Ask the NTU President

NTU President Prof Bertil Andersson’s straight answers to questions posed by curious NTU students

If you could turn back the clock and be admitted into NTU as an undergraduate, which course would you choose to study? (Ong Chun Keat, Mathematics & Economics)

I have been a biochemist all my life, having studied chemistry and biology – subjects I love. But if given a chance to live another life, I’d pick the humanities – languages, history and cultural perceptions.

How many languages do you speak? (Teh Tat How, Mathematics & Economics)

Six – English, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, French and German.

An Apple or Samsung mobile phone? (Yeo Qiu Ju, Bioengineering)

I’m European so my phone is named after a black fruit.

What’s the last picture you took with your phone? (Peh Teck Beng, Accountancy)

A snapshot of my granddaughter, Elsie, who is 20 months old. She lives in London and speaks both English and Swedish. She calls me morfar, which is Swedish for “mother’s father”.

In London last December to carry out my grandfatherly duties.
Other than ice-skating, what activities do you do in your spare time? (Thean Lie Wah, Mathematics & Economics)

Singapore is a good place for workaholics like me. I don’t have much spare time, except when I go for holidays twice a year – in summer and during Christmas. If I were back in Sweden, my hometown, I’d probably go skiing – downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. I also love travelling, going to the cinema and attending rock concerts. The best rock music to me comes from Crescent Hall at NTU. They are fantastic!

Any favourite local cuisines? (Yue Jing Li, Mathematical Sciences)

Peranakan food here is outstanding.

Spirits, wine, beer or coffee? (Yue Jing Li, Mathematical Sciences)

Coffee in the day, and a glass or two of wine in the evening. I love South African wine.

If you could be any age for a day, what age would you be? (Peh Teck Beng, Accountancy)

Fifteen. That was the first time I was allowed to ride a motorbike, and I might have taken some girls on a ride (laughs).

Done anything rebellious in your life? (Catherine Lim, Chemical Engineering)

At some point as a teenager, I had long hair, which was frowned upon by most of the older folks. But after a while, they forgot about my musician hairstyle and left me alone.

Any part-time jobs as a student? (Teh Tat How, Mathematics & Economics)

I used to work as a lab technician in hospitals in the summer. I gave cardiopulmonary resuscitation to people whose hearts had stopped. I also read electrocardiogram reports and was so good at it that the hospitals wanted to hire me. Before that, from the age of nine to 17, I was a newspaper boy who delivered the dailies on my bicycle every morning. My parents weren’t very rich, so I decided to earn some pocket money.

Who is your idol, and why? (Pang Xue Qiang, Communications)

(Thinks hard) John Lennon of The Beatles, because he was a fantastic performer and wrote great songs like Imagine. He was funny too. It’s a pity he died so young.

What is your proudest moment as the NTU President? (Melissa Phang, Business)

My first day as NTU President… when I hadn’t an inkling of what lay ahead (laughs).

What do you enjoy most about living on campus? (Tan Yi Hee, Art, Design & Media)

I came from the Swedish forest to a tropical campus, which is a fabulous change. Living at the top of a hill, surrounded by greenery, is very peaceful. Since I moved from the cold snowy north to the warm tropics, you could say I’ve gone from white to green – perfect for someone who studies plant processes!

What makes NTU unique compared to other universities? (Li Xiang, Information Engineering & Media)

We are a university experiencing a rapid growth spurt, unlike many universities elsewhere that haven’t moved as fast. Young people are changing, and universities need to respond to that, especially the new ways they’re learning, which NTU has been trying to address.

How can we make the most of our university experience? (Tan Shi Wei, Bioengineering)

Your university years are important in shaping you as an individual. Here, you’re learning beyond the facts – analysing, engaging in lateral thinking and debating. It’s not a chase of grades, so never see it that way and always grab opportunities to feed your soul beyond your textbooks, like starting a community project with your friends or simply trying something you never thought you’d be good at.

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