Study by Schirmer & Escoffier highlighted in Scientific American

Annett Schirmer and her graduate student Nicolas Escoffier recently presented a study on the effects of rhythmic sound at the 2012 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting (, a major conference that attracts more than 30,000 attendees.

Their work has attracted attention from Scientific American, the leading source and authority for science, technology information and policy for a general audience, and has been featured as a blog entry on the Scientific American site ( Well done, Annett & Nicolas!

Dr Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied invited to be Honorary Research Associate at La Trobe University

Dr Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, Assistant Professor in the Department of Malay Studies has been invited to be an Honorary Research Associate at La Trobe University, Australia. It is a position usually reserved for senior academics and to be invited for this post is a rare honour for someone relatively new to the academe. We caught up with Dr. Aljunied to hear more about this accolade and his research:

Dr. Stephen Lim and research student win Best Paper Award at international psychological sciences conference

Dr. Stephen Lim with ICPSB 2012 Chairperson.

Dr. Lim Wee Hun Stephen, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, and Mr. Lam Wing Mun, an undergraduate student researcher, have been honoured for their recent research. Among all research entries received at the International Conference on Psychological Sciences and Behaviors (ICPSB 2012) held on 2 and 3 June in Hong Kong, Dr. Lim received the Best Paper Certificate for having delivered outstanding basic research in vision science. This Award was announced at the Conference Dinner Banquet and conferred by the ICPSB 2012 Chairperson Professor Dimiter G. Velev, who described Dr. Lim as “the pride of [the] Conference”.

Dr. Stephen Lim and Mr. Lam Wing Mun


The winning work is entitled “Illusory Objects Produce Substitution Masking Effects”. Dr. Lim commented, “This work was pursued as Wing Mun’s Honours Thesis research. Our goal was to discover what ultimately constitutes a visual object, a long-standing question that continues to fascinate all vision scientists. This work is the first globally to demonstrate comparable functional properties between physical and illusory objects in a convincing way, using an object substitution masking paradigm. In simpler terms, imaginary distractors are as capable as real ones in disrupting our identification of important targets that appear before our eyes. We are delighted to have made a very major contribution to this area of research.”

One of Dr. Lim’s international research collaborators describes him as “both an outstanding researcher and a highly talented educator and research supervisor”. Dr. Lim earlier supervised undergraduate research projects that clinched the International European Conference on Cognitive Science Best Student Paper Award in 2011, as well as the Annual International Conference on Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology Best Research Paper Award in February this year. An avid researcher, Dr. Lim currently serves on the Editorial Boards of two international peer-reviewed journals.

Congratulations to Dr. Lim and Mr. Lam on their remarkable achievement!

Dr. Elaine Ho wins 2012 Progress in Human Geography Essay Prize

Congratulations to Dr. Elaine Ho, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, who has been awarded the Progress in Human Geography Essay Prize 2012 for her paper on ‘Claiming the diaspora: Elite mobility, sending state strategies and the spatialities of citizenship’. Please click here in our Research Accolades pages to read an interview with Dr. Ho about the prize, the winning paper and her research.

London trip for two of FASS’ young Research Assistants

Two of FASS’ Research Assistants from our very own Research Clusters were recently in London on conference leave to attend CAAS 2012. Johan and Amy found a few moments to share with us what they got up to in London and explain how they are learning about the world and academia as junior research faculty at FASS.

What is CAAS about?

CAAS stands for The Consortium for Asian and African Studies. It was formed in 2007 with the aim of pulling together the strength of scholars and experts in the field of Asian and African studies. At present,the consortium consists of 7 member institutions – Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS), Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO), Leiden University, The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), National University of Singapore, Columbia University and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Each year,a member institution would take turn to host a conference on an agreed theme to boost research synergy, reaffirm ties and forge new collaborations. This year, the conference was organized by SOAS and it was held on 16-18 February 2012 at their campus in central London.
[In 2013 it will be at NUS – see here for the call for papers: ]

Registration for participants of CAAS 2012

 What were your motivations for submitting an abstract?

We are both relatively familiar with the topic of singles in Singapore as we were either involved in primary research work on singles in Singapore in the past and/or had first hand knowledge of how singles here are represented in the media. So looking at the theme of this year’s conference – Making a Difference: Representing/Constructing the Other in Asian/African Media, Cinema and Languages – we realized it would be a good idea to combine our knowledge on the social realities and state portrayal of singlehood to write a joint paper on the ‘othering’ of singles in Singapore. 

Getting ready for the first parallel session in the Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London.

How was your experience in presenting the paper?

At first we were slightly apprehensive about the presentation as we felt that the approach and topic of our paper did not seem to fit with that of most other papers,which were grounded in the field of media studies, linguistics and discourse analysis. To our pleasant surprise, the turnout exceeded our expectations and we entertained interesting questions about our research data, as well as on Singapore society in general from an attentive audience. We also appreciated that there wasn’t a distinction between senior academics, junior researchers,and graduate students, in terms of how the presentations were scheduled. We felt this created a rather ‘egalitarian’ setting where discussions and points of criticisms were raised more freely.

What are some other highlights of your trip to SOAS?

Both of us were very intrigued by the “free meal” service just outside the SOAS campus, two English gentlemen were serving hot stewed potato, rice, cake and fruits off a push cart – for free. They were very generous and indiscriminating in handing out the food too. Something like this does not exist in Singapore (or not that we know of), so we were really curious. 

Men serving free meals to students and passers-by outside SOAS campus

We eventually tried the food because it looked so good – hot food in the cold is always inviting! We later found out that they were part of the Hare Krishna “Food for Life” project to distribute vegetarian meals throughout the world. It is amazing that London society is essentially diverse and inclusive.

Amy getting a taste of the Hare Krishna “Food for Life” meal

As a junior researcher,how did you benefit from the entire experience?

Another highlight of the trip was the conference dinner held on the second night of the programme. Having been to quite a few conference dinners before, we felt that this dinner had a stronger atmosphere of camaraderie; probably since the conference was an annual meeting between member institutions. Everyone was especially warm to each other and there was this sense of ‘familiarity’ amongst participants, which ultimately made it an extremely conducive and fruitful networking experience for us!

Johan outside the Brunei Gallery Suite – where the conference dinner was held.

Call For Papers: Annual Conference for the Consortium of African and Asian Studies – ‘Sustainable Cities’

Annual Conference for the Consortium of African and Asian Studies

‘Sustainable Cities’

National University of Singapore, 28-30 January 2013

AS7 Auditorium (01-02), The Shaw Foundation Building,
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore,
Kent Ridge Campus

The theme “sustainable cities” carry an increasing significance as globalization, increased mobilities, economic crises, and environmental hazards raise questions of management of risks and urban problems from the viewpoint of families, communities and governments.

Papers are invited to explore issues relating to the following sub-themes:

1.     Migration

The impact of immigration on urban resource management, for example pressures on housing, transport, public space and subsequent political implications. How important is diversity to creating sustainable urban forms? Can migration be part of a sustainable future? What modes of management will be involved? How do the politics of migration and sustainability relate to each-other?

2.     Environment

Issues such as pollution, conservation, and climate change should be addressed, with emphasis on current problems and possible challenges for the future

3.     Planning and Managing the Sustainable City

By 2025 there will be more urbanites in Asia than anywhere else; nearly 1/3 of humankind will live in Asian cities. The way these urbanites work, consume, and travel profoundly affects the future. Asian cities may lead the global sustainability movement, and some –Singapore, HK, Beijing, and Shanghai– are already attempting. However, for this to happen, aligning city makers’ visions on sustainability and livability is crucial; new problem-oriented, transdiscliplinary knowledge can bolster this endeavor.  

4.     Cities and Disaster Management

Cities experience unpredictable events on a regular basis, many of them generated by urbanity itself. These include epidemics, terrorist attacks, natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons, or political convulsions.  Global climate change will make emergency management all the more important in coming decades. 

5.     Surviving the Urban Economy

Economic stress (as a result of income loss, unemployment, high living costs), and family functioning in cities is an important issue to explore in the Sustainable City. This can relate to a wide range of issues related to family. For example, family conflict/cohesion, family formation behavior (marriage and divorce), child poverty, or young adults transistion to adulthood.

6.     Languages, Cultures and/in the City

Cities intensify multiculturalism and cultural transactions, creating interesting phenomena of language contact and change, artistic forms and cultural expressions.  In addition, the representation of cities in literature, film and other cultural documents reflects many of the critical issues and anxieties about cities in Asia and Africa today.

Abstracts: maximum 300 words by 15th September 2012.
Abstracts, Expressions of Interest and Enquiries to: Ms Amy Tan,
email; 65-6516 7710 (DID); 65-67794662 (Fax).

‘A New History of Southeast Asia’ receives the Choice Outstanding Book Award

The book A New History of Southeast Asia, written by members of the Department of History has been given a Choice Outstanding Book Award in the 2011 Outstanding Academic Titles category.


The book is by Prof Merle Ricklefs, A/P Bruce Lockhart, A/P Albert Lau, Dr Portia Reyes and Dr Maitrii Aung-Thwin and is published by Palgrave Macmillan (London).

The publisher’s write-up heralds the book as a ‘new, comprehensive, one volume history of Southeast Asia that spans prehistory to the present. Ricklefs brings together colleagues at the National University of Singapore whose expertise covers the entire region, encompassing political, social, economic, religious and cultural history. 

‘Opening with an account of the ethnic groups and initial cultural and social structures of Southeast Asia, the book moves through the early ‘classical’ states, the arrival of new global religions and the impact of non-indigenous actors. The history of early modern states and their colonial successors is followed by analysis of World War II across the region, Offering a definitive account of decolonisation and early post-colonial nation-building, the text then transports us to modern-day Southeast Asia, exploring its place in a world recovering from the financial crisis. The distinguished author team provide an authoritative and accessible narrative, drawing upon the latest research and offering detailed guidance on further reading. A landmark contribution to the field, this is an essential text for scholars, students and anyone interested in Southeast Asia.’

Victor Lieberman, Professor of History at the University of Michigan has high praise for the book, “A New History of Southeast Asia will perform a service for Southeast Asian studies no less seminal than that rendered by D.G.E. Hall’s pioneering volume some 55 years ago. It will provide Southeast Asian Studies with a new intellectual agenda, a new set of research questions, and a new instrument with which to instruct and stimulate the next generation. Without doubt, the appearance of this history text is itself an historic achievement.”
For more bibliographical information please visit the publisher’s website here: 

SRN hosts Symposium on ‘Creativity in Singapore’

Gwee, Huzir and Ho Chee Lick share a light moment

On Friday 17th February the Singapore Research Nexus (SRN) was delighted to host a fascinating symposium titled ‘Creativity in Singapore’. The afternoon provided a unique opportunity for local celebrated writers and researchers to discuss Singapore and how it fares as an environment for creative writers and those researching creativity Singapore.

First up was the  premiere screening of the FASS-produced documentary film ‘Writers Engaging the Social’  which is now available for viewing via NUS YouTube. Please click here to view:

The 40 minute film, directed by the poet and critic Gwee Li Sui  features four writers, all FASS alumni, who write in each of Singapore’s four official languages. They are Rasiah Halil, Lee Tzu Pheng, Ting Kheng Siong and Vadi PVSS. Each of the writers shares with Gwee their take on the meaning of literature, poetry and theatre and on how Singapore wrestles with its own historical and social constraints in relation to the literary arts.

The four writers from top left clockwise: Ting Kheng Siong, Rasiah Halil, Vadi PVSS and Lee Tzu Pheng

Following the screening the audience enjoyed a ‘Post-Screening Conversation’, chaired by the playwright Huzir Sulaiman who helped to field questions from the audience about creativity and writing in Singapore.

Rasiah entertains the panel, with Lee Tzu Pheng and Vadi to her left

After the afternoon break it was the turn of our own FASS Faculty to present their papers on how our research ‘engages the creative’. First up was A/P Lonce Wyse from the CNM department whose talk on ‘Creativity, Interdisciplinarity, and the New Relevance of the Arts’ showed how it is really a false dichotomy to uniformally separate the two and view each as an equal and distinct means or end. Rather, Prof Wyse showed some intriguing recent examples of how the two can meet to create extraordianry pieces of hybridity.

Second to present was A/P Maria Kozhevnikov (Department of Psychology)who shared her findings on the relationship between creativity and visualization. The study showed that ‘object visualization’ relates to artistic creativity, and ‘spatial visualization’ relates to scientific creativity, while both are distinct from verbal creativity.

The third speaker was Dr John DiMoia, Assistant Professor in the History Department, who looked at the historical example of Stanford University compared to the case of what Singapore as a country has done and might do to encourage attributes and practices of creativity among the members of its scientific community.

Last to present was A/P Ho Kong Chong (Department of Sociology) who looked at the wild and unruly side of the creative economy and how work-styles associated with this form of production are closely tied to particular types of urban environment, for example parts of Little India and Geylang. These ungentrified portions of Singapore enjoy low rents and centrality while offering a vibrant and more liberal and hence ‘creative’ environment.

Maria Kozhevnikov, Lonce Wyse, TC Chang, Ho Kong Chong and John DiMoia

The second session concluded with a vibrant Q&A session leaving many to agree that the symposium offered a diversity of perspectives on Singapore and its evolving relationship with the creative.

For more information on the speakers and particpants please click here to read their bios and abstracts: Creativity in Singapore Symposium booklet

Dr. Stephen Lim and research team conferred Best Research Paper at international psychology conference

Dr. Stephen Lim with CBP2012 Program Chair

A recent research project titled “Attentional Focus on What’s Motivationally Relevant Aids Performance at High Exercise Intensities” accomplished by Senior Lecturer Dr. Lim Wee Hun Stephen and student researcher Mr. Loh Kep Kee won, among all international research entries, the prestigious Best Research Paper Award at the Annual International Conference on Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology (CBP 2012) held on 13 and 14 February in Singapore this year.

This work first begun as part of Mr. Loh’s honours-level research in the Department of Psychology at the National University of Singapore under Dr. Lim’s supervision. Following his graduation, Mr. Loh currently pursues a Masters degree in Cognitive Neuroscience at University College of London.

Mr. Loh Kep Kee


Dr. Lim comments on this winning work: “People are increasingly becoming interested in leading healthy lifestyles. Marathons, for instance, have become a tourist attraction, and we hear of many who would travel across continents yearly just to participate in a variety of runs. This work started with an ambition to enhance exercising behaviors among non-elite sportsmen in ways unknown before. We are very proud to be the first research team in the world to discover a novel dimension underlying sports cognition which, when applied, can boost exercising behaviors across general populations. We are excited to have set new directions and standards for future research examining behavioral cognition.”

Conference Program Chair Dr. Miles Whittington described Dr. Lim’s work as “having extremely important implications for the scientific community”. This is not the first time that Dr. Lim and his research team had gained international recognition for their outstanding achievements. Last year, Dr. Lim and his students won the coveted Best Student Paper Award at EuroCogSci2011. Moving forward, Dr. Lim intends to continue training student researchers, some of whom he hopes will become stake-holders of scientific research in the long run.

A Celebration of Books – the inaugural FASS Bookshare

A/P Ho Kong Chong introducing the speakers

This week’s inaugural FASS Bookshare was a great occasion for the whole faculty to recognize books and the crucial part they play in our research output. On Monday 6th of February, authors and bibliophiles alike filled the Faculty Lounge to celebrate the many self-authored, academic books published this last year, 15 of which had an Asian focus. Three authors in particular talked about their work and the different and often long jouneys they had undertaken in the process of writing their books.

First up was Assistant Professor Tim Amos (Japanese Studies) whose book Embodying Difference: The Making of Burakumin in Modern Japan analyzes the burakumin, Japan’s largest minority group, and their perceived place in premodern Japanese society compared to modern interpretations of their identity. Tim shared how his book came to be using an extensive array of original archival material, ethnographical research, and critical historiographical work. 

Next up was Assistant Professor Koh Khee Heong (Chinese Studies) who engaged the audience with the making of his book A Northern Alternative: Xue Xuan (1389-1464) and the Hedong School.  Khee Heong explained that conventional portraits of Neo-Confucianism in China are built on studies of scholars active in the south, yet Xue Xuan (1389–1464), the first Ming Neo-Confucian to be enshrined in the Temple to Confucius, was a northerner. Northern Neo-Confucians tended to be more reliant on the state as an institutional actor compared to their more localized southern intellectual peers, hence their history has been greatly under-researched which has proven a great opportunity for scholars like Khee Heong to share the historical and philosophical nuances of the northern chinese intellectual tradition.

Last up was Associate Professor Vineeta Sinha (Sociology) who spoke about her book  Religion State Encounters in Hindu Domains; From the Straits Settlements to Singapore. Vineeta shared how the idea for the book literally fell into her lap when she was approached to look through some dusty old files which turned out to be the minutes of the Singapore Mohammedan and Hindu Endowments Fund board meetings dating from 1907 onwards. The historical and empirical project of the book is really grounded in a desire to theorise ‘religion-state’ relations in the multi-ethnic, multi-religious, secular city-state of Singapore. Taking that state intervention in religious affairs in Singapore is a given, the book reveals the creative solutions to Hindu temple management and observance of Hindu festivals and processions as they were enacted within administrative and bureaucratic frames over the period.

There then followed a lively discussion and lunch while attendees had an opportunity to browse the all the books on display. For the brochure with all fifteen books and their abstracts, please see here: booksharebrochure