Hard work and dedication pay off for Curtin Sarawak academics

Miri – 16 November 2009 – Academic staff of Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) consistently uphold Curtin Sarawak’s widely acclaimed reputation for academic excellence, winning awards for teaching, research and scholarship.

Their achievements throughout the years since the establishment of Curtin Sarawak as Curtin University of Technology’s first offshore branch campus and Sarawak’s first foreign university campus in 1999, have won the admiration of government leaders, university senior management both in Malaysia and Australia, the campus community, as well as the larger community in Sarawak.

In line with Curtin Sarawak’s emphasis on remaining at the very forefront of technological and educational progress, the academics keep up with the latest developments in subject areas and integrate the newest advancements in educational technology into their classes, such that when its graduates step out into the world, they are equipped with the most up-to-date information and skills relevant to their new careers.

Indeed, Curtin Sarawak provides a favourable environment for bright minds to develop, individual creativity to flourish, and successful academic careers to begin. Though just ten years old, it has developed into a thriving international institution with almost 3,000 students from over 40 different countries.

Its international teaching staff comprises over 100 highly qualified and motivated academics, a large number of whom are PhD holders and include graduates of prestigious institutions such as Oxford University, University of Manchester, University of Southampton, Imperial College London, Australian National University, University of Queensland, La Trobe University, and of course, Curtin University of Technology.

For researchers amongst the academics, substantial research funding, government backing and state-of-the-art research facilities provide them ample opportunities to excel in their fields. They can also take advantage of links with fellow researchers at Curtin’s main Bentley Campus in Perth, Western Australia, as well as research groups all over the world.

However, the academics at Curtin Sarawak attribute their success to more than tangibles like financial support and facilities, or the support of management or their peers. At the end of the day, they say it boils down to sheer hard work, dedication to the job, and an insatiable passion to be the best that one can be. The age-old adage ‘anything worth doing is worth doing well’ certainly rings true for them.

Among the first to attest to this is Beena Giridharan, Dean of the School of Foundation & Continuing Studies and winner of the 2006 Carrick Australian Award for University Teaching (CAAUT) for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning. The CAAUT is an initiative of the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, which is in turn an initiative of the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training.

The awards committee cited Beena for excellence in embedding enthusiasm, passion and self-reflection in learning and teaching in diverse cultural contexts. She was also commended for scoring highly in student feedback and moulding students into life-long learners. Indeed, her submission so impressed the awards committee that one member remarked, “Having read this submission, I wanted to be in her classes!”

Beena won two other awards in 2006 – the Curtin Excellence and Innovation in Teaching Award 2006 (EIT), which constitutes Curtin University’s highest form of recognition for outstanding contribution to the quality of student learning and teaching, and the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia, Inc. (HERDSA) Fellowship Award, which she received at the HERDSA Conference 2006 in Perth, Australia.

According to Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor John Evans, Beena’s string of awards affirmed her dedication and excellence in teaching and learning. He also said she reflected the true spirit of Curtin’s mission of advancing culture and enriching culture.

“In my teaching, I am guided by tenets of constructivism, a philosophy of thought based on the premise that by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. I believe that higher order thinking skills that are prerequisites for learning in higher education can be attained through such principles of learning,” said Beena.

“The single, important concept underpinning my teaching philosophy is that students learn best when their participation is encouraged and enhanced, and while this is at times difficult and runs counter to the learning culture and past experiences of most Asian students, I am steadfast in my passion and commitment to find ways to promote this approach,” she added.

Beena Giridharan, winner of 2006 Carrick

Australian Award for University Teaching

andCurtin Excellence and Innovation in

Teaching Award 2006


In 2007, Curtin Sarawak boasted two winners of the prestigious award. They were Dean of the School of Business, Shamsul Kamariah Abdullah, who won for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning; and senior lecturer in the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering, Dr. Djwantoro Hardjito, who won for Teaching Excellence.

Shamsul Kamariah Abdullah, winner of

Curtin Excellence and Innovation in

Teaching Award 2007 (Outstanding

Contributions to Student Learning)

Dr. Djwantoro Hardjito, winner of Curtin

Excellence and Innovation in Teaching

Award 2007 (Teaching Excellence).


Last year, senior lecturer Terence Tan became the sixth Curtin Sarawak academic to win the award. Besides winning the Curtin EIT Award, Tan also won the Curtin Sarawak Student’s Choice Award for three consecutive years.


A brilliant and inspiring lecturer in the Department of Electrical/Communication Engineering & Computing, Tan is very passionate about teaching and the development of students as individuals. “I believe learning should be inspiring and thought-provoking and, most of all, enjoyable. It should not be treated as a chore or something to be dreaded,” he declared.

He started his teaching career at Curtin Sarawak in 2005 and has continually sought to improve his approaches to teaching. He is often described by students as being a creative and innovative lecturer who is always finding ways of sharing knowledge in the most interesting ways.

According to one student, he embodies a rare breed of educator who seeks to inspire young minds to always go the extra mile, reach for their goals and realise their dreams. Besides emphasising academic excellence, he encourages creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in his classes.

In addition to inspiring his students in the classroom, Tan plays an active part as facilitator and mentor to members of the John Curtin Leadership Academy (JCLA), the university’s prestigious leadership programme that grooms students for future leadership roles in both business and the community.

Terence Tan, winner of Curtin Excellence

and Innovation in Teaching Award 2008

(Outstanding Contributions to Student



The recipient of the award this year was Chemical Engineering lecturer Lau Shiew Wei, who according to Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Joan Gribble, was selected based on her constructivist approach to teaching and learning.

In congratulating her, Gribble said, “Shiew Wei has proven herself to be one of our best practitioners with this recognition. Her submission to the awards committee was an inspirational account of her love for teaching and her commitment to the teaching of chemistry and chemical engineering. Shiew Wei also showed how she is able to bring her research interests into the classroom to strengthen her teaching and student learning.”

According to Shiew Wei, teaching has always been her passion and her five years in the profession has been most rewarding. She reckons there is nothing more satisfying than seeing students progress and becoming more effective scholars.

“I believe good teaching is the ability get students to use the higher cognitive level processes spontaneously in their academic studies. I always try to incorporate something in my teaching that would engage my students and give them a more fulfilling learning experience,” said Shiew Wei.

She adds that many of her teaching approaches are in line with Curtin’s triple-i curriculum which is geared towards enhancing graduate employability, global citizenship and rich educational choices.

Shiew Wei also tries to instill in her students all of Curtin’s graduate attributes, that is, to be   knowledge users, critical and creative thinkers, research-smart, effective communicators, technology-savvy, lifelong learners, international citizens, culturally-sensitive and profession-wise.

“Ultimately, my aim is to see all my students graduate with these attributes. Just as I have embraced lifelong learning as an indispensible principle in my teaching career, I hope they will continue to be lifelong learners well into their careers,” declared Shiew Wei.

Lau Shiew Wei, winner Curtin Excellence

and Innovation in Teaching Award 2009

(Early Career)


The two objectives of Curtin Sarawak’s Research & Development Strategic Plan are ‘Build Research Capacity’ and ‘Build a Reputation for Quality Research’, and in 2008, in line with these objectives, the university initiated two awards for academics conducting research – the Curtin Sarawak Best Research Paper Award and Best Researcher Award.

Winner of the inaugural Best Research Paper Award was Associate Professor Alexander Gorin, Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, while Dean of the School of Engineering and Science Dr. Yudi Samyudia was awarded the Best Researcher Award.

The Best Research Paper Award was awarded based on content and medium of publication, while the Best Researcher Award was based on research publications, research supervision, research projects and grants, esteem and impact, and research leadership.

Dr. Alexander Gorin, winner of


Best Research Paper Award 2008

Dr. Yudi Samyudia, winner of Best

Researcher Award 2008


Another high-achieving researcher was Dr. Aaron Goh, senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who was awarded the 2008 Young Scientist Award by the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) International Rheology Division, a global non-profit organisation that promotes in the use of cereal and grains in foods. It awarded Dr. Goh the award in recognition of his outstanding research in rheology and texture in relation to cereal-based products.

Dr. Goh is a graduate of Imperial College London where he obtained a Bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1998, followed by a PhD in 2002, a year in which he was also awarded a research fellowship from the Royal Commission for Exhibition of 1851 to conduct postdoctoral research at Imperial College London. Earlier, he won the Unwin Prize for best PhD thesis in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Dr. Aaron Goh, winner of AACC

International 2008 Young Scientist Award


Most recently, two Curtin Sarawak academics were presented awards for outstanding achievement in Curtin University’s Research Performance Index (RPI) Round 2009. The RPI is an initiative run annually by Curtin to reward researchers at all its regional and international campuses for research excellence and scholarship.

Dr. Jayakumar Muthuramalingam, a senior lecturer in Civil and Construction Engineering, received the Award for Highest RPI Points for Early Career Researcher for Publications, while lecturer in Marketing and Management Lew Tek Yew won the Award for Highest RPI Points by Faculty for Publications.

The RPI scheme allocates funds based on performance inputs such as external research grants obtained, and outputs such as publications and successful postgraduate research supervision in the preceding year. It is open to researchers who have made a quantifiable research contribution as part of an RPI Group. This year, a total of 108 groups participated. Curtin Sarawak as a group achieved an impressive 6,148 points in the 2009 Round of the RPI, marking a 55% growth from 3,964 points in the 2008 Round.

In congratulating Dr. Jayakumar and Lew for their efforts in achieving this fine result, Dean of Research and Development Dr. Kaniraj Shenbaga said, “Scoring highly in the RPI is not an easy task. There are stringent requirements to adhere to. I look forward to receiving the continued support of our academics involved in research towards our annual RPI standing, and towards the overall success of Curtin Sarawak’s research and development.”

“I am delighted to receive this prestigious and meaningful award from Curtin because the award shows that Curtin recognises exceptional research performance and significant research contributions by academic staff. This strategic initiative will definitely motivate more academic staff to excel in research and contribute towards the success of Curtin’s reputation of producing quality research and enhancing research capability,” said Lew.

Dr. Jayakumar Muthuramalingam,

winner of Award for Highest RPI Points

for Early Career Researcher for Publications


Lew Tek Yew, winner Award for

Highest RPI Points by Faculty for Publications


Two other Curtin Sarawak academics received similar awards in the inaugural RPI Round 2008. They were senior lecturer in Accounting and Business Information Systems, Dr. Junaid M. Shaikh, and lecturer, R&D coordinator and postgraduate coordinator (Higher Degree by Research) of the School of Business, Goi Chai Lee.

For details of Curtin Sarawak, visit its website at www.curtin.edu.my