Getting to know Sharon Kuah and Kathleen Chan from the Research Affairs Department (RAD)

But first… let us congratulate Sharon, a recipient of the inaugural Values Frequent Flyer Award for this year’s Values Ambassador Awards and Kathleen, a first-time Values Ambassador Awards nominee.


Designation: Director, Research Affairs Department, Office of Research
Years at Duke-NUS:

Designation: Management Assistant Officer, Research Affairs Department, Office of Research
Years at Duke-NUS: 1

The Insider (TI): Sharon, What is a typical day in RAD like?

Sharon Kuah (SK): Well, it revolves around:

•    Reviewing my to-do list of the work items under RAD's portfolio and re-prioritising them if necessary to ensure that we are on top of things and deadlines are met;

•    Planning ahead for upcoming work initiatives; and

•    Having team discussions on actionable items and follow-up plans for the various portfolios.

We have three teams in RAD, each managing different portfolios.


(L-R: Melanie, Joanna and Rueben) - They handle faculty matters like appointments, promotions and tenure, administer foundation and in-house research grants, organise visits for review panels and coordinate nominations of candidates for Distinguished or Emeritus Professorships.


(L-R: Kuwan Yee, Jeanette and Jamie) - They facilitate review of research agreements by the Industry Liaison Office and NUS’ Office of Legal Affairs, keep track of the School's research KPIs, coordinate the nomination of faculty for research awards and the submission of faculty annual progress reports.


(L- R: Me, Cynthia and Kathleen) - Cynthia and Kathleen manage the weekly Signature Seminar Series, Duke Travel Grant, academic visitors to Duke-NUS and research symposiums.

TI: Kathleen, you have served in the Duke-NUS Staff Recreation Committee (SRC) for FY 2014/2015 and have continued to do so for FY 2015/2016. What motivated you to stay on for the second term?

Kathleen Chan (KC): I am really happy to be involved as I truly enjoy organising a wide array of staff events. I am not very outgoing by nature but after joining the SRC, I have definitely opened up more. As I get to interact with colleagues across various offices and departments, I get to know more people at a deeper level. I also rediscovered my ‘long-lost’ interest in handicrafts while organising activities such as the snow globe and terrarium-making workshops. As a returning committee member, I look forward to working with the new SRC members. I hope that together, we will enjoy organising events for the school that will be well-received.


Terrariums made!

TI:  K is for Kathleen… and Korea! Tell us more about your love for all things Korean!

KC: I am a big Korean fan! I fell in love with Korean variety shows and started watching them on YouTube. I am not really into Korean dramas but I enjoy the variety shows, especially those about beauty and cooking. Some of my favourites are: Home Food Rescue, Get It Beauty, 3 Meals a Day and What Shall We Eat Today?

As some of these shows are in Korean, I had to use Google Translate for the English translation. This was one of the reasons I decided to pick up the Korean language. 

During my first Korean lesson, I found it difficult to recognise the characters but the lecturer (a handsome Korean chap, by the way!) patiently repeated the entire process to help us understand. Now he has started speaking to us in basic Korean; and for our weekly spelling quiz, he will write the words in English on the whiteboard and we have to write it out in Korean. This helps us recognise and recall the words in Korean. 

I can now recognise some Korean characters but I am still trying to grasp their meaning. While I am not certain I will be able to speak and understand Korean fluently anytime soon, I am confident that I will be able to understand simple Korean and comfortably follow my favourite Korean variety shows.

TI:  Sharon, we understand that your embark on a yearly retreat to India. Tell us more. 

SK: My first trip to India was in August 2005 to visit Sathya Sai Baba's ashram in Puttaparthi, a remote village in the Anantapur district in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. I came to know about Sai Baba, an Indian spiritual teacher and started reading books about his life and teachings in 2001. The simplicity of his teachings on the oneness of God, universal love and service to mankind explained so beautifully in his discourses, resonated strongly with me. 

My first experience in Puttaparthi was one of cultural shock. Outside the ashram, I was surrounded by bullock carts and auto-rickshaws driving haphazardly in all directions, sounding their horns loudly. Locals would jaywalk in the midst of chaotic traffic while beggars constantly tug at my sleeves and roadside sellers would persistently come up to me to peddle their goods. Thankfully, the ashram was less chaotic. I was delighted to see Sai Baba in person and receive his daily darshan (blessings) in the always-crowded Sai Kulwant Prayer Hall.

After my first trip to India, I decided never to return. Although my faith in Sai Baba and his teachings remained firm, ashram life was just not my cup of tea. However in 2008, it was now my mother who was keen to make another trip to Sai Baba’s ashram. I am glad to say my second visit to the ashram was a whole new pleasant and delightful experience which I thoroughly enjoyed. Since then, my mother and I have come to love Puttaparthi and we make our yearly pilgrimage to Sai Baba’s ashram, which now feels like a second home to us.

Sharon and mom at the Replica of Taj Mahal in Aurangabad in the background

TI:  The three best adjectives to describe each other...

SK: Kathleen is resourceful, organised and approachable.

KC: Sharon is supportive, approachable and meticulous.

TI:  Lastly, the most important thing I have learnt in the past year is...

SK: Never look back. Always look forward and be happy!

KC: No matter good or bad, life still goes on. The world and people around you will not stop because of you.