The awesome profs of NUS Computing – A collection of short stories

I’ve always said that we have awesome profs in SoC, but I’ve never really gone into that much detail about why I (we) feel this way.  And when better to talk about it than Teachers’ Day? Haha so here it is, a collection of short stories from SoC students and recent grads about how the actions of our professors have touched / impacted our lives.

A huge thank you to all those who contributed to this article. And please don’t feel sad if I didn’t ask you for a story – go tell your prof directly how much you appreciate and love them!

This post is dedicated to all the profs of SoC. Happy Teachers’ Day! Enjoy 

Note: Stories have been edited for grammar / context.


Let me start off with my own story (so difficult to just choose one!), which was the caption to this picture I posted on Facebook 2 years ago:

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End of IS2104 presentation!

Haha and Prof Tan Gek Woo is really damn nice! When I went to apologise to her for being so distracted in class today because I was *unsuccessfully* trying to print my FYP (Final Year Project) report but the SoC printers hate me, not only did she not scold me, but she actually congratulated me on completing my report and offered to let me print in her office! This is one of the reasons why I love SoC so much, because we have the most awesome profs ever   


He regularly stayed past midnight to help us

Remember the titbits outside a particular office during the exam period? The never-ending supply of snacks are from Prof Aaron Tan! He always has the students’ welfare in mind, and you’ll see him dashing across corridors and even skipping meals at times so he can help the students (well, you’ll know if you add him on Facebook). Really appreciate all his hard work and dedication towards the student population all these years!!

And during IS3102, Prof Tan Wee Kek served as more than just a tutor and adviser for our module. Just as we were battling with the high work load of the module, he was battling with juggling his job and his baby’s birth. But even then, he still regularly stayed past midnight just to help all of us! That’s crazy dedication man. And I can never thank him enough for the consistency in his feedback and information that was relayed to us over the semester. It was really a pleasure to get to learn from him!

Goh Ser Ming, Information Systems, Year 4


The answer to life

The answer to life? -> Prof Steven Halim! Prof Steven brings the teaching of data structures and algorithms to a whole new level.  It’s difficult to understand those abstract concepts, but Prof Steven has developed an application which allows you to experience visually how each step of an algorithm works.  It’s just so fun to play around with the colourful tools that it is almost impossible not to understand how each algorithm works.  From searching of baby names for his children, to finding the best path to get his wife to the hospital, his problem sets and assignments invite you to his world where you have to solve these classic real life situations using the concepts you learn during his class.  Moral of the story: Almost every problem you encounter in life can be approximated to a classic computer science problem, so his class literally gives you the answer to life! 😀

Yeo Kangwei, Computer Science, Year 4


Free coffee for bugging your prof at Starbucks

Prof Hahn Jungpil? Scary prof, always setting killer papers! Want to kill us is it? Pretty sure he will want to make some snide remarks about me when he see this. Yet behind these impressions is a professor who just wants his classes to be how we want it. When do you have the luxury to postpone midterms and get more revision just because you (I) wanted it, and set when you want your presentation/end of sem party to be? Plus getting us to go to Starbucks to interrupt his nightly chill sessions while getting a free coffee at the same time? And probably the only professor who would shoot me a look and turn back to the audience proudly after reading out my name during commencement 😂

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Natalie Goh, Information Systems, Class of 2016


The greatest lesson I learned in NUS

After finishing my FYP final report, I was not confident about my work. My supervisor happened to be busy, and it was getting close to the deadline so I turned to Prof. Ng Teck Khim for help, hoping that he could just scan through the report and perhaps give me some general comments. It was a 50-page document, and he was not my supervisor but a prof that I trust, so I did not want to trouble him too much.

To my great surprise, he got back to me the next day, having thoroughly read through the document and made notes to the issues he had identified! He even caught my spelling and grammar mistakes, and suggested ways to improve the flow of the writing. What’s more, he added that if I had any questions, I was welcome to consult him further the following day.

I was really really touched by how he took my request so seriously, even though I was not directly under his supervision. It was also very inspiring. Prof. Ng taught me the importance of being sincere and thorough when helping others, and it is one of the greatest lessons I learned in NUS.

Bao Xiao, Communications and Media, Class of 2016


Passion for whatever he takes up

So I did my FYP with Prof. Tuan Phan. He’s one of the most open minded professors I’ve met who encourages his students to try new things. A lot of times we ran experiments with no significant results – but prof would always be calm and keep us motivated. For our projects we had meetings with an external stakeholder, and he always offered to accompany me to meetings even though he didn’t have to. I really admire his patience and his passion for whatever he takes up (research, dance, anything), and most of all his humbleness.

Even after uni I was in touch with him for the prof. pastimes videos. I think out of all the profs we interviewed, we bugged him the most, and he always had something fun or interesting to share. This to me is very good because honestly he doesn’t have to do it, but he always obliges!

Khyathi Nirmal Kumar, Information Systems, Class of 2014


He believed in my abilities more than I believed in myself

I worked with Prof Terence Sim for my FYP.

He’s been really nurturing and supportive throughout, guiding me along and letting me explore my crazy ideas. Through the journey, Prof has constantly encouraged me, especially when I feel dejected from not achieving any results after trying for a few days. He believed in my abilities more than I believed in myself.

He makes the journey enjoyable by joining in the fun — he volunteered to be a model for my FYP! When I went to hand in the final report, he took a stroll with me to the SoCCat (SoC’s mascot). I dressed up as the mascot and he took photos of me getting into the suit. During one of his class, he dressed up as Buzz Lightyear to bring across the message of infinity.

We took a photo with his favourite toy snoopy during commencement and he continues to nag me to pursue my dreams and not lose my fun spirit till today, even after I’ve graduated.

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Lynnette Ng, Computer Science, Class of 2016


He encouraged me to excel beyond my boundaries

Prof. Ken Sung ah… He gives out extremely hard exam papers and expects a lot out of you. You should avoid him if you aren’t up for the challenge! Unless you’re a Computational Biology (CB) student then too bad lor, cause he’s one of two CB profs in NUS! But ok la, he’s actually quite nice.

I struggled a lot with Uni in my first year, then got summoned to meet Prof. Ken Sung, who’s my academic adviser. I was hesitant at first but I’m really thankful for the support he has given over the years. His attitude towards these meetings where he encouraged me to excel beyond my preconceived boundaries and was always willing to teach me about concepts that I lack good knowledge of. Even after the meetings weren’t required as I was doing better now, he was still concerned about me! This changed my preconception that perhaps the profs in SoC aren’t so disinterested in you as I had initially thought. And that’s why I will continue to tahan Prof. Ken Sung’s difficult work, because he wishes for me to excel 

David Chong, Computational Biology, Year 4


“Running kakis”

I had the privilege to be under the care of Mr. Aaron Tan regarding my academic performance when I was struggling to get out of probation in my first two years of NUS. It was under his encouragement, and all my other friends in SoC, that I started to pick up my academic results. We, with some other friends, also form what we called the “running kakis”, and usually jog together every week. I always look forward to talking about our lives after the run, over dinner at Clementi before he goes home.

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Knowing him for 4 years has inspired me greatly. I see from his social media activity, and his daily life, that he is a dedicated educator, father and son to his mother. I trust him and have consulted him about some of my life’s questions and issues because I know, and have seen him persevere through his own issues that I can draw lessons from, such as taking care of his stroke-ridden mother before she passed on, and some of his not so ordinary childhood experiences. I personally can be quite depressed at times and I am in awe as to how he managed to remain positive in trying times. Overall, he is quite retrospective and insightful.

He and Prof. Alan Cheng are the ones I also consult with for my plans in my postgraduate studies.

Tan Tack Poh, Computer Science, Year 5


Treats his students like friends

Lek Hsiang Hui is a friendly and nice prof who treats his students like friends. He is always willing to answer students’ questions and provide advice. He often catches up with his students when he sees them around school. His understanding of SoC students has allowed him to be empathetic to our hardships and often went out of his way to help me, even though he could have just insisted on his stand! He really gave me an opportunity to excel that semester 

Anna Lim, Information Systems, Class of 2016


Blessed to have known these profs

Yea, 2 profs. One is Dr Ng Teck Khim, (CS4243 prof), the other is Dr Chong Ket Fah (CS2010 tutor). Both of them were super nice and approachable whenever I asked them for help with questions about the content. They actually looked happy to see me!

Like for CS4243, when I was trying to revise for the finals, I realised there was quite a lot of content I was unfamiliar with. And since it’s a level 4000 module, there was no webcast. So I tried to arrange a short consultation session with Dr Ng. Surprisingly, he replied my emails super fast! I managed to clarify my doubts with him, and he didn’t even ask me if I ponned his lecture or didn’t pay attention in class 

Then for CS2010 I remember there was one time after midterms I was thinking of dropping it, but then I consulted Dr Ket Fah and he was quite encouraging. And sometimes I’d ask for hints for the problem sets and he would oblige haha. Also there was once I approached him for help when I was trying to prepare for certain programming interview questions. Even though by then he was no longer my tutor and I just knocked at his office door unannounced, he still welcomed me!

I’m truly blessed to have known these profs in my time in NUS!

Andre Lim, Computer Engineering, Class of 2016


He helped out at IFG trainings

Prof Gary lor. I was quite impressed with him cause he actually went down to help out with IFG Tennis training. I mean I’ve never seen any prof go down to play sports with the students. He even sponsored new tennis balls, drinks for the players, and hired a coach!

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And little things here and there, like approving our sports budget and helping us settle things which students can’t. Like for the SoC Sports Camp, SRC didn’t allow us to book the field. So I asked Prof Gary for help, and he went to speak with the person in charge. We still didn’t manage to get the field in the end, but at least I know our faculty advisers are very supportive of us.

Jayden Shen, Computer Science, Year 4
Jayden was the CompClub Sports Director in 2015/16


Infectious passion and enthusiasm

“I’ll be happy if I can survive the next 4 years in NUS.”

“You can do better”, Dr. Anand Ramchand replied, the first time I met him as a weary-eyed freshmen.

Since then, he has been an integral part of my university journey, constantly challenging us to redefine our boundaries. In class, he pushed us to apply our theoretical skills in solving real world IT problems both through case studies and practical assignments, giving us confidence that what we learnt was relevant. And it didn’t stop there. His infectious passion and enthusiasm for all things IS extended beyond the classroom. It was common for assignment discussions with him to stretch late into the day, often side tracking to incorporate other current IT developments.

However, he didn’t just bring us the world, he also brought us TO the world. I had the privilege to represent SoC in a case study competition in Vancouver with Dr. Anand as our coach. He often volunteered to stay back on weekends to train with us. This is yet another testament to his perseverance and passion in nurturing students to give their very best.

Such experiences are not isolated, and it’s not uncommon to hear other students sharing similar experiences involving other professors. This is an incredible school and I’m really proud to have been a part of it.

Edmund Wee, Information Systems, Class of 2015


Something special for every lecture

Mr. Aaron Tan is one of my favorite lecturers in NUS School of Computing. He’s very enthusiastic in teaching students, and dedicates his time and effort to prepare something special for every lecture to make it more interesting. For instance, he prepared props such as umbrella and involved students to joint-demonstrate a complex computing concept to the class. He always put in his undivided attention to every student and ensure that he or she is fully understood the subject he is teaching about. All in all, he’s someone I really look up to as a role model.

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Choo Yan Sheng, EC, Year 5


They trust us and will fight for us

Before I assumed the position as the President of the NUS Students’ Computing Club (a.k.a CompClub), I heard from the other faculties that it’s always tough working with their faculty advisors. This made me worried of my term all our events have to been vetted and approved by the faculty advisors and the President is often the person to liaise with them.

However, from the day I became President, the advisors have proved my worries unnecessary. Dr Gary, Dr Bimlesh, and Dr Colin (plus special mention to the SoC Student Life faculty, Adele!) have welcomed me with not just open arms, but also open minds and hearts! They’re very receptive to our new ideas and are always available for us to consult. They invest their precious time in reading our many proposals and are very patient in explaining their concerns in the simplest and most straightforward fashion. Even when the Orientation saga occurred, the faculty advisors trusted us (i.e. the members of the organizing committees, the group leaders and the members of the management committee) and worked with us to prove our innocence and ensure that our projects can continue.

I feel very blessed and fortunate to have these faculty as the Club’s advisors and (selfishly) wish that they will remain as the Club’s advisors for the longest possible time!

Tan Yongming, Information Systems, Year 3
Yongming was the CompClub President in 2015/16


Good teachers are rare, great teachers even rarer

Zhou Lifeng is one of the most dedicated teachers I’ve come across. Having taught children briefly, I understood how difficult it is to be a teacher sometimes, and patience is one of the first factors to go out the window when dealing with a student that can’t seem to grasp the subject. Unfortunately for Lifeng, I happened to fall into that camp for the module he was teaching- CS1010. I recall the endless patience he had whilst trying to make me “get it” and all those extra remedial classes he gave- without expecting anything in return except for me to finally grab the gist of the basics of programming. Good Teachers are hard to come by, Great Teachers even rarer, and I am very fortunate to have been taught by one.

Fiona Fong, Information Systems, Class of 2015


Cares for students beyond academics

“The most important thing about teaching is the heart.” This quote stuck with me since I heard it from Prof Ben Leong years ago. If there’s a Prof in SoC that cares for students beyond just their academics, it’s definitely Prof Ben. The amount of dedication and sweat that he puts into his teaching is impeccable, and it motivates both students and tutors to do their very best. I have taken many of Prof Ben’s modules and have also worked with him to teach many modules and every stint makes a great learning journey for the people involved.

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Tay Yang Shun, Computer Science, Class of 2015


He would go the extra mile for us

Dr Zhao Jin is a friendly professor that is lively and energetic when it comes to teaching the syllabus. When I was under his tutelage, he would go the extra mile to clarify with students various coding concepts when one is unsure of. He is very friendly as well and even went on personal jogs with other students and professors to know them better.

He even went the extra mile to take time from his busy schedule to arrange a summarised course in relation to the CS1020 syllabus for CS1010 students under him during the summer break which proved useful to many students.

Indeed it was such an honour and pleasure being a student under him and I hope to be mentored under him should the chance arises.

Jason Scourge, Computer Science, Year 2


Friendliest and most understanding lecturer

I took two modules under Prof Chua Tat Seng, CS3246 Multimedia Content Analysis and Search and CS4242 Social Media Computing. Prof Chua is one of the friendliest and most understanding lecturers I have met! I recall taking 8 MC with CS3246 back then. My team didn’t have the time to finish! Prof Chua understood our situation and gave us an extension.

He’s also very enthusiastic about his field, you can tell when he’s talking about NExT (a research centre he’s involved with). In projects, he encouraged me to explore strategies beyond what was taught in class, linking me to current research papers to find out more. As it turns out, the stuff that Prof Chua taught was applicable even years after graduation, and I really appreciate what he has done for all his students.

Wong Yong Jie, Communications and Media, Class of 2015


Build what you care about

Since year 1, Prof Colin told me that he was teaching a class that I would need to work extremely hard to get in. I had no clue what kind of the class that would be. Every time I had chat with him about how to become a good software developer, he always told me the same thing, build something small and build what you cared about.

In my final year, I finally got into his class. It wasn’t an easy class, and I actually cried a few times. However I will always remember this class, because he is a professor that cared about “usability” of a product rather than technology itself. Also because his speech in the last class, where he mentioned that we shouldn’t be afraid of our feelings. No one will remember the feeling, they only remember what great product we built. I always remind myself about what I experienced in this class and what he said, every time I get frustrated and stuck somewhere. 

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Vicky Zheng, Information Systems, Class of 2016


They mentor you like family

You think CS1232 is a challenging module? Wait till you take CG3002! You will surely take your words back! It’s Uncle Soo’s and Colin Tan’s brainchild…so I no need to say anything more. They’re one of the most fun yet demanding profs to take mods under! Have you ever played Escape Games before? Their modules are basically the SoC version of that. Really stimulating because they make you think and challenge your own thought process, but also very fun because they really mentor you like family! Like one time during our test run in CG3002, our blind man was walking completely off-track because our code got corrupted in the last minute.They were super understanding and let us have another chance! They will answer all your blur questions as long as you put in the sincere effort that goes into the module!

Juhi Simanthika, Computer Engineering, Class of 2015


These stories aren’t the exception in SoC. They’re the norm, with many more where they came from, including lots of profs who aren’t mentioned here (sorry 😕). Now you understand why we love our profs so much?

And to our awesome profs, Happy Teachers’ Day! Thank you for going above and beyond your job, and never giving up on us. Thank you for the countless encouragements and words of wisdom. Thank you for randomly checking up one us to see how we’re doing, even after we’ve graduated. And above all, thank you for just being our friends. A lot of us wouldn’t be where we are now if not for you guys 

♥ sarrie

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