Job: Full-Time Teaching Assistant at the College of Humanities and Sciences (BSc Hons, two positions, 2-year renewable contract)


Job: Full-Time Teaching Assistant at the College of Humanities and Sciences (BSc Hons, two positions, 2-year renewable contract).

All 2,000+ incoming Arts and Science students at the new College of Humanities and Sciences will read a common curriculum of 13 modules. An integrated module of this curriculum is Scientific Inquiry 1 – HSI1000 “How Science Works, Why Science Works”. This module will enhance students with an overt and applied understanding of the scientific method, which is an effective problem-solving tool for any situation.

HSI1000 will provide an interactive experience of labs, workshops, field trips and panel discussions, and is helmed by a team of motivated and experienced educators from the Faculty of Science – Ryan P. A. Bettens & Adrian M. Lee (chemistry), Yeo Ye & Sor Chorng Haur (physics), Seow Teck Keong & N. Sivasothi (biological sciences).

Full-Time Teaching Assistants (FTTAs) will be at the forefront of the module, working closely with the module professors, and facilitate small group sessions at the lab, workshops and field trips, mentor students, facilitate panel discussions and oversee student needs.  

We are pleased to be able to recruit two more FTTAs to the existing team; fresh grads may apply. Candidates with an interest in teaching and facilitation, science and its history, student mentorship and care, who are keen to work with a motivated team in a dynamic environment, are invited to apply. Training is provided.

View the details and application link here.

Video freeze whilst screen sharing in Zoom, on macOS Big Sur? Reinstall Zoom and enable “Use TCP connection for screen sharing”

Update – this note explains this will be resolved with the next Zoom for Mac update (after Ver 5.5.4). Thanks Kenneth Pinto!

My animal behaviour videos froze during the past two lectures. The problem first happened mid-lecture in mid-February which sure had me scrambling, as the short videos are integral to the lesson. This morning the freezing more polite surfaced during the pre-lecture video. I plan a short, relevant video as an AV check with students, and they reported the frozen video.

On both occasions, I was on my wired iMac with BigSur 11.2.2 and I switched to my wireless laptop on macOS Big Sur 11.3 beta and continued the lesson without a hitch [update: the problem was with wired macs]. A search revealed the solution: macOS Reddit user @portzebie was told by Zoom Support to i) uninstall and reinstall the Zoom desktop client, and then ii) go to Zoom preferences > Share Screen > Advanced options > enable “Use TCP connection for screen sharing”. Oh, and iii) restart your Mac!

Zoom  Enable TCP in Screen Sharing

This seems to have worked. Restart your Mac if all is not well at first.

I think tere are some other hiccups with Keynote (“Play” versus “Play in Window”) and with Zoom Screen sharing (enable “Optimise for Video Clip” or not) still. I shall sort that out before my next lecture.

But let me me restart that iMac first.

Zoom Optimise for Video Clip

Using your iMac camera? A 3rd party 1080p webcam shines a light on your conferencing

I brought my iMac (late 2015) back from work when my MacBok Pro was sent to the shop. Immediately it was clear the iMac camera quality was inferior. Apparently Mac users have been frothing at the mouth for years and that escalated when we all went online and WFH for COVID-19 – especially if your workspace at home is not well lit.

So much so the improved camera on the 2020 iMac is cause for celebration!

If I had to shop for a camera, the options online would have defeated me. Thankfully the department just issued staff with a GSou 1080p T16s webcam which they purchased from the co-op. A quick look online has it on sale for $34. And there are cheaper 1080p cameras for less than $20, if you would care to experiment.

So I added the GSou webcam clumsily on top of the iMac this morning and here is the difference:

iMac (late 2015) 720p (UVC Camera VendorID_1452 ProductID_34065)
GSou 1080p T16s webcam

Although it will break the sleek online of your iMac, add a 3rd party 1080p webcam to improve your appearance during meetings – it will help everyone on your conference too.

Unless you are Deep Throat, and need to embrace the dark.

A peek at Pulau Ubin – sensitising novice visitors with video stories about life there

Pulau Ubin is a truly special place in Singapore with layers of biodiversity, culture, heritage and adventure stories. Since 2014, its role to the Singapore community was enhanced through engagement with various sectors of the community in the Friends of Ubin Network; see the FUN microsite. And since 2015, there is a lovely map!

Since 1998, NUS Toddycats (and its precursor The Habitat Group) introduced members of public to the island through the Pedal Ubin programme. In 2009, all those years of preparation to explain, guide, ensure safety and explore the island was imported into an undergraduate module, LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment.

So twice a year, NUS undergraduates have visited Pulau Ubin to scrutinise the terrestrial habitats on the island and observe birds through bird counts of species and abundance. The class size has varied from 200 at the start to 80+ in recent years. And next Saturday, the 23rd batch visits the island. And typically, for two thirds of them, it will be the first or second time!

This year the students will have move in distanced groups of five, and function more independently of their TAs, in order to avoid congregating, as part of COVID-19 mitigation. We will prepare students with a lab practical to ensure they have a more fulfilling time on the island. they are introduced to the island through maps, photos of avian life and habitats, taught to use a binoculars and we discuss the methods they will use for bird counts.

There are some articles to read, but videos are excellent to sensitise them to several aspects about the island. Several short and good videos have been published about the lure of the kampung feel, nature and various people who work and live in Pulau Ubin. Here I list 15 videos of good quality, all enjoyable, and mostly (11 of 15) less than five minutes long. They were posted online between 2013-2019.

  1. “Welcome to Pulau Ubin” (Hiking guide; NParks, 2016) [3:59]
  2. “Cycling In Pulau Ubin – What to Look Out For” (NParks 2016) [4:09]
  3. “Pulau Ubin – the last rural land left in Singapore,” feat Subaraj Rajathurai (The Telegraph 2014) [2:32]
  4. “Life on Ubin,” feat Subaraj Rajathurai (Ethnographica, 2016) [23:29]
  5. “Exploring Pulau Ubin’s ecology: More than just a place to escape to,” by Audrey Tan and Marl Cheong (The Straits Times, 2020*) [7:15] *updated 10 Nov 2020
  6. “The Boat Operators of Pulau Ubin.” Heritage in Episodes Season 2 (NHB, 2013) [7:46]
  7. “The Boatmen of Ubin,” (Today, 2018) [3:24]
  8. “Living in Pulau Ubin till the end,” feat Mr Ahmad Bin Kassim (Today, 2015) [1:02]
  9. “Pulau Ubin’s ‘Ah Ma’,” (Today, 2015) [1:28]
  10. “Pulau Ubin ‘is the place that saved us’ WWII survivor,” feat Ahmad Kassim (Today 2017) [2:06]
  11. “The Pulau Ubin Crab Hunter,” feat Satay (Our Grandfather Story 2018) [3:18]
  12. “A Day In The Life Pulau Ubin’s Postman,” feat Harom Jomahat (The New Paper 2017) [3:37]
  13. “A Journey To Pulau Ubin, In Search Of A Lost Home,” feat Nor Syazwan Bin Abdul Majid (Our Grandfather Story, 2019) [3:20]
  14. “Singapore Islands returning home to Pulau Ubin – The Islands That Made Us,” feat Ah Liang (CNA 2019) [10:25]
  15. “Pulau Ubin Singapore” (Koh Yiwei 2013) [4:26]

I am also glad they will see and hear our iconic and beloved friend of nature, Subaraj Rajathurai, RIP.

SubarajRajathuraiPhoto from The Telegraph (2014) 

“Lessons Learnt from the SingHealth Breach” – NUS IT shares highlights

NUS IT sent staff this “Refresher on Security: Lessons Learnt from the SingHealth Breach”. The video provides the highlights and so spares us having to read the Public Report published by the Committee of Inquiry in Jan 2019.

Many important (and surprising) lessons are embedded in this animation, and I congratulated them on producing it for us.

This two minute video is definitely a watchable primer in my “Digital Literacies for the 21st Century” class next year. Students  can watch this and then we shall discuss the wider implications.

Interestingly, at the core of all this are the same old problems because it stems from human behaviour.


In this part of the class I ask students about what they do for passwords and many confess to having just the one to two. And there is no password manager in use by for these folk.

Digital natives may not necessarily be digitally savvy, hence the class.

Click Meeter for your next online video meeting and organise your windows with Magnet [macOS]

Here are two really helpful apps which help me in my work online.

Meeter picks out video conferencing meetings scheduled in my Exchange and Google calendars, and lists them in the menubar – which I call up with a keystroke, typically 15 or 30 mins early for meetings I host.

Meeter menubar

I’ve set Meeter to present meetings links five mins early in case I forget to join a meeting I signed up for. With just a click, I’ve joined the meeting. That is typically on Zoom, but Meeter works for Webex, MS Teams and Google Meet as well, amongst others.


The second app has been critical during webinars – I typically have several widows open which I refer to, in addition to the video conferencing app. The Q&A window is on a separate separately, I look up references the speakers make on a web browser, I may be chatting with audience members on What’s App, and keep Notes open to take notes.

Magnet organises all my windows, again with keystrokes. I push windows around with keystrokes to various positions – left or right or top right or left two-thirds. It has been critical when I was using just my laptop screen, and is still very useful when use two screens during WFH.


Go get ‘em!

Educators can use Zoom safely – just explore the settings

Since the onset of COVID-19 in late January, I’ve been video-conferencing meetings. My go to for years have been Google Hangouts and Skype with students, and since last October, Microsoft Teams with staff. The latter was part of an effort to shift college colleagues from a bunch of unsecured Google tools to the more secure though less friendly Microsoft platform.  

One I started using Zoom though, these other tools were forgotten. Zoom was a delight to use, with an easy interface and single click invitations to a web interface for novice participants. For educators managing classes, the Waiting Room and Breakout Rooms were extremely useful.

So in the final instructional week of the shortened semester (Week 12), I scheduled some 400 students in two modules to present their final oral presentations. That worked out to more than 80 half-hour sessions with Zoom over four days, of which I attended almost 50.  

Since I was imposing a tool on so many of us, I read up, prepared guidelines (posted on Google Docs), and compiled this list below to train staff and myself about our hosting duties:

Zoom for Educators: Security responsibilities for hosts
Edit your settings at: 

  1. Use the latest version of the Zoom app (check for updates)
  2. Generate a new Meeting ID for each meeting
  3. Generate a new secure password for the meeting
  4. Nominate a co-host when scheduling the session
  5. Keep the Meeting ID and password private to participants only. For large meetings, I have people sign up first and email them meeting details.
  6. Advice participants they can set a Virtual Desktop to mask their background.
  7. Disable File Sharing
  8. Use the Waiting Room to vet participants before allowing them into a session (participants must have recognisable usernames)
  9. Disable “join before host” but be 15 minutes early to the meeting in case participants need help.
  10. Enable the authenticated user mode, if possible.
  11. Lock the room when all are present and if connections are stable.
  12. Set the screen sharing default to host only; release as needed
  13. Respect your participants – inform them if you are saving session chats or video-recording the session.

Since students were new to this, I didn’t enable the authenticated user mode nor lock the room for ease of those with dropped connections.

So the homework was important.  

Zoom’s Virtual Desktop was a fun tool with which to encourage others to use the app.

The National University of Singapore had initiated COVID-19 mitigation measures by Chinese New Year. And almost immediately, the Centre for Instructional Technology rolled out e-learning solutions. Amongst others, they promoted the use of Zoom, complete with training webinars. The staff I worked with attended these sessions, were familiarised with fundamentals for use and explored the pedagogical outlook.

I was still using Google Hangouts in March 2020 with research students and Teams with staff. However by late February (Recess Week), the shift to 100% e-learning appeared inevitable, which meant our student symposia in April would have to be held online. I had about 300 students in GEQ1917 Understanding and Critiquing Sustainability at RVRC and another 100+ in LSM1303 Animal Behaviour at Department of Biological Sciences. 

So I began reading about Zoom and the problems were highlighted by many tech sites. Some critical issues had been fixed the previous year, and several others could be circumvented by choices in the settings (hence the list above). While some didn’t matter, such as end to end encryption for what would otherwise be public symposia.

All that scrutiny was helpful, as it eventually forced Zoom to announce a focus of their engineering effort on privacy and security. Already a security

Many articles hysterically bemoaned the shortcomings, and while useful to carefully sift through for weaknesses, no alternatives were suggested. As with every tool, it would eventually be the examination of the purpose and settings that would decide if safe use was possible for my purpose.

I was glad to see that NUS’ CIT announce this position calmly twice, as did Tech Editor Irene Tham in The Straits Times. 

It was understandable that the Ministry of Education had to swoop in to ban the use of Zoom after a hacking incident, which made world news. But that ban is temporary, for as reported in The Straits Times “the ministry is working with Zoom to enhance its security and make security measures clear and easy to follow.” [Update: they have restored Zoom with some limits in place and will review in future – link]

Since practise with settings and short cuts is critical, I suggest you try this with friends, and incite the tech savvy ones help with an online tutorial. After preparing a friend for her seminar, I learnt a few more things myself.

Since January, a variety of COVID-19 mitigations have been in place in Singapore, and we now all have plenty of friends to experiment tele-conferencing tools with. I’ve had fun scheduling sessions in a jiffy with my secondary school buddies and it has also been a great way to support each other during this challenging time.

Useful links:

Jobs: Educator-track lecturer positions in sustainability & workplace readiness @ RVRC, NUS

Ridge View Residential College at NUS is seeking to appoint two Educator-track Lecturers who would be able to adopt an integrated, interdisciplinary approach in curriculum development and enjoy an experiential learning approach and close mentoring of students.

Lecturers will be employed as full-time RVRC faculty and appointments commence on Jan 2018 (Semester 2 of AY 2017/18).

Details at the RVRC Webpage.

The 3rd Sustainability Student Symposium @ RVRC

Year 1 students at Ridge View Residential College at NUS read GEQ1917 Understanding and Critiquing Sustainability which I am part of undertake group projects in sustainability in their second semester. We emphasise realism, consultation, experimentation and quantification as they attempt simple problem-solving solutions to daily challenges in sustainability.

Project meetings are conducted between just the 4-5 students in a group, and their academic advisor (aka lecturer). With the college emphasis on an integrated approach, we cross-reference their lessons from their communication and personal and team effectiveness modules to prompt immediate application of methods learnt. So they run the meeting – or at least, get used to doing so.

Projects are subject to scrutiny at every meeting, which I think they are lucky to experience in their first year – at that specific moment though, they might not share the sentiment! Again this is something they gradually get more comfortable with, and hopefully learn to welcome. It’s tough to find a good critic to help you improve your ideas.

Well, finally we are just about done this semester – some fifty-nine projects were attempted and will be showcased as posters at the annual college symposium and networking session, “Action for Sustainability“. Six project groups have the pleasure of oral presentations and you can see all the project abstracts at

Screenshot 478

Otterman Holt @ SCB Asia (Conservation Asia) – hooray!

My students are presenting at the Conservation Asia conference going on at NUS U Town this week. Joys, Chloe, Weiting and Tze Kwan are are all speaking tomorrow! They have been hobnobbing as well which is very good. Unfortunately I am engulfed in the Otter Congress so can’t soak in the exciting conference for any tropical biologist or support my students.

They have all been prepped about content. And Weiting, Tze Kwan and Chloe are EOB veterans and Joys has presented a couple of times already as well. All are nature guides and Weiting and Joys give school talks for civets and threats to marine life.

I am really glad they have this opportunity and am, confident they’ll be great – no pressure!

Update – am replacing their abstracts with photos from their talks today (Sat 03 Jul 2016)

  • 10.30am – Fung Tze Kwan
  • 12.45pm – Joys Tan
  • 3.00pm – Chloe Tan
  • 5.00pm – Xu Weiting
20160703 ConsbIoAsia Holt Ladies

Update – all happy after all their presentations!

Frugivory and seed dispersal by the common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) in a degraded landscape in Singapore
Fung, Tze Kwan, N. Sivasothi, Peter Ng
Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore

20160702 FTK at ConsAsia

Ranging behaviour of a provisioned long-tailed macaque troop during the closure of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Singapore
Authors: Tan, Joys1, NParks (SBWR)2, Amy Klegarth3, Crystal Riley4 N. Sivasothi1
1Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Drive 4, 117543 Singapore. 2Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Branch, National Parks Board. 3Condon Hall, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98125. 4Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis, Campus Box 1114, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, 63130, USA.

20160702 JoysTan at ConsAsia

Love Our MacRitchie Forest: Garnering Public Support for the Re-routing of the Proposed Cross Island MRT Line (Singapore)
Chloe Tan
NUS Toddycats

20160702chloetan at ConsAsia

Promoting coexistence between humans and civets through community involvement and public education in Singapore
Xu Weiting, Fung Tze Kwan & N. Sivasothi
Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore

20160703 XWT ConsAsia

Photos by Weiting and Tze Kwan.