Conferment citation by University of Sciences Malaysia’s School of Physics dean Prof Dr Azlan Abdul Aziz for the Conferment of Emeritus Professor to Dr Chatar Singh at the university’s 57th convocation on 24 September 2019
YBHG. DATO’ DR. DATO’ DR. CHATAR SINGH A/L BERIAM SINGH
B.Sc.; B.Sc.[KepujianKelas Pertama]; M.Sc.[U.M. S’pore]; Ph.D. [Cambridge]; F. Inst. P. [UK]; F.I.P.M. [Malaysia]; Hon. F.I.P.M. [Malaysia]; F.A.Sc. [Malaysia]; D.P.M.P. [Perak]; J.S.M. [Malaysia]; P.K.T. [Penang]
1. Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh is the founding father of Universiti Pulau Pinang and Universiti Sains Malaysia. He is fully responsible for the establishment of the School of Physics and Mathematics, beginning with staff recruitment, planning and organising of the academic curriculum for bachelor’s honours degree for the School of Physics and Mathematics, and providing guidelines, rules and regulations for the University to meet all aspects of the newly established academic institution in 1969.
2. Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh was born in Taiping, Perak on 9 September 1929 to a self-employed private taxi driver and a housewife. He is the oldest of seven siblings. He regularly changed schools during his early education, from Nibong Tebal to Kamunting and Tanjong Rambutan to Anderson School Ipoh, Perak, before pursuing his studies at University Malaya, Singapore. After obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree (First Class Honours) and a Master of Science (Plasma Physics) from the same university, he was a recipient of the Queen’s Scholar scholarship to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in X-ray Crystallography at the University of Cambridge in 1957.
3. Upon completion of his Ph.D in 1961, Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh joined University Malaya in Kuala Lumpur as a lecturer in Physics until his promotion to a Reader in Physics in 1968.
4. In 1969, he was invited by the late Tan Sri Hamzah Sendut (USM’s first Vice Chancellor) to be in-charge of the development of studies in Physics and Mathematics at Universiti Pulau Pinang. He was later appointed as the Foundation Professor of Physics at the School of Physics and Mathematics, Universiti Pulau Pinang in April 1970 and as the Professorial Dean of the School of Physics and Mathematics, Universiti Sains Malaysia until 1977.
5. He retired in 1984 on attaining the mandatory retirement age of 55, but still rendered his services to USM on a contract basis until 1990. Throughout his service, he was involved in leading various national and international organisations, such as the President of the Institute of Physics Malaysia and President of the Asian Physical Society. In 1985, he was conferred the honorary title of Dato’ Paduka Mahkota Perak (DPMM) by Sultan Azlan Shah, which carries the title ‘Dato’.
6. The role and contribution of Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh in the history of USM’s establishment is immense. Together with the late Tan Sri Hamzah Sendut, the late Dr. Francis Morsingh and the late Dr. E. Balasingham, Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh was responsible for helping to design USM’s common academic and administrative infrastructure structure for the 3 main schools of study: the School of Physics and Mathematics, the School of Chemical Sciences and the School of Biological Sciences. He was also responsible for introducing the concept of ‘School’ instead of ‘Department’ with multidisciplinary subjects related to each discipline with the late Dr. Morsingh and the late Dr. Balasingham. This multidisciplinary approach enables USM to create several positions for academic staff who have demonstrated excellence in research and teaching to be promoted without having to wait for vacancies. USM is the first Malaysian university to introduce appropriate disciplines with specialised group research laboratories to encourage active group research in place of the +traditional individual research.
7. Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh has played a role in the history of USM by establishing the University Staff Golf Club. For the record, the diplomacy in golf has played a minor role for USM to be based at the magnificent Minden Barracks military base camp which overlooks the sea instead of at Sungai Ara. The story of the land transfer at a ringgit remains an anecdote in conversations about the Minden campus to this day.
8. Since the establishment of USM, the university has been renowned for its innovative approach to higher education and administration. Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh was directly involved in several USM ‘brainchild’ initiatives. The Geophysics and Biophysics Studies program (currently known as Medical Physics) at the School of Physics is the first in Malaysia. Both programs received tremendous response from students and related industries. USM produced the first Ph.D graduate in Physics in Malaysia (Dr. Donald Chuah Guan Siong, supervised by Dr. Ratnalingam) who pioneered the study of solar cells in USM; thus, leading USM to become the first university in the region whose staff member was awarded by the French government with the Chevalier of the Ordre des Palmes Academiques (Knight of the Order of Academic Palms). Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh is also responsible for establishing the X-ray Crystallography Research Lab, which is an integrated research center for USM and international research groups of various fields.
9. Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh has a special ability in identifying the potential of a staff. During his tenure as the Dean at UPP / USM, he guided several individuals in the process of self-development. For example, Dr. R. Ratnalingam, a Rhodes Scholar from Oxford University, is the first full-time staff member of Universiti Pulau Pinang. He rose to be Professor of Solid State Physics and Dean of the School of Physics, who then retired as the Director and President of Penang Medical College. Another notable figure is Prof. Emeritus Dr. Fun Hoong Kun, a Ph.D graduate of Purdue University, who led the Crystallographic Research Group which achieved ‘top and most productive scientist’ status in USM, Malaysia as well as other OIC member state countries according to the reports released by MASTIC MOSTI and COMSTech OIC. In recognition of Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh’s role and contribution in crystallography and his career as a researcher, Prof. Emeritus Dr. Fun made a special dedication to Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh in a press release on 9 September 2009, in honour of his 80th birthday.
10. Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh was an exemplary model of cooperation with external parties, both government and industries in establishing a foundation for outcome-oriented research. A notable achievement is his cooperation with the Penang State Government in determining the best quality of sand in Kedah that assisted Schott Glass in establishing a plant in Penang, providing employment opportunities to state residents and research opportunities for USM.
11. His passion in the study of Physics and in the development of USM did not end upon his retirement in 1990. As a sign of his unending support and dedication to USM and the field of Physics, he willingly presented the gold medal award to the best achiever in Physics. In fact, he is the only Founding Dean to award a gold medal at every USM convocation ceremony. Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh has also set up a Penang Sikh Education Fund which provides financial assistance to poor students of Sikh descent and as a recognition and reward to outstanding students in major public examinations in Penang schools.
12. He continued to serve the nation when he was appointed as the Royal Commissioner of the Royal Commission of Inquiry from 1991 to 1993 by Sultan Azlan Shah to investigate the tragedy of fire and explosion of Bright Sparklers Sdn. Bhd. fireworks factory which killed 26 lives and damaged property within 7 km radius.
13. In 1995, Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh was appointed as a Foundation Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM). He was appointed by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohammed. Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh later served as ASM Council Member until 1999.
14. Since 2000, Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh has been focusing on helping the Penang state government and the community, in particular, the Sikh communities. He has served as a Member of the State Unity Advisor, State Government Consultative Forum and member of Audit in RLKA USM Program. He has held various positions such as Chairman, President or Advisor of the Association of Residents, Sports and Sikhs of Penang as well as Malaysia. He also served as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Silicon Technology Institute, Penang.
15. In 2010, the School of Physics celebrated with Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh at an appreciation ceremony for donating his books collection of Physics, Mathematics, Computers and Crystallography to the Physics Resource Center (Physics Mini Library), hitherto used by undergraduates and postgraduates.
16. Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh’s persistence in his unending contribution to USM and the local community would not have been possible without the support of his wife Datin Kewal Rattan Balwant Singh. The beautiful couple was blessed with 4 children. With the upbringing and guidance of both Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh and his wife, all of the children have become medical doctors. One of his children followed her father’s footsteps and took up the position as a lecturer of USM and is now Professor Gurjeet Kaur.
17. The buildings currently occupied by the School of Physical Sciences and the Workshops were designed and supervised by Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh and are based on ideas he gave to the university appointed architects. The floor-loadings of the research laboratories were from his research findings of British standards for university buildings. Even the Biophysics laboratory needing radiation protection were built to those specifications. He was guided by the recommendations of the Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA. These buildings have stood the test of time and are a testimony to a physicist’s contributions to the university.
The Dean of the School of Physics,
Professor Dr. Azlan Abdul Aziz,
57th Convocation of University of Sciences Malaysia,
24 September 2019.
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