Home Biological science NUS lecturer and marine scientist, 56, dies after battle with cancer – Mothership.SG

NUS lecturer and marine scientist, 56, dies after battle with cancer – Mothership.SG


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Ng Ngan Kee, a senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and avid crab researcher, died on July 5.

Ng is well known among faculty, students and alumni of the NUS Department of Biological Sciences for teaching various biology modules.

She had served in the department since 1988, after earning her BSc and Ph.D. from NUS.

Ng was also a prominent figure in the local marine community for his studies of mangrove crabs.

battle against cancer

According to an official email from the Department of Biological Sciences, shared by fellow faculty member Matthew Lim in a Facebook post, Ng died after a battle with cancer.

In a tribute posted by NUS lecturer and biologist N Sivasothi, he shared that she had handed over her teaching duties to others to focus more on her cancer treatment.

Before that, she was a “selfless mentor and dedicated educator” who wanted the best for her students.

Photo of Dr M’s guide to climate and environmental change: causes, effects, action / FB

Sivasothi quoted Ng’s sister as saying:

“She always talked about her work with a lot of passion and she fought her cancer the same way.”

Ng’s characteristic altruism was a trait echoed by NUS Professor and former director of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) Peter Ng.

Ng was also a former student of Peter.

Peter revealed to Mothership that Ng was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in late 2021.

Despite the tragic discovery, she initially insisted on continuing her teaching duties between her treatment sessions, which left Peter “livid”.

He fondly describes her as a “mother hen”, someone filled with “boring optimism” and “extremely maternal instincts”, who would go out of her way to help her students solve their problems, whether academic or personal.

“I think her co-workers always joke that her biggest problem, and for so many decades that I’ve told her, she has this inability to say no to people. And there’s a kindness in her heart and [an] optimism in spirit, which endears her to the people she works with.”

Contributions to science

Public tributes have also been posted by the LKCNHM, the St. John Island Marine Laboratory, a research facility run by NUS, as well as the Singapore Institute of Biology (SIBiol).

Ng was a member of the latter and was a mentor to current and past members of the SIBiol Council as undergraduates. She also trained students for the annual International Biology Olympiad.

Ng has “contributed tirelessly to both our society and the wider scientific community over the years,” SIBiol said in his post.

Here is a video of Ng in the field (wearing black) posted by Lim, wading in the sea at Changi Beach to teach students how to catch fish for a biology module.

“She was always very happy whenever she did this hands-on work (from my observations), going through the shellfish, fish and sea cucumbers that came in with the net,” Lim said.

Her work on crabs and her contributions to the scientific community have brought her into contact with many other researchers around the world.

Peter said:

“In that sense, she found a very large, I guess, family of researcher friends around the world. And that’s why I think in a way her passing was globally tragic because it touched so many of people from so many countries. She was generous to the hilt.”

Ng (center, in black), with other scholars in Taiwan.

Talk to MothershipSivasothi also shared Ng’s accomplishments in detail.

“Ngan Kee was a partner in crime in the Department of Biological Sciences. His concern for students and biodiversity translated into action – whether it was improving our modules, providing student support, take students out into the field, help clean up the mangroves, lead nature guides and offer school talks.

She was a source of joy and support, always laughing even as we struggled through the pandemic. We missed her those few months but I’m glad she’s resting now, in the straits of Changi Beach, where she introduced hundreds of students to Singapore’s marine life.”

Lim added that before his death, Ng had apparently requested a burial at sea, which involves releasing a person’s remains from a sea vessel into the ocean.

Ng was cremated at Mandai Crematorium on July 7.

Photo courtesy of N Sivasothi

Photo from top of NUS website and Dr M’s guide to Climate and Environmental Change: Causes, Effects, Action / FB