Chair's 20th Anniversary Message

Prof Lars SBS

School of Biological Sciences (SBS) 2001-2021 – 20 Years!

On 17 June 2001, Prof James Tam, the SBS founding Dean arrived at NTU to start the school. A few weeks later, I came to Singapore to be interviewed by him and the late Prof. Lee Sing Kong. The interview took place in the temporary offices at National Institute of Education (NIE). Although NIE is a beautiful campus, the SBS facilities were far from impressive. There were no laboratories, no nothing! But there was something very convincing and passionate in the enthusiasm of James and Sing Kong as well as others I met at NTU. I subsequently arrived in Singapore and at SBS in January 2002 and in July the same year our first batch of undergraduate (UG) and PhD students joined us. It is something of a miracle that it all went so exceptionally well, given the somewhat make-shift UG and research laboratories we had access to, scattered over the NTU campus. Our students from these first years of pioneering cohorts were fantastic; two of the UG students are now NTU faculty members (one in SBS and one in Lee Kong Chiang (LKC) School of Medicine). Within a couple of years - in May 2004 - we moved in to our present state-of-the-art SBS building and the rest is as they say, history. The SBS building comprises a purpose-built facility with 30,000 m2 of total floorspace, containing teaching and research laboratories with space for about 60 principal investigators, core instrumentation facilities, classrooms, computer suites and teaching laboratories It is now located and linked to the Experimental Medicine Building (EMB), which houses the basic biomedical science (non-clinical) laboratories of the LKC.

The rapid progress and development of NTU as a whole - being 30 years old this year - and SBS during this short period of time, is absolutely astonishing. Although we often say that we do not and should not take too much notice of university rankings, such rankings tell us something about the progress over time and about the trajectory. Considering the QS world university ranking by subject “Biological Sciences” for NTU has steadily improved over the last ten years, from being ranked in the range 151-200 in 2011 to 50-100 in 2016 and now at position 33 in 2021. In the QS University ranking by region, “Biological Sciences” is ranked 6 in Asia in 2021. 

I could now start to list all the remarkable achievements that our UG and graduate students, our faculty, our research and support staff; have achieved in these 20 years. Numerous scientific breakthroughs and teaching accomplishments, awards, major grants, prizes and notable prestigious positions in academia, industry and society, locally and globally. Suffice to say, if James Tam had told me 20 years ago when I first met him at NTU, that all this I would be a part of building and contributing to, I would have thought he was not only overambitious but simply had lost his sense of reality. But it did happen and I am extremely proud of having been a part of this together with all our fantastic staff, from our support staff – many of whom have been with SBS close to 20 years – to all our present and past faculty and students. And looking forward, I am convinced that for SBS, the best is yet to come!

Prof. Lars Nordenskiöld
Chair, Year 2019 to 2023,
School of Biological Sciences

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