News Details | 18-Mar-2010

Book to inspire women into chemistry - NTU also launches endowment fund to attract female students to read chemistry

A leading female chemist has written an autobiography presenting a personal account of her life as an academic over a span of 40 years, and over 60 years of life story, in the hope that it will inspire more female students to read chemistry at the university.

In the 140-page book, Follow the Chemistry: Lure, Lore and Life, Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Senior Teaching Fellow Dr Goh Lai Yoong recounted her childhood experiences, her education experience from primary to pre-university education in British Malaya to two doctorates from University College London.

The book published by World Scientific, also provides interesting glimpses of the development of science and academia in the region over the years. For instance, Dr Goh wrote that in the early years good research emerging from developing countries came under “incredulous scrutiny” and could evoke “crude, uninvited responses” in referee reviews and from foreign competitor academics. Academics then also encountered obstacles such as mandatory early retirement and poor support for active researchers.

In addressing the lingering concern of low representation of women faculty in chemistry – and generally in science, engineering and technology – she peppered the book with vivid accounts of how she successfully balanced the rigorous demands of teaching, research and family. Through these, she showed that it is not impossible for a woman to make a success of family and life in academia.

“The reader will note that my career path was a drift along a Providence plan. My only efforts seemed to make sure I kept afloat by doing what was expected of that providential career. I hope that this account would encourage more women into chemistry or at least into the sciences,” says Dr Goh. “Equally important, this account is meant to be a tribute to the many special people – relatives, friends and several members of the Chemistry community – who have helped me in some way or have created an impression throughout the journey of my career life.”

“I have had the privilege to work closely with Dr Goh since 1983. She is a dedicated teacher and a researcher of the highest calibre,” says Professor Leung Pak Hing, Associate Chair, School of Physical & Mathematical Sciences and Head, Division of Chemistry & Biological Chemistry (CBC), NTU.

Professor Leung added, “Dr Goh is a shining example of how women can not only manage the two facets of life they are passionate about - family and career- but can actually excel in both without having to sacrifice one for the other. Through her autobiography I am sure she will serve as a motivation for the younger generation in Singapore to seriously consider a rewarding career in academia.”

NTU is also launching the Goh Lai Yoong Endowment Fund in honour of Dr Goh’s contribution to academia and NTU.

The endowment fund will offer scholarships and bursaries to female students to read chemistry at NTU.

“I feel very honoured. I hope it will help encourage more female students to study chemistry in NTU, aiding those without adequate means. There must be more talent out there with less opportunity. Indeed, the entire world's talent is needed to solve the problems of climate change, renewable energy and sustainable food supply,” says Dr Goh.

So far some $63,800 has been raised.


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Hisham Hambari
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About Nanyang Technological University 

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