater strong. They are generous in sharing their time and expertise with students through talks and events and offer internships to NUS students.
Mr Quek and Mr Tan graduated from NUS with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2012 and 2011, respectively. Mr Ngoo graduated from NUS with a Bachelor of Engineering (Computing Engineering) in 2013.
Ms Betty Tsai, Associate Scientist, R&D, Procter & Gamble International
University Scholars Programme ’12
A strong belief in experiential learning and interest in problem-solving have led Ms Tsai to pursue a career as a research scientist at Procter & Gamble International Operations.
Ms Tsai has demonstrated originality of ideas, made significant and impactful achievements with disruptive innovations – in the multidisciplinary areas of biochemistry, environmental science, novel medical devices and nanotechnology – and has a number of pending patents in her end-to-end innovations from ideation, formulation to product scale-up. Her research and contributions to the science and technology landscape have been recognised by prestigious organisations and publications such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), and The Asian Scientist.
Ms Tsai has been very active in the University’s outreach events since her undergraduate days and has served as a mentor to inspire and encourage younger engineers to sharpen their skills and to make a difference in the world. In particular, Ms Tsai is an advocate for young women in engineering.
Ms Tsai sets aside time to volunteer as a career coach for teenagers to nurture the next generation of leaders to have strong convictions in their chosen vocations, and to make positive contributions to their communities. She was also on the Leadership Development Committee at the Young Women’s Leadership Connection.
Ms Tsai graduated from NUS with a Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical Engineering) (Honours) and the University Scholars Programme in 2012. She is concurrently pursuing her PhD (Chemical Engineering) in NUS.
Mr Jeffery Tiong Jee Hui, Founder and CEO of PatSnap Pte Ltd
A passion for innovation and the ability to see problems as opportunities seeded an idea that grew into one of the world’s fastest-growing intellectual property search and analysis platform – PatSnap.
While undergoing an internship at a medical device start-up in Bio Valley on the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme, Mr Tiong observed that world-class engineers and scientists were spending an inordinate amount of time going through legal data due to a lack of efficient tools for patent analytics. Discovering an opportunity to develop a solution that will provide easy navigation in the complex patent landscape, Mr Tiong set up PatSnap upon his graduation.
Using artificial intelligence and big data technology, PatSnap provides an effective and intuitive platform for intellectual property analytics. PatSnap has helped to accelerate the speed of technology commercialisation and discovery for inventors, research institutes and businesses, including NUS. With offices in Singapore, London, Suzhou, Beijing, Shanghai and Los Angeles, PatSnap services a large and global clientele – from corporations such as Xiaomi, Ferrari and Starbucks to government and academic agencies such as NASA, Yale University and the UK International Patent Office.
While he spends most of his time overseas, Mr Tiong continues to mentor undergraduates and share his professional experiences and journeys at talks and events. He encourages his fellow engineers to break boundaries, to develop useful and innovative solutions, and provides internships to NOC and NUS students at PatSnap.
Mr Tiong graduated from NUS with a Bachelor of Engineering (Biomedical Engineering) in 2007.