Blazing a path in science

Despite having no background in science, Dr Gloria Lim eventually succeeded in the field and became the first female dean of science at the then University of Singapore.
Despite having no background in science, Dr Gloria Lim eventually succeeded in the field and became the first female dean of science at the then University of Singapore.ST PHOTO: BRYAN VAN DER BEEK

Who: Dr Gloria Lim, retired NUS professor in the department of botany.

Notable achievement: First female dean of science at the University of Singapore, which merged with Nanyang University to become the National University of Singapore (NUS); and founding director of the National Institute of Education.

Although Prof Lim had no background in science, having come from a girls' school which did not teach science, she found her way into the science faculty by joining the University of Malaya the year it was founded, in 1949.

"When I applied to the university, they first gave me a course in the arts faculty," recounts Dr Lim, who is in her 80s. "My mother said: 'No, if you are going to do arts, you might as well go to teacher training straightaway.' So I appealed to the university and they put me in science."

Over the years, Prof Lim has published hundreds of research papers. She has also authored several books on mycology - the study of fungi - and advised the Ministry of Defence when they had mould problems in their storage bunkers.

Despite her accomplishments and those of other women in Singapore, she notes that the fellows of the Singapore National Academy of Science are all men.

Rebecca Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline 'Blazing a path in science'. Print Edition | Subscribe