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Pioneer of quantum research in Singapore awarded Emeritus Professorship

28 June 2016

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Oh Choo Hiap, a CQT Fellow, is the first member of the NUS Department of Physics to receive the honour

Oh Choo Hiap at the ceremony where his emeritus professorship was announced.

Oh Choo Hiap first joined the National University of Singapore in 1983 and served as Head of the Department of Physics from 2000 to 2006. He is a founding member of CQT. Photo: James Wee / Faculty of Science, Dean's Office
Oh Choo Hiap at the ceremony where his emeritus professorship was announced.

Choo Hiap's Emeritus Professorship was announced in a ceremony at CQT on 21 June led by Head of the Department of Physics, Professor Sow Chorng Haur. Photo: Timothy Yeo / CQT

After more than three decades with the National University of Singapore, Oh Choo Hiap, a CQT Fellow, has been appointed an NUS Emeritus Professor with effect from 1 July. He is the first member of the University's Department of Physics to be awarded Emeritus status, recognising distinguished scholarship and service to the University.

Choo Hiap is one of the pioneers of quantum information in Singapore. He was head of the physics department from 2000 to 2006, during which time he recruited a number of researchers who later contributed to forming CQT.

In 2006, he shared Singapore's National Science Award with future CQTians Dagomir Kaszlikowski, Berge Englert and Kwek Leong Chuan "For their outstanding contributions to theoretical research on quantum coherence and its applications in quantum information science". When CQT was established in December 2007, Choo Hiap was one of its founding Principal Investigators.

Courage and insight

"At that time, quantum information science was not what it is today. I think ten years ago it required a little bit of courage and insight to bet on this newly emerging area," said CQT Director Artur Ekert, adding "Simply put, without him there would be no CQT. His experience and his advice have been of tremendous help to all of us."

Choo Hiap's Emeritus Professorship was announced in a ceremony at CQT on 21 June attended by senior university staff including NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost Tan Eng Chye. Eng Chye said "NUS is deeply indebted to Prof Oh Choo Hiap for his tremendous contributions in building a very strong foundation for our Department of Physics. For instance, he has been instrumental in recruiting top-notch faculty and building our strength in quantum information. The current world-class stature of NUS in quantum information is a consequence of his efforts."

Research and teaching

The NUS Faculty of Science has collected many tributes to Choo Hiap. Among them, NUS Vice President (University and Global Relations) Andrew Wee said, "Prof Oh is a collegial colleague who has been a great role model in teaching and research. He left a deep impression on the many generations of physics students he has taught and mentored, and is fondly remembered as the professor who teaches without notes."

Born in Sabah, Malaysia, Choo Hiap was selected under the Colombo Plan, an intergovernmental organisation "for cooperative economic and social development in Asia and the Pacific", to study in New Zealand, where he completed his PhD in 1972. He served at the University of Science of Malaysia from 1972 and joined NUS in 1983.

Before working on quantum information, he started his career in particle physics, particularly the Yang-Mills gauge fields, particle phenomenology and integrable models. In 2015, he was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

On being awarded the Emeritus Professorship, Choo Hiap said that he felt a deep gratitude to NUS for giving him the opportunity to continue his research. He said "It is a great honour to be awarded the Emeritus Professorship and I am humbled to receive this. This award means a lot to me, especially as it enables me to continue to be associated with NUS and to continue contributing in research and teaching where possible. This award would not have been possible without the support and advice of my colleagues and friends, as well as the encouragement of my family."