Freddy Boey was born in Singapore on 3 March 1956. He first heard about Monash University in 1976 through the Australian High Commission with whom he was exploring options for overseas study and training. He came to Australia as a student under the Colombo Plan, enrolling in a Bachelor of Engineering (Materials Science). Financially, away from home and in a foreign country, it was difficult for Boey. He worked to support himself during his studies driving a taxi on weekends. He reflects:
Professor Polmear and some of his colleagues have left an indelible mark in my academic career. One of the most memorable incidents involved Professor Polmear applying, on my behalf but unbeknown to me, for a cash prize for which I only got to know when he congratulated me in front of the whole class. Considering that I was driving a taxi around Melbourne part time to earn money for my livelihood, this was money most welcome, and at the right time as well! .
During his time at Monash, Boey was also chairman of the Overseas Christian Fellowship. This independent religious group had over 400 members, mostly from Monash University, Clayton campus.
Boey graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor of Engineering with honours in Materials Science. He was the top student to graduate in his year. Returning to Singapore, he started a job as a metallurgist at the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research. After a year he resigned and returned to Australia, in February 1982, and spent the next ten months volunteering with an aboriginal community at Doomadgee in North Queensland.
Returning to Singapore in 1983, Boey enrolled in a PhD program at the National University of Singapore. He completed his PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 1987, and was the very first PhD graduate from the National University of Singapore.
In 1987 Boey joined the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) as a lecturer in the School of Mechanical and Production Engineering. In 2000 Boey was transferred to the then new School of Materials Science Engineering and appointed Vice Dean. A year later he was promoted to Professor. In 2004 Boey was appointed Chair of the School of Materials Science and Engineering.
Boey’s research areas include functional biomaterials for medical devices, nanomaterials and nanostructures for cell regeneration. During his career Boey has founded several companies to patent and license his inventions, including a surgical tissue retractor which was licensed to Insightra in California and sold in the US, India, Japan and Europe. Other inventions include a fully biodegradable peripheral cardiovascular stent, microfluidic and biomedical devices, a coronary stent with drug release capability, and a hernia mesh.
Over the years Boey has won more than S$36 million in research grants, including the prestigious S$10 million individual National Research Foundation (NRF) Competitive Research Program grant for this work on fully biodegradable cardiovascular implants. Boey has also published 290 high ranking journal papers.
In 2010 Boey was awarded Singapore’s Public Administration Medal (Silver). On 1 July 2011, he will assume the appointment of Provost at Nanyang Technological University. He is also a member of the SPRING Singapore Technology Policy Advisory Committee and has been on the President’s Science and Technology Award Committee since 2007. He is a member of several national funding and award panels and has chaired the National A*STAR Grants Review Committee for the past few years. He is also Honorary Professor at both the University of Indonesia and the Nanjing Postal and Telecommunications University.
Reflecting on his time at Monash, Boey comments:
The MSE course was unique in educating me in all three aspects of Material Science – Metals, Ceramics and Polymers. I have helped to build NTU’s School of Material Science Engineering and in many respects, I have built the school based on the exposure that I have had in Monash’s department of MSE.
Recalling the actions of Professor Polmear and the financial assistance this provided during his undergraduate studies, Boey reflects:
This experience alone motivated me to start a fund within the School of Material Science Engineering [at NTU] to provide part time jobs for its financially needy undergrads, working within the school. For the few years that I ran the school as the Chair, I have always strived to make it a ‘student centric’ school where I made sure to provide pastoral and practical help. The constant phrase I use in the school – ‘We are family, we care’ – was certainly motivated by my experience at Monash.