Leading scientist Miranda Yap dies, 4 years after suffering aneurysm

One of Singapore's top scientists, Dr Miranda Yap, died on Wednesday.
One of Singapore's top scientists, Dr Miranda Yap, died on Wednesday.PHOTO: ST FILE
One of Singapore's top scientists, Dr Miranda Yap, died on Wednesday, more than four years after she suffered an aneurysm on the golf course.
One of Singapore's top scientists, Dr Miranda Yap, died on Wednesday, more than four years after she suffered an aneurysm on the golf course.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

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

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

The award, called President's Science and Technology Medal (PSTM), 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 her aneurysm, she was cared for by her husband, Dr Yap Kian Tiong. He was with her when she died at home three days ago - on his 66th birthday. She turned 67 in August.

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

On Friday (Oct 16) at the wake at her home in Windsor Park Road, family, colleagues and friends remembered Dr Yap for her love for people, lifelong learning and durians.

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

For example, Dr Yap would know everyone she works with and made an effort to remember "an interesting fact" about them, he said.

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

She also shared her love for durians generously with the institute.

In 2010, a year before her aneurysm, she splurged $1,000 on durians and threw a durian party in Biopolis. Dr Yap also made sure that there were mangosteens for people who did not take durians.

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

It's her thoughtfulness that her husband will miss and remember most about her.

He said: "She was very considerate of others and thought of their feelings very often."

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

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

Since September 2011, he has kept a blog documenting the challenges of caring for his wife. 

The blog Restoring My Pillar records how she fell ill, her treatment, changes in her condition and his thoughts in 31 touching posts.

In between entries about the depressing realities of caring for a bed-ridden patient, he drops tidbits about their pet dachshunds and muses about love and life.

His love and consideration for her comes through in posts such as one titled "Surviving a broken heart" from Valentine's Day in 2014.

"Was it just coincidence when she opened her mouth when I was about to brush her teeth? Or raise her head when I told her to? No way to confirm," he wrote.

Dr Yap's last entry documented his wife's death with a few simple words - "14 Oct 8.45 am: Miranda has gone home".

He followed that with a requiem to his late wife: "A most gentle soul, generous and kind to a fault, always so sensitive to the feelings and needs of others, brilliant and sharp. And her persuasive convictions belie her gentleness. I am so privileged, often undeserved,  to share her 33 years of life."

Dr Miranda Yap will be cremated at Mandai Hall 2 at 2.15pm on Saturday (Oct 17).

awcw@sph.com.sg