Prof Bernard Tan conferred Emeritus Professorship


E/Prof Bernard TAN had his hand in many key developments in science, and beyond, in Singapore. His contributions, leadership and achievements in research, education and service are significant and impactful, and almost indispensable, without which many of these developments would not have happened, or would have taken a longer time to come forth.


The following is a summary of some of E/Prof Tan’s efforts and contributions throughout his distinguished career.


  • Promotion of Information Technology and its applications and the computational approach to scientific research. E/Prof Tan introduced the first mini-computer (PDP-11) and Bitnet (the precursor to the World Wide Web) on campus in the early 1980s, and later provided strong support in creating the Computational Science Programme / Department in the Faculty of Science. The CPA (Computer Programming and Applications) courses were also introduced during his Deanship and provided Science students with opportunities to attain proficiency and literacy in computing skills.
  • Surface and materials science. E/Prof Tan provided leadership in the initiative to establish capabilities in the study and manipulation of material surfaces at the height of the silicon wafer and magnetic storage manufacturing phase during the growth of Singapore’s “high-tech” industries in the 1980s. The acquisition of the then state-of-the-art equipment and facilities (e.g. the ESCA-XPS) provided the much-needed impetus that propelled the surface science research group to a level that was competitive with many leading institutions in the world. E/Prof Tan was personally involved in many of the projects. These efforts laid the foundation for the creation of the Department of Materials Science (first in the Faculty of Science, and thereafter transferred to the Faculty of Engineering), and the many subsequent developments and achievements in the area of nanoscale science and technology. In recognition of these efforts, E/Prof Tan was awarded the 1996 National Science Award “for his outstanding contribution in photoelectron spectroscopic investigation of the structures and properties of polymers”.
  • Nuclear beam science and technology. E/Prof Tan pushed for the purchase of the first Van der Graaf generator in the 1980s, and with that, he was able to recruit a team of researchers that eventually built up a very respectable nuclear/ion beam setup, providing state-of-the-art XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence) and PIXE (Proton-Induced X-Ray Emission) facilities. That eventually evolved to the Centre for Ion Beam Applications (CIBA) at the Department of Physics. This experience and expertise also contributed to the launch, at NUS, of the Singapore Synchrotron Light Source (SSLS), that now stands as a national research infrastructure.
  • Signal and image processing. With a long-standing interest in signal processing, E/Prof Tan set up the first Laboratory for Image and Signal Processing (LISP) at the Faculty of Science in the late 1980s. LISP provided the space for the growth and nurturing of Singapore’s manpower and competencies in signal and image processing. These saw fruition in the establishment of the Centre for Remote Imaging and Signal Processing (CRISP) later. E/Prof Tan's efforts and leadership (from chairing the pro-tem board to the Management Board later) underscored this development.
  • Contributing to Singapore’s music landscape. E/Prof Tan is a serious classical music composer, and has been one of the prime movers in many developments in the music landscape in Singapore. He was involved in setting up the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), which included the invitation of Mr CHOO Hoey as the first SSO Conductor, and its subsequent management for many years. On campus, he worked on/with the “Department of Music”/Centre for Musical Activities/Centre for the Arts over the years. In collaboration with others, he put in significant efforts towards the establishment of the NUS Yong Siew Toh (then Singapore) Conservatory of Music with the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University and was a part of the team that guided and nurtured the evolution of the Conservatory over the years and through three Directors.
  • Contributing to Singapore’s maritime industry. E/Prof Tan’s involvement (as a member of the Board of Directors) with the Keppel Corporation from the 1980s to the early 2000s, and Keppel Telecommunications and Transportation from 2003, probably makes him the university academic with the longest link to the maritime industry in Singapore. These years of affiliation positively impacted the institutional relationship between NUS and Keppel Corporation, for instance, through the launch of the NUS Centre for Maritime Studies (of which he is the Founding Director) in 2005, and the Keppel-NUS Corporate Laboratory in 2013.
  • Service contributions to NUS. During his tenure as Vice-Dean (1979 to 1985) and Dean (1985 to 1997) of Science, E/Prof Tan oversaw the development of many educational programmes, the setting up of several new departments and the initiation of various research platforms. He also spearheaded the next phase of growth into a research-intensive faculty.


Looking at E/Prof Tan’s lifetime of achievements, it is impossible to overlook the breadth and impact of his selfless service contributions to the University and Singapore. He played a pivotal role in building the ecosystem that enabled those after him to attain the academic excellence that contributes to the prestige of NUS. 


BT 1

NUS Provost Prof Tan Eng Chye presented E/Prof Bernard Tan with the Emeritus Professorship award on behalf of the University


BT 2

Prof Peter Ho presented E/Prof Bernard Tan with a plaque as a token of appreciation from the Faculty