Biomedical sciences pioneer dies

Professor Miranda Yap, seen in a file photo, had received the President's Science and Technology Medal in 2009. Family, colleagues and friends remembered Prof Yap for her love for people, life-long learning and durians.
Professor Miranda Yap, seen in a file photo, had received the President's Science and Technology Medal in 2009. Family, colleagues and friends remembered Prof Yap for her love for people, life-long learning and durians.ST FILE PHOTO

Prof Miranda Yap did not recover after suffering an aneurysm in 2011

One of Singapore's top scientists, Professor Miranda Yap, died on Wednesday, more than four years after she suffered an aneurysm on a golf course.

Prof Yap, who was awarded the country's highest science and technology honour in 2009, had remained bedridden and was largely unresponsive.

The award, the President's Science and Technology Medal, was formerly known as the National Science and Technology Medal. It was first given out in 1992, and there had been no female winners before Dr Yap.

Since the aneurysm, she had been cared for by her husband, Dr Yap Kian Tiong. He was with her when she died at home on Wednesday - it was his 66th birthday. Prof Yap turned 67 in August.

Prof Yap was most noted for setting up the Bioprocessing Technology Unit in 1990 with a $6 million grant from the Economic Development Board. It was renamed Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI) in 2003, as part of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

Yesterday at the wake at her home in Windsor Park Road, family, colleagues and friends remembered Prof Yap for her love for people, life-long learning and durians.

Dr Andre Choo, who studied under Prof Yap in the early 1990s, said: "She took a personal interest in how people developed, personally and professionally."

For example, Prof Yap made an effort to remember "an interesting fact" about everyone she worked with, he said.

The 45-year-old principal scientist added: "She would never introduce someone (plainly)."

Prof Yap also shared her love for durians generously with the institute. In 2010, a year before she suffered the aneurysm, she splurged $1,000 on durians and threw a durian party at the Biopolis.

Dr Yap also made sure there were mangosteens for those who did not like durians.

"It's a tradition the institute has kept until today," said Dr Lam Kong Peng, BTI's current executive director.

Her thoughtfulness is what her husband will miss and remember most about her.

Dr Yap said: "She was considerate of others and thought of their feelings often."

For example, his wife would make sure his close friends attended gatherings and functions, so he would feel less lonely.

"I was never a people person, but she really opened me up to the world," he said.

Prof Miranda Yap will be cremated at Mandai Hall 2 at 2.15pm today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'Biomedical sciences pioneer dies'. Print Edition | Subscribe