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.

MailMerge a pdf book of abstracts from submitted project titles and abstracts

NewImageIn modules LSM1303 Animal Behaviour, LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment and GEM1917 Understanding & Critiquing Sustainability, students present project results in a symposia. A pdf book of abstracts is prepared for use during the symposia from title and abstracts recruited earlier using a Google Form.

I allow students very close deadlines, such as the Sunday before a Monday symposium, even if some editorial work is required! This is because the pdf book of abstracts can be generated in minutes, based on student submissions through a Google Forms document. Once the deadline is reached, an Excel version of the Google Forms responses is downloaded and processed.

I have been using the Mail Merge > Catalog function in Word 2011 for Mac to do this, but need to teach others to do this. It is likely that some will be using Word 2016 for Mac, and when I took look, it wasn’t all that straightforward. Online resources helped me figure it out, so I’m listing the steps here for my friends, and also for myself, for the next time I prepare this.

  1. Download the Google Forms data as an Excel File and ensure the following field are available:
    • Group Number
    • Full name of person submitting abstract
    • Project Title
    • Project Abstract
  2. Verify the group number using Excel’s VLOOKUP against the module database of group members and project numbers (overcomes submission mistakes)
  3. Use Excel’s VLOOKUP to extract the proper full names of all group members from the module database
  4. Close the Excel file of abstracts
  5. Open a new document in Word 2016 for Mac, and select the “Mailings” ribbon
  6. Select Start Mail Merge > Directory (this provides a continuos flow of records for the book of abstracts, instead of section breaks between records in a letter mail merge)
  7. Start Mail Merge > Directory – to obtain a continuous flow of text
  8. Select Recipients > Use An Existing List… (select the excel file of abstracts)
  9. Select Recipients > Use an Existing List… – select your Excel file of abstracts

    Selecting my Excel file of abstracts

  10. You will be warned to only open a known file, and prompted to open the workbook
  11. Use “Insert Merge Field” to build the output document template, by inserting text and fields. e.g. Group No. «Group_Number»: – inserts the words, “Group No.” before the point at which the number is inserted.
  12. Apply formatting as needed (e.g. bold, change font size)
  13. Appearance of the Mail Merge template, after inserting text and fields
    Screenshot 23

  14. Specify the Merge Range (if the workbook range was not restricted, specify a range to prevent junk at the end of file. E.g. a range of 1 to 40 if there are not more than 40 records (groups)
  15. Finish and Merge > Edit Individual Documents…
  16. Save the Word document, edit as wanted and print as a PDF

The book of abstracts took minutes to generate. You’re on your own for editing, though!Screenshot 24

After using the Mailings ribbon in Word for Mac 2016, I realise the buttons are arranged logically for the task. And instead of “Catalog” what I was wanting was a “Directory”. So once the teething blues are over (and the angst online from 2015 mostly reflects this, I suspect), I’m back in business!

It is a useful practise to only edit submissions at the source, i.e. in the Excel file. If improved abstracts are invited (through a Google Form), or a second round of editing is exercised by a colleague, the new pdf can be quickly generated by the Word template, and the entire outout be cut and paste into a webpage (see Sustainability Symposium in Singapore).

Efficiency means lecturers can maximise the time available to students to write their abstract, which naturally improves significantly, the closer they get to their presentation date. It isn’t easy writing an abstract and further analysis of fresh work will introduce refinements. This applies to participants at higher level symposia too. Since generating the abstract booklet is fast, I always afford speakers the opportunity to provide revised abstracts right up to the day they speak, so that the permanent record on the web is the best possible version they could have wanted.

So the same techniques will be applied at the 13th International Otter Congress, 3rd – 8th July 2016 in Singapore.

Backing up my Mac – visualisation improves my protocol

I find it helpful to plan a backup protocol and review it every now and then, since I need to access data from years ago quite often. During the semester I can lose track if my setup is not simple and I report to stop gap measures when a backup hardisk is full. So during the semester-break, I review my setup and fix the inadvertent lapses, feeling quite lucky when data is intact!

Last December, I visualised the arrangement as I had lost track once again. It did become clear that I had been quite safe – current data on my laptop is always backed-up onto cloud storage and I had local backups as well. So I just ensured I was paid up for adequate subscription to cloud services. I did retire a very full 2007 external hardisk and replaced it with an external 3TB hardisk to handle daily backups.

Backup Protocol 001

My archives were residing on external hardisks which had been replaced about every half decade to increase their capacity and pre-empt hardware failure. I would rather work with archives on my laptop especially when preparing lectures and talks. However, the very fast SSD hardisks on my laptops which make work so much faster, are not large. So older data must be pushed to external drives.

The visualisation highlighted the fact my very old archives were only on a pair of redundant hard drives. I will now add those to CrashPlan, a cloud based backup plan – it might take weeks to upload but is a background process. I will just have to ensure the drives are powered on until that is complete.

When not active, all hardware is powered off, and this visualisation helped me figure out the most efficient arrangement for cabling and a safe power supply arrangement. With a more convenient setup, I find myself doing local daily backups and shifting data to archives much more frequently.

Yesterday morning, I learnt that will be kaput by May 2016. Some of my students had used for their thesis work as it offered them a higher capacity of free space compared to Dropbox. With those projects completed, I’ll just need to shift the lot to Dropbox or the archives, along with all my keynotes for public talks.

Actually, I already did!

Compression utilities on my Mac

In the end of semester flurry of activity, having to move and exchange files requires compression to save space or to reduce multiple files into a single archive for transfer and security.

As I receive data, some file formats defy OSX’s built-in Archive Utility which is otherwise conjured up with a double-click. Happily there are plenty of free utilities each time I look. I appear to have kept just these two updated all this while – The Unarchiver, and StuffIt Expander (originally Raymond Lau’s 1987 pre-OSX utility).

Windows users who send me secure compressions tend to use 7-Zip, which produces 7z file formats. As a Mac user, I need something like Keka to open those files.


Gotta love the logo!

There are always new options – I have just started using Infinit, which seems lovely, as it can sends large files and folders to a Windows PC, iPhone, Android phone and other Macs, of course. Infinit promises secure encryption and transfers too.

It might just be the best thing since Wetransfer.

Skitched 20151125 233006

Encrypting a file for transfer means providing the password to your recipient. You should use a different avenue from your transfer, e.g. if you emailed a link or file, then use a message app for the password. Some apps reportedly have better security options that What’sApp or LINE, such as Telegram or Signal.

I’ve not examined security in detail since I have only a low volume of local transfers to make for exam matters. So I stick to old school methods – keep relevant files offline and encrypted on disk images, and transfer files by handing over a USB thumb drive.

Job: Instructor/Lecturer in i) Sustainability and ii) Work Place Readiness at Ridge View Residential College, NUS

Job: Instructor/Lecturer (closing date: 13 Nov 2015; JOB-2015-0349720)

The Ridge View Residential College (RVRC) is a one-year interdisciplinary programme that aims to cultivate sustainability culture and leadership through a living-learning curriculum. Its three core modules, co-academic activities, and industry presence are seamlessly interwoven to ensure that students develop intellectual inquiry and academic rigour, engage in experiential learning, and are keenly attuned to the demands of the workplace.

RVRC is seeking applications for the position of Instructors/Lecturers to join its motivated and exciting team starting Academic Year 2016/2017. Successful candidates with suitable expertise and relevant experience will contribute to the development and teaching of two core RVRC modules, as follows:

  • sustainability (integrated interdisciplinary approach)
  • workplace readiness (including experiential learning, sustained sports, and readiness for internship/workplace) – the candidate will be involved in the design, implementation, assessment and evaluation of the sports and experiential learning components. The candidate will also support other preparatory and developmental activities relevant to ‘workplace readiness’.

Instructors/Lecturers are employed as full-time RVRC faculty on the Educator track. The positions may also be residential or non-residential.

RVRC currently admits only Year One students from five faculties/schools, namely Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, Faculty of Science, School of Computing and School of Design & Environment. Its strategic goal is to instil in students values and qualities contributing to their overall development as undergraduates – academically, socially, personally, and professionally – complemented by a close engagement with the industry.

Job Requirements:
RVRC is looking for faculty who can demonstrate the following attributes:

  • strong grounding in teaching and learning at tertiary level
  • keen to explore innovative and alternative ways of engaging student learning
  • learner-centric and learning-centric
  • passionate about nurturing and working with students
  • possess the pioneering spirit to shape and influence the direction of the College

To apply, see: