Professor OH Choo Hiap conferred Emeritus Professorship Award


Professor OH Choo Hiap was presented the Emeritus Professorship award by Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost Professor TAN Eng Chye at a ceremony organised by the Department of Physics on 21 June.


The award of Emeritus Professorship is conferred to full professors on retirement in recognition of their sustained contributions in terms of distinguished scholarship and conspicuous service to the University.


Prof Oh obtained his B.Sc. (First Class Hons) and Ph.D. in Physics in 1969 and 1972 respectively, from the University of Otago, the oldest university in New Zealand. For his Ph.D., he studied high energy physics, which relates to the study of the smallest constituents of matter, electrons, quarks etc.


Prof Oh has been with NUS since 1983. He served as Head of the Physics Department for six years (July 2000 to June 2006). During this period, he and his colleagues streamlined the department’s research focus areas and established new research directions. They strengthened the physics teaching programme and curriculum, and introduced new general education modules, such as physics modules, for Faculty of Engineering students.


Prof Oh recruited various researchers in the field of quantum information. This laid the foundation for the establishment of the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) in December 2007, of which he was also one of the founders. CQT is Singapore’s first Research Centre of Excellence and has a world-class research programme with strong theory and experiment groups. It brings together quantum physicists and computer scientists to explore the quantum nature of reality and quantum possibilities in technology.


Prof Oh’s research domain is in theoretical physics, primarily Yang-Mills gauge field theories, Chern-Simons theories, particle phenomenology, Yang-Baxter equations, and quantum information and computation. He has exploited the links between them to obtain significant results. His recent influential works are on quantum contextuality, geometric phase and quantum error correction codes. These research findings have been published in over 250 international physics journals.


Prof Oh has received various prestigious awards. These include the National Science and Technology Award (2006) administered by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) which recognised Prof Oh’s outstanding contribution to themultidisciplinary field of quantum information science which has helped to position Singapore as a leader in this field.


Prof Oh was also conferred the Institute of Physics (IPS) President’s Medal in 2014.


In October 2015, Prof Oh was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), an honour signifying recognition by professional peers based on exceptional contributions to physics research, important physics applications, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education. Fellowship is limited to no more than one half of one percent of the Society's membership.


Prof Oh’s contributions were also cited in “50 Years of Science in Singapore”, a commemorative compendium comprising chronicles by eminent authors who have significantly shaped science achievements in Singapore.


Prof Tan 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.”


Dean of Science Professor SHEN Zuowei said, “Prof Oh has made great impact in the development of physics teaching and research in Singapore, especially in establishing our leading position in research in quantum technology. He has also made important personal contributions to this field. He set the lead in identifying and developing the Physics Department’s key objectives and its short- and long-term research goals. He was also a founding member of the Centre for Quantum Technologies, which plays a major role in positioning Singapore to become one of the world’s leaders in cutting-edge quantum technology. He not only excels in research, he is also an excellent teacher who has influenced many generations of physics students.”


Head of Physics Professor SOW Chorng Haur said, “The Physics Department is very thankful for the many years of dedicated and tireless contribution from Prof Oh. Under Prof Oh's leadership when he was the Head of Department, the department flourished and rapidly transformed from a teaching department into one that focused equally on research excellence. Prof Oh is an inspiring scholar and teacher who led by setting a good example to his students and colleagues.”


CQT Director & Lee Kong Chian Centennial Professor Artur EKERT said, “Simply put, without Prof Oh, there would be no CQT. His experience and his advice have been tremendously helpful to all of us.” 


Professor LIM Hock said, “Colleagues and students will always remember Prof Oh as an outstanding teacher and an award-winning researcher. He is also humble, unassuming and approachable and always ready to share his knowledge, insights and passion - the epitome of a teacher-scholar.”


Vice President (University and Global Relations) Professor 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. He also shares the distinction of being among the core group of NUS high energy physics theorists who moved into the then nascent field of quantum information, and helped create a new peak of research excellence for NUS.”


CQT Deputy Director Professor LAI Choy Heng said, “Prof Oh has been a friend and mentor to me. He taught me more than how to do physics: he demonstrated, by example, humility, integrity and commitment to our academic responsibilities. His guidance in my early days as a physicist was invaluable, and I have benefitted from his words of wisdom and advice on many occasions over the last 30 years.”


Professor FENG Yuan Ping said, “Under Prof Oh’s leadership, the department went through many changes, recruited a number of top physicists and transformed into a research intensive department. He was also known as an excellent lecturer, and he received many teaching awards for his unique style of teaching.”


Professor Englert BERTHOLD-GEORG said, “Prof Oh’s Emeritus Professorship is well-deserved recognition of his profound contributions in transforming the Department of Physics from a teaching-driven unit to a modern research-based department where frontier research is performed.”


Prof Oh retired from being a CQT Principal Investigator at the end of 2014 but continues his research on quantum information, quantum computation and fundamental issues in quantum theory as a CQT Fellow. 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.”



Before the award presentation ceremony : (From left) Vice Dean (Outreach & Admissions) Prof GOH Say Song, Prof Oh Choo Hiap, Prof Tan Eng Chye, Prof Artur Ekert and Prof Sow Chorng Haur



Prof Oh and Prof Andrew Wee



The presentation ceremony took place in an informal setting



The Emeritus Professorship award as well as tokens of appreciation prepared in honour of Prof Oh



Prof Sow expressed his appreciation for Prof Oh’s leadership and contributions to the Department of Physics over the years



Prof Tan spoke on the impact of Prof Oh’s contributions to the University, in establishing a strong foundation for the Physics Department and positioning NUS as a world leader in quantum information



A joyous occasion for Prof Oh



Prof Tan presented Prof Oh with the Emeritus Professorship award on behalf of the University



Prof Goh presented Prof Oh with a plaque as a token of appreciation from the Faculty



Prof Sow presented Prof Oh with a jacket as a token of appreciation from the Department



Prof Ekert presented Prof Oh with a bottle of wine as a token of appreciation from CQT



Prof Oh expressed his gratitude to the University for the award and thanked his fellow colleagues, family and friends for their support and encouragement over the years



Fellow colleagues joined Prof Oh in celebrating the happy occasion



Colleagues penned well wishes for Prof Oh