Sunday October 17, 2004

Physicist feels at home in Malaysia


HIS trip here was a mere four days but for Prof Dr Feng Da Hsuan (pic) who has been away for 40 years, it reaffirmed that he never really left the country.
“You can take the man out of Malaysia, but you cannot take Malaysia out of the man. This part of the world is a part of me even though I have been away for 40 years.
“I am excited to see that the country's economy is robust and the people are enjoying a much better life,” “And I like the food especially the laksa. Even “bad” Malaysian food taste good,” said the 58-year old University of Texas at Dallas vice president for research and graduate education recently.
Dr Feng, who is also a professor of physics, lived in Singapore when it was still part of Malaysia and left the island in 1964 for the United States to pursues his studies.
He had come to Malaysia in 1950 with his parents from China, as his father had become editor of an English newspaper called the Tiger Standard. His father, Paul Feng was attached to the Central News Agency and had served in India, where Dr Feng was born.
“ I feel like a Malaysian in the most generic sense of the word because I never lived in Singapore when it was independent and I am very, very comfortable here,” he added.
Dr Feng, who is now a US citizen, was in Kuala Lumpur recently for the Malaysian Science and Technology Congress to deliver a plenary speech entitled “Science and Technology in entrepreneurial spirit in the Pacific Rim in the 21st century”.
He also gave a public lecture for Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industries Malaysia (ACCCIM), visited Technology Park Malaysia and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board and had a dialogue at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.
He made short visits here in 1972 and 1999, which lasted a few hours.
Likening his visit to a “blind date”, Dr Feng said that he was happy to be in the country to explore the opportunities.
“It is like going on a blind date. I do not know if the results will be positive or negative. But I feel very positive and enthusiastic. I hope my colleagues here feel the same way,” he said.
Education wise, he completed two years in civil engineering from the Singapore Polytechnic and received his degree from Drew University in New Jersey and a doctorate in Theoretical Physics from the University of Minnesota.
Dr Feng is an authority in mathematical physics, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, quantum optics, fundamental issues of quantum mechanics, network architecture and computational physics.
His current role at the University of Texas at Dallas is a far cry from when he was involved in research and teaching.
“I was a 'cocoon professor' – deeply involved in research and teaching graduate students besides being committed to writing scientific papers for international conferences. It was a totally self-contained life and very comfortable.
“I had written 20 books and 200 scientific publications by the early 1990s. Then, I got impatient and started looking for opportunities to do something quite different. I would not say opportunities come easily. I see every job as a gradation to the next one. I love working with the university, public and community to develop a relationship,” he said.
On Malaysia's future in science and technology, he said that it was important for her to choose strategically selected areas in which the country could excel.
Dr Feng added that it was important for universities to adopt the “research university” concept whereby faculty and students could work on problems which would result in technology transfer and commercially viable projects.

The above article appeared in of
Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"