Life and Career


My primary school education was in McNair School which later became Rangoon Road Primary School. I did my "O" and "A" levels in Raffles Institution (in the days before RJC was formed), and this was followed by Cambridge University under an Overseas Merit Scholarship. The original dream to study Physics was shattered with a pathetic showing at my first university exams.

My first taste of research was working on a project on infrared laser spectroscopy in the final year. But a bad showing in my final year exam resulted in a detour of about 10 years, during which I: (i) completed my full-time NS liability and then teacher training in NIE, (ii) got married and became a father of two daughters, (iii) worked part- and full-time towards, and obtained, an MSc at NUS (with Professor Ang How Ghee and the late A/Prof Kwik Whei Lu), (iv) taught as a high school and JC teacher, and (v) worked as a development chemist in Glaxo (before it became Glaxo-Wellcome and then GSK). After completing my 8-years bond (I am no bond-breaker!) I dragged my family of four, using savings my wife and I had accumulated over 10 years of working life, to Simon Fraser University to complete a PhD under Professors R.K. Pomeroy and F.W.B. Einstein. I had a thoroughly (scientifically and otherwise) enjoyable and enlightening time there, becoming a father of a boy and completing my PhD defence at the end of 1995.

After 4 months of searching for a job back in Singapore, I found myself a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Chemistry, NUS; it was 3 years to reach tenure-track and then another 4 years to tenure. Finally, in Jan 2009, I moved to the Division of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry at NTU.

Teaching experience

I like research and teaching. I believe that that should be the raison d'ete for a university professor. My first teaching experience was as a secondary one Maths and Science teacher in the now-defunct Whampoa Secondary School during my first-year university break. I found teaching difficult yet rewarding, and learnt the maxim that "a picture speaks a thousand words".

My second teaching stint as a "temporary untrained teacher" was in Victoria School (when it was still at its Tyrwhitt Road site) teaching Pre-U 3 students, where I learnt about the fallouts from this elitist society of ours. During my NIE training, I had the opportunity to teach in both Victoria School (this time round at the Kallang Bahru site, with secondary 3 students) and Hwa Chong Junior College.

After qualifying as a teacher, I taught first in HJC where I first encountered real "KS" students, but also got to know some of the country's best brains in the making. I finished my stay in the education service as a teacher in River Valley High School. This was most memorable for I met so many interesting students, absolutely dedicated teachers, and a principal whom I admire and respect very much.

Military career

As a Singaporean, I believe in the importance of National Service. My association with the military may be said to have begun in school; I was a cadet in the NCC (Land), finishing as a Cadet Lieutenant in my Pre-U days. My formal military "career" began one fateful day in late December 1978, as an officer cadet in OCS at the old SAFTI.

After disrupting for university studies and upon returning to Singapore, I first served as a platoon commander (4 SIR, Bedok Camp), completed the Company Commanders' Course (the first and only, which was later renamed CTC), and then as Dy S3 (5 SIR, Slim Barracks).

In the reserves, I served as a company commander and then as S3 (66 SIR), with a short stint as a Division liaison officer after completing the Battalion Tactics Course, and was also promoted to the rank of Captain. During this period, I also served as an NCC teacher officer and got to meet some very dedicated fellow teacher officers.

A second disruption to complete my PhD followed, and I was subsequently posted as S3 (626 SIR), eventually attaining the rank of Major and appointment as Bn 2i/c. I completed my formal liabilities in 2004 and then served as a volunteer until 2006. During my stint with the last Bn, I served twice in operational duties, and is proud to have been part of the best NS unit in the division.

I am proud of the fact that I have never shirked my NS duties and have always striven to give my best during training. I believe that the role of a commander is to achieve the assigned mission with the minimum of casualty, and that can best be served during peace time by giving my men the best and most realistic training possible.