Malaysia’s pioneer Sikh scientist made Emeritus Professor

The 90-year old retired academician Dr Chatar Singh Beriam Singh was the backbone of the university's School of Physics and Mathematics which he helped establish in 1969

Dr Chatar Singh and wife Kewal Rattan

By Asia Samachar Team | MALAYSIA |

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) recognised the lifetime contribution of scholar Dr Chatar Singh when it appointed him an emeritus professor.

The 90-year old retired academician was the backbone of the university’s School of Physics and Mathematics which he helped establish in 1969.

Born in Taiping, Perak, in 1929, the conferment last week (24 Sept) was the icing on the cake for the son of a self-employed private taxi driver and housewife who have made many valuable contributions to the Penang-based university.

“I am extremely happy and I feel extremely lucky,” he told Asia Samachar when asked how he felt on the conferment.

In the conferment citation, Dr Chatar was recognised as the founding father of Universiti Pulau Pinang and USM as well as ‘fully responsible’ for the establishment of the School of Physics and Mathematics.

“The role and contribution of Dato’ Dr. Chatar Singh in the history of USM’s establishment is immense,” USM School of Physics Dean Prof Dr Azlan Abdul Aziz said in the citation. “Since the establishment of USM, the university has been renowned for its innovative approach to higher education and administration.”

Dr Chatar was noted for his direct involvement in several USM ‘brainchild’ initiatives, including the Geophysics and Biophysics Studies program, currently known as Medical Physics, which was the first in Malaysia. The program led to USM producing the first Ph.D graduate in Physics in Malaysia.

“He was a dedicated scholar,” said Dr Manjit Singh Sidhu, author of Pride of Lions: Eminent Sikhs in Malaysia, which also featured Dr Chatar.


The eldest of the seven siblings, Chatar joined University Malaya, Singapore, where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree (First Class Honours) and a Master of Science (Plasma Physics). He then won the Queen’s Scholar scholarship to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in X-ray Crystallography at the University of Cambridge in 1957.

When he completed his Ph.D in 1961, Dr. Chatar joined University Malaya in Kuala Lumpur as a lecturer in Physics. In 1969, he was invited by the late 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, according to the conferment citation.

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.

Historian Dr. Ranjit Singh Darshan Singh is believed to be the first Malaysian Sikh to be conferred the emeritus professor title, which he received from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM). He was the first in the field of humanities.

In the field of sciences, Dr Chatar is believed to be the first from a Malaysian public university. AIMST University professor, vice chancellor and CEO Dr Harcharan Singh Sandhu is also an emeritus professor.

The title Emeritus/Emerita Professor is bestowed upon an eminent retired academic in recognition of their work and distinguished service.

Chatar Singh (third from left) with USM VC and the team – Photo: Supplied


Emeritus Professor conferment citation for Dr Chatar Singh Beriam Singh (Asia Samachar, 30 Sept 2019)

Dr Baljit inducted into prestigious Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (Asia Samachar, 25 Sept 2018)

Jasjit made dean at Rutgers School of Public Health (Asia Samachar, 25 Jan 2015)


ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here |