Published on 19 Mar 2019

Passion Beyond Teaching

Assoc Prof Sourav S Bhowmick

Assoc Prof Sourav S Bhowmick
Tenure so far with SCSE: 17 years
Area of discipline/ research interest: Data management, data analytics, computational social science, network biology 

A little about Prof Sourav Bhowmick 
I am an Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science and Engineering (SCSE), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. I lead the Data Management Research Group at NTU (DANTE). I am also the Research Group Lead of Data Management & Analytics Group in SCSE. In the past, I have been a Visiting Associate Professor (2007-2013) at the Biological Engineering Division, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA and a Senior Visiting Professor at Fudan University (2013). My core research expertise is in the field of data management and analytics. I am more excited to solving problems not within the mainstream of this field that require new perspectives instead of yet another solution to traditional data management and analytics problems. Consequently, my research interest is multi-disciplinary in flavour, focusing primarily on developing novel paradigms, algorithms, technology, and software to improve efficiency of software as well as humans. 

Rewards of being a professor at NTU and teaching philosophy      
The most rewarding part in NTU is educating students. In NTU, we get diverse quality of students at all levels. I could choose the easy way out by lowering the bar to keep students happy (especially the weaker ones) but it is always a challenge to maintain high standard and rigor in education while ensuring that it benefits and keeps our students engaged.

Many of my students over the years have complained that I set high standard and expectations from them and sometimes to the extent that some of my undergraduate students “hate” to take my course. But it is also rewarding to see that many of these students benefit from it once they join the workforce. As one of my former undergraduate student quoted recently “I hated database modules so much, no matter how I studied, I was bound to get grade C. I did not excel well in my University grades at all. I used to hate the test and exam questions the professor sets. Until I graduated from the University, I realized how crucial database knowledge is. I thank Professor Sourav for always setting such tough and critical thinking kind of database questions, be it test or exam, I appreciate his way of teaching only after I have graduated.” I don’t think any other reward tops this as nothing is more rewarding than the positive impact a professor can have on the lives of their students!  

For my graduate students, the rule I set is simple: quality over quantity. I expect them to pick up the skills of thinking out-of-the-box and undertake research that does not follow the mass "In my group, we do not work on problems that are addressed or being addressed by many peers.  Some of my former students complained during their doctoral days “Why do you set such high standard? My friends are publishing in lesser competitive venues and graduating with a PhD degree from here!” These same students have now not only become successful entrepreneurs and academics in good universities but they also realize the benefits of the standard I have set and demand the same from their own students.

I follow the philosophy that students are expected to contribute to learning by asking questions and making relevant comments in class. Furthermore, in any software-based class trial-and-error plays a part in the pedagogy. Hence, I encourage them to learn by making mistakes. I focus on interactivity and engagement to facilitate learning.  In addition, I encourage students to solve problems independently without seeking for solutions.

Hobbies and interests
I like to paint (non-digital version) when I don’t want to think about databases and algorithms. I used to explore with water colours, pastels, and sketches when I was a child. In fact, I vaguely remember that I won a few art competitions in my locality back then. However, I stopped painting and drawing when I reached early teen due to academic commitments. Amazingly, I picked it up again after three decades, five year ago. In fact, this was purely accidental. My wife, who started painting before me, egged me to prove that it’s not all talk and that I can really paint. That was how it all started again after a chasm of three decades.

My interest lies in blending realism and expressionism styles of painting related to contemporary global and local issues such as refugee crisis, SG50, et cetera. I have given public exhibitions and talks of my paintings related to refugee crisis to raise funds for humanitarian organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. Some of my paintings have been sold for social causes such as contributions to elderly care and children suffering from rare diseases.

Art, in my opinion, complements the life of a scientist. To quote Carlo Rubbia, a Nobel prize winner in Physics, “Science for me is very close to art. Scientific discovery is an irrational act. It’s an intuition which turns out to be reality at the end of it – and I see no difference between a scientist developing a marvelous discovery and an artist making a painting.”

Thoughts on Work Life Balance 
There is no fixed schedule for my hobby. I paint whenever I feel like. I do not need to do any balancing act for painting, research, and teaching. I enjoy all of them and when you enjoy something you will always find time to do it. Particularly, in research I focus on quality over quantity and this mantra helps in balancing time. I never attempt to write twenty or more papers a year. Instead, I focus on very few papers every year and spend considerable time in crystallizing them with my students and research staff. In my area, one can rarely publish half a dozen papers per year in our premium venue (SIGMOD). In fact, if one publishes too many papers every year, our research community may question whether that person has made scientific contributions to all these work. Integrity is a premium commodity for a scientist, hard to earn but easy to lose.

You will find your balance when you enjoy what you do. If you don’t enjoy what you do, you will never find a balance regardless of how much money you make.  

One word definition of yourself  

Assoc Prof Kong Wai-Kin Adams

A little about Prof Kong
I grew up and completed my B.Sc. and MPhil in Hong Kong. Then, I studied PhD in Canada. After that, I joined NTU. My research interests are image processing and pattern recognition, especially applications on biometrics, forensics, and dermatology.  

Rewards of being a Professor at NTU and teaching Philosophy 
I enjoy working with my team very much, which consists of PhD students and research staff. I also like to give lectures and use a more humorous approach to teach mathematical concepts to my undergraduate students, which creates a livelier atmosphere, resulting in a lot of fun.

Some students approach me with both academic and personal problems. Though I may not be able to solve all of their problems, I take great comfort that I am able to provide them with useful advice or just be there to listen. 

Whenever I have the time, I write codes and conduct experiments as a PhD student for publication of sole authored paper. However, I doubt I will have such spare time in the coming years.

My teaching philosophy is to genuinely care about your students.   

Hobbies and interests
Growing up in an environment consisting predominantly of boys, I naturally partook in a lot of sports. Currently, I play soccer, swim and run on a regular basis.

For soccer, I am playing for the NTU staff team, which has a training session once a week. The team plays in the ITIS soccer tournament with matches competing with other higher education institutes. The NTU staff team also partakes in other tournaments. In addition to the NTU staff team, I also play for the SCSE and MAE team in the NTU staff 7-a-side soccer tournament. 

For running, I usually run between 5km-10km. I have completed two half marathons, one in Canada and one in Singapore and my personal best for 10km was around 55 minutes.

Each week, I spend around two hours on soccer and running, and an hour on swimming. I strongly believe in the benefits of physical exercise as it is good for both physical and mental health.    

Thoughts on Work Life Balance 
I believe strongly in work-life balance as there are more important things in life than work. For me, life is a trading game. Everyone uses their time to purchase something but we do not know how much time we have in this game. Some just let time pass and get nothing. Some put all their time on work for money and title. Everything comes with a price. The price of overworking can be divorce, sickness, mental disorders and even death. You need to understand clearly what you want to achieve and what is important. Then, you know how to maintain the balance.

One word definition of yourself 

I love my family, my students and my work.

Assoc Prof Alexei Sourin

Assoc Prof Alexei Sourin
Tenure so far with SCSE: Total - 24 years. 1993-1999, 2000-2018
Area of discipline/ research interest: Computer graphics and new ways of human-computer interaction 

A little about Prof Sourin 
I was born in Moscow and received my M.Eng. and Ph.D. degrees in computer graphics from the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (Technical University) in 1983 and 1988, respectively. I joined Nanyang Technological University in 1993. My research interests are in computer graphics and new ways of human-computer interactions. I have chaired the IFIP WG5.10 Computer Graphics and Visual Worlds and I am also a member of IEEE and ACM SIGGRAPH. I am an associate editor for several international journals including "The Visual Computer" (Springer) and "Transactions on Computational Science" (Springer and have been part of the program committees of over 120 international conferences. 

Rewards of being a professor at NTU and teaching philosophy      
Once a professor - always a professor.

For all my courses, the main idea is to show how ‘small formulae’ like geometric DNAs can be used for constituting complex shapes and motions, and how even a common PC can be used for solving advanced computer graphics problems. The courses assume case studies of the commonly available graphics software, which allows students to apply theoretical principles into practice without requesting for expensive hardware and software solutions. On the other hand, the courses oversee the most recent achievements in the respective areas and assume extensive use of video and multi-media presentations.

Hobbies and interests 
Apart from my work, I have a passion to learn different musical instruments. I can play the piano (since I was 6), harmonica, pianica (hybrid of the piano and harmonica), pan flute, Russian balalaika (stringed musical instrument of the lute family), and the theremin (electronic musical instrument which is played without touching by waving hands in the air). Besides playing music, I am also researching on creating new musical instruments and well as decorative arts with technology. 

Thoughts on Work Life Balance 
I play music when the mood strikes, even in my office. It helps me to relax and enables me to think better about sophisticated matters.

I strongly believe in pursuing making changes when necessary and never to be just idle.

One word definition of yourself 

Assoc Prof Hui Siu Cheung 

A little about Prof Hui
I am originally from Hong Kong and have been working in Nanyang Technological University since 1990. My research areas include AI, machine learning, intelligent recommendation and information retrieval. 

Rewards of being a Professor at NTU
I do enjoy interacting with students and my teaching philosophy is to help students learn my subject well. I am aware that not all students have the same learning style. In order to keep the classroom environment stimulating and appeal to a diverse array of learning needs, I try to incorporate a wide variety of teaching techniques such as lectures, discussions, group work, think-pair-share and team-based activities. 

Hobbies and interests
Besides teaching, I have keen interest in sports and one of my favourite leisure pursuit is badminton. It is a good form of exercise for me to keep my mind and body resilient. I indulge in the sport at least two to three times per week after office hours.  

Thoughts on Work Life Balance
I strongly believe that any form of physical activity or exercise can improve your health can have immediate and long-term health benefits. Most importantly, regular activity can improve your quality of life. Everyone should exercise a minimum of 30 minutes a day and this will add some spirit to your mind and body, taking away the monotony of just working and studying

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