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Prof Subra Suresh inaugurated as NTU Singapore's fourth President​

Published on: 22-Feb-2018

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Prof Suresh recounts his journey to Singapore, his vision for NTU and highlights new initiatives to strengthen NTU’s reputation as a great global research university

Professor Subra Suresh has been formally inaugurated today as the fourth President of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore). 

In his inauguration speech, Professor Suresh set out his vision for NTU’s future, and reaffirmed its values as a great global research university.

Speaking to an audience of about 2,000 people assembled on NTU’s campus, he said that NTU stood for excellence in education, research, creativity and service, and as a university, it must continually inspire and challenge its students and prepare them for a lifetime of inquiry.

Recognising NTU’s rapid progress over the last two decades, he pledged to defend its values and to lead the university in taking further major strides, and at the same time, to strengthen collaboration and coordination with other universities in Singapore. 

He outlined the key themes for his presidency: 

Cultivating NTU as a unique global leader through rapid societal changes arising from technological advances

Positioning NTU as a living testbed for innovation through its Smart Campus for enhancing the quality of life all community members and for supporting Singapore’s efforts to emerge as an early Smart Nation, by interfacing technology with humanity; 

Upholding its reputation for innovative new ways in which learning outcomes can be enhanced through technology;

Engaging with global industry, and acting as a catalyst for innovation and an engine for economies, both local and international.

During his speech, Prof Suresh announced three new initiatives: the establishment of an institute to tackle the challenges that technological change will bring to society; a new global digital arts prize, and a new fellowship to attract outstanding early-career scientists. 

Prof Suresh, who officially became NTU President on 1 January this year, was also conferred the title of Distinguished University Professor during the ceremony.

Among those at the inauguration ceremony were Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills); Mr Koh Boon Hwee, Chairman of NTU’s Board of Trustees, Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps in Singapore, the NTU Pro-Chancellors and Board of Trustees, and faculty and members of the university community.

Mr Koh Boon Hwee said, “The NTU President is one of the most influential positions because many future leaders of Singapore and the world sit in our classrooms.

“Professor Suresh’s outstanding background and passion for multidisciplinary research make him an ideal person to lead and contribute to NTU's new endeavours, as it matures into a world-class, research-intensive and innovation-driven university.”

Speaking just before President Suresh, NTU’s newest member of its Board of Trustees, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge from 2010 to 2017 said, “Prof Suresh is one of those rare intellectuals who is as interesting as his work. But it is his ability to see further than others that has long been the hallmark of his career.

“With Prof Suresh at the helm, NTU can ensure continuity of leadership for its key initiatives, as well as anticipate the creation and implementation of its next strategic plan. This will allow NTU to continue to make progress on many fronts as we build a distinguished and distinctive university that Singaporeans and the rest of the world can admire and be proud of.”

The new President of NTU began his inauguration address describing his own educational journey in India where neither of his parents had the choice to attend university, and his academic pursuit in the USA, made possible through family sacrifices and through scholarships awarded on merit alone and blind to personal background. 

“My own journey over the past several decades has revealed to me how the policies and practices of institutions and governments can have a profound effect on the lives and careers of individual citizens,” he said.  

“My journey would ultimately bring me here to NTU and Singapore, a country where the grand vision and policies of the government have dramatically improved the lives and livelihood of her citizens and have transformed the little red dot.”

He applauded the leadership of the university since its founding and said he accepted his appointment with great humility and responsibility. 

“I very much look forward to working with all of you as we collectively enhance and realize the full capacity and potential of this university which is poised to reach much greater heights,” said Prof Suresh.

NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity (NISTH)

Highlighting NTU’s strengths in the key areas shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution such as in AI and machine learning, robotics, internet of things, autonomous systems and mobility, cyber security, and environmental sustainability, Prof Suresh announced the establishment of the NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity to study the impact of the technological revolution on society. 

“Unlike the previous three previous industrial revolutions, Industry 4.0 is projecting a pace of technological and societal change that is unprecedented,” he said.

“Such changes will impact nearly every aspect of human endeavour and day-to-day life in the years to come…While the technological revolution we are witnessing today will reshape the 21st century human condition in many positive ways, there is also understandable nervousness about its potential downsides.”

He added that the new Institute will synergise and coordinate campus-wide activities at the intersections of technology, natural sciences, social sciences, arts, policy, regulation and governance, business, medicine and ethics.

“It will serve as a forum for discussion groups, research projects, symposia, educational activities, policy development and as a vehicle for a new era of exploration of how humanity will interface with technologies to enrich the human condition.”

The institute will leverage NTU’s multi-disciplinary strengths, with a focus on three key themes:

Responsible innovation: This theme will seek to address ethical implications of innovations – such as nanotechnology, personalised medicine, unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, and bioengineering – that will have a wide impact on society.

Governance and leadership in the Technological Age: Issues relating to how to manage the rate, speed and influence of technological advances on society will be examined.

New Urban Asia: This theme looks at the impact of technology and how it is transforming the urban landscape in Asia, and how it is affecting the lives of people in the world’s most populous continent.

A new global digital arts prize

Prof Suresh also announced the launch of an NTU Digital Arts Prize in 2018 to “recognise global artists and technologists with extraordinary creativity.” The prize would be open to global competition and awarded biennially at NTU with the winner selected by a panel of distinguished judges drawn from all over the world. 

Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship (PPF)

To attract early career scientists, NTU will launch the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship from the new academic year in 2018. 

“To further accelerate NTU’s rise as a global university, we will find new mechanisms to recruit and retain the best talent to NTU,” said Prof Suresh in announcing the new programme which will add to NTU recent successes in talent attraction via schemes such as the Nanyang Assistant Professors Programme and the National Research Foundation (NRF) Fellows Programme.

The new Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship aims to provide early career researchers and scholars with a unique academic pathway to start and further their academic careers.

It will provide a highly competitive salary and research grant package, mentorship and support in an established research group, as well as the opportunity to work with faculty in mentoring graduate students, and to gain exposure to the most dynamic and diverse region in the world.

Building on the Smart Campus vision

Last month, NTU announced plans to transform itself into a Smart Campus which harnesses the power of digital technologies and tech-enabled solutions for better learning and living experiences, the discovery of new knowledge, and the sustainability of resources.

On Wednesday (21 February), NTU opened The Arc, a learning hub for students that is a new flagship building of the NTU Smart Campus. 

Explaining the mission of the Smart Campus, Professor Suresh said: “Our goal is to have the NTU campus and community work together to testbed and deploy new technologies, policies, and practices that can inform and assist Singapore to become a Smart City and a Smart Nation.”

“This will involve NTU campus becoming a pioneer is the use of digital technologies for learning, living, working, playing, team-building, banking, shopping, commuting, parking, accessing healthcare, and much more in a manner that will enhance the quality of life for all members of our university community,” he said.

“It will involve the use of machine learning, real-time data analytics, autonomous and electric vehicles, various last-mile commuting options, and sustainable use of resources,” he added.

From the new academic year starting in August 2018, all undergraduate students will take new core educational modules to enhance their digital literacy. An innovative undergraduate degree programme in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence will also be launched.

Prof Subra Suresh's speech can be downloaded from the Speeches page.



NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity

The NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity (NISTH) is an interdisciplinary centre of excellence that seeks to make sense of how technological advances impact societies, cultures and human behaviour.

The Institute will bolster NTU’s ability to contribute towards Singapore’s vision of becoming a Smart Nation
It will focus particularly on the impact of technological revolution on urban Asia.

The Institute will adopt a thematic approach that cuts across broad subject areas such as artificial intelligence, big data and the life sciences.  Initially, the Institute will focus on the following areas:

Responsible Innovation: This theme will seek to address ethical implications of innovations – such as nanotechnology, personalised medicine, unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, and bioengineering – that will have a wide impact on society.
Governance and Leadership in the Technological Age: This theme will look at issues related to how the rate, speed and influence of technological advances have on society can be managed and regulated.
New Urban Asia: This theme looks at the impact of technology and how it is transforming the urban landscape in Asia, and how it is affecting the lives of people in the world’s most populous continent.

The Institute will have a panel of eminent international advisors, and work closely with NTU’s Colleges and Schools to organise various programmes and activities.

Sponsor thesis projects, competitions, educational modules, post-doctoral fellowships, and visiting professorships in a wide variety of areas where technology and humanity interface and intersect with major societal consequences.
Host academic conferences, workshops, public lectures, discussions with government and industry partners, summer/winter schools for international scholars and graduate students, and short courses. 
House a digital humanities lab and provide seed grants for research teams to develop substantial grant proposals.
Collaborate with local and strategic international partners, as well as student and outreach activities.
Lend support to and seamlessly coordinate a variety of existing university-wide activities, such as Falling Walls Lab and Majulah Lecture Series.

NTU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship (PPF) is designed to provide the best possible support for early career scientists, researchers and scholars in any discipline, from Singapore and anywhere in the world, to conduct research in their chosen fields of study.

Offers a pathway to an academic appointment as an assistant professor, or to another international postdoctoral assignment.
Targeted at PhD degree holders with no more than 5 years of full time postdoctoral experience.

NTU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship will include:

Two-year tenure with a salary of S$80,000 a year.
Research grant up to S$100,000 a year.
Housing and relocation grant.
Mentorship and support in an established research group.
Structured training and guidance to develop skill sets and competencies in preparation for possible faculty appointment.
Opportunity to work with faculty in mentoring graduate students.
Exposure to the most dynamic and diverse global growth regions.

Applications are now open till 5 April 2018, midnight (GMT +8 hrs).

For more information and application, visit​.

Media Contact:

Tan Yo-Hinn (Mr)
Assistant Director
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
T: +65 6790 4889

About President Subra Suresh

Professor Subra Suresh is an eminent American scientist, engineer and entrepreneur with a strong record of distinguished and impactful leadership in academia, industry and government. He began his tenure as President of NTU from 1 January 2018.

He was the ninth President of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) from 2013 to 2017. Before that, he served as Director of the US National Science Foundation (NSF) from 2010 to 2013, and Dean of the School of Engineering and Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering from 2007 to 2010 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was a faculty member for two decades.

Prof Suresh was nominated by former United States President Barack Obama in 2010 to lead the US National Science Foundation. As Director, he oversaw an annual budget of US$7 billion that supports fundamental research and innovation in all fields of science and engineering.

Prof Suresh holds the distinction of being the only university president elected to all three US national academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. He has also been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors. He was chosen by Science Watch/Thomson Reuters as one of the top 100 most impactful materials scientists during the decade 2000-2010.

His research in materials science and engineering, mechanics and biomedicine has helped to shape disciplines and technologies at the intersections of engineering, science and medicine.

In recognition of his stellar academic achievements, the NTU Board of Trustees appointed him the inaugural Distinguished University Professor, the highest academic recognition at NTU.

About Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and its Interdisciplinary Graduate School. It also has a medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.
NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI) and Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N).
Ranked 11th in the world, NTU is top in Asia and has been placed the world’s top young university for the past four years. The University’s main campus is frequently listed among the Top 15 most beautiful university campuses in the world and has received 57 Green Mark awards (equivalent to LEED-certified), of which 54 are Green Mark Platinum. NTU also has a campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.

For more information, visit

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