Academic Profile : Faculty

Prof Ng Wun Jern_1_2_3.jpg picture
Prof Ng Wun Jern
Emeritus Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering
NG Wun Jern is currently an Emeritus Professor with the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. NG graduated in 1977 with BSc – Civil Engineering from Queen Mary College, London University, MSc - Water Resources Engineering – 1978, and PhD (dissertation on chemical regeneration of activated carbon) in 1980 from Birmingham University. NG subsequently conducted post-doctoral research on biotreatment systems at Kyoto University, Japan. He is a fellow at the Institute of Engineers, a chartered engineer, and is a registered professional engineer with the Professional Engineers Board, Singapore.

NG had served as Dean, Faculty of Engineering at the National University of Singapore and this was ranked 9th globally in 2004 by THE. He had served as Dean, College of Engineering at Nanyang Technological University (till 2015) and the College was then globally ranked 5th by US News in 2014 and 2015, and 9th by QS in 2014, and 6th in 2015. During his tenure as Dean, the College of Engineering saw a reversal in declining student interest in engineering and improvement in terms of freshman undergraduate student quality, expansion of industry sponsored research, and formation of joint research laboratories with multi-national companies in domains such as aerospace, manufacturing, and electronics.

NG had been seconded in 2006 to the then Ministry of the Environment to initiate development of its R&D and funding programme. Thereafter he founded and led as its Executive Director for 10 years, the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), before retiring from the position in 2017. NEWRI had operated as an ecosystem of units covering research, technology development and de-risking, postgraduate education, interface with industry and community, and a cluster of spin-off companies. It carried facilities from laboratory to full-scale, allowing pursuit of the Research-Engineering-Enterprise-Deployment (REED) value chain espoused by NG and hence had close industry interactions by way of R&D collaborations and technology commercialization while maintaining research depth and excellence. NEWRI also, unusually, carried its own philanthropic unit with projects at numerous locations in Asia providing safe water and sanitation. It had operated with some 360 researchers and support staff. In 2013 NEWRI and NG were identified among the top 9 global environmental engineering research organizations and among the top 25 global environmental engineering thought leaders respectively by LUX Research. Arising from his R&D management and leadership roles, NG had also served as advisor to research entities in other countries such as the Waterloo Water Institute, Canada.

NG retired from NTU in 2021 but continues to advise the CEE School and research group he founded therein. NG’s research interests had been and remains in the environmental engineering domain with projects ranging from ultrapure water, through potable water, wastewater, water reclamation to waste management with focus on quality, treatment science, and development of bioprocesses and technologies. He had argued for more sustainable wastewater treatment through water reclamation, better sludge management and energy recovery with carbon capture and enhanced anaerobiosis with biogas production. The latter had led to his work on resource recovery such as NPK release and recovery for incorporation in production of biofertilizers and bioactives (eg phyto-hormones and “phyto-antibiotics”). NG’s earlier argument for water security had extended to food security from more sustainable agriculture with CNPK recovery and bioactives supplementation so as to reduce consumption of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides for better soil health. NG’s enduring interest in water reclamation stemmed from his earlier involvement in the national NEWater programme wherein water was reclaimed from used water. NEWater is still practised today and in much expanded form.

NG’s research output may be found in some 600 publications which include journal papers, conference presentations, book chapters and monographs, reports, trade secrets, and patents. NG’s books include “Industrial Wastewater Treatment”, “Wetlands for Tropical Applications” (Imperial College Press), “Wastewater Management & Kandy City Wastewater Management Project” which documented implementation of the central wastewater treatment facility for Kandy City in Sri Lanka, and “Saving Lakes” which discussed lake remediation from urban socio-cultural and technological perspectives (World Scientific). In 2021 NG was placed in the worldwide top 2% research scientists list in a report from Stanford University (Mendeley).

NG has had an unusually high level of personal involvement with the industry having channeled his research into the design and implementation of some 130 full-scale wastewater treatment facilities via technology licensing and his spin-off companies. The largest of these projects (which included the aeMSBR) has a 1.2 million ep treatment capacity with water reclamation, and energy recovery from biogas. Other large facilities derived from NG’s IPs (eg his first IP, the aeSBR design) include the Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s STP and PUB’s Jurong Island WWTP. Additional IPs which have been commercialized with trade names include the anSBR, Hybridan, APBF, and deep shaft aerator-flocculator. These had been applied on effluents from municipal, oil and gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, vegetable oils milling and refining, engineering, manufacturing, food and beverage, and animal husbandry, slaughterhouse and meatpacking industries. Since retiring from NTU, NG had transitioned back to the industry and is presently continuing work on effluent management and water reclamation, and on bringing IPs which allow for better circularity in agri-wastes management to market. He had earlier exited his spin-offs, Biotreat and NE4Technology, following industry trade sales. NG retains equity interest in companies with expertise in waste/sludge pyrolysis and BNR wastewater treatment. These operate in the China and ASEAN markets.

Aside from having founded his own spinoff companies, NG had served as Chairman of a major consulting firm and continues to serve as advisor to SGX listed, multi-national and SME companies operating in the chemicals, food & beverage, marine engineering, water, wastewater, and waste domains. Such exposure had afforded NG not only familiarity with research, translation and development, and project implementation issues – but also somewhat less typically for a person closely associated with academia, familiarity with project configuration and financing issues. Drawing on this, he interacts with venture capital, PE funds, and accelerator companies in the envirotech domain and government agencies in ASEAN and the Middle East. In Singapore, NG serves as Scientific Advisor to the Ministry of Environment & Water Resources, and Singapore Government.

NG’s contributions to industry, research, and education have been recognized with the ASEAN Engineering Award, Outstanding University Researcher Award, and the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques prior to 2000. His project on the anaerobic process for low strength wastewater was placed first in the national innovation competition for environmental technologies in 2004, and in 2008 he was appointed the inaugural Tan Chin Tuan Centennial Chair Professor. In 2012 he was honored with election to Fellow Singapore Academy of Engineering. In 2017 his work was recognised with the IES Prestigious Engineering Award, Singapore Energy Award, ASEAN Engineering Excellence Award, and the President’s Technology Award. In 2018 he was recognised as among the top 100 scientists in Asia and with the Nanyang Award – Humanitarian Work, and in 2019 was appointed a President’s Chair Professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering at NTU. In 2020 he was appointed Distinguished Professor at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Following retirement from his academic career, he was conferred the Emeritus Professor title at NTU in 2022.
Water, wastewater, and wastes management;
Cyclic and immobilized systems with aerobic, anoxic, and anaerobic processes;
Pyrolysis, biochar and activated carbon, and bioactives for agri-soil enhancement
US 2020/0048121 A1: Hyper-Rate Anaerobic Digestion System For Enhanced Bio-Solids Reduction (2023)
Abstract: Disclosed herein is a process for the treatment of wastewater for biosolids reduction and biogas (i.e. methane) generation where a wastewater is provided to a first reactor which is operated under anaerobic conditions, a hydraulic/solids retention time of from 0.1 to 1 day, a temperature of from 30 to 70° C. and a pH of from 6.5 to 10, with the effluent of the first reactor passing to a second reactor which is operated under anaerobic conditions, a hydraulic/solids retention time of from 3 to 10 days and a temperature of from 30 to 70° C. The process may further comprise feeding an effluent produced from the second reactor to a third reactor operated under anaerobic conditions, a hydraulic/solids retention time of from 3 to 20 days and a temperature of from 30 to 70° C.
2017 - IES Prestigious Engineering Award
2017 - Singapore Energy Award
2017 - ASEAN Engineering Excellence Award
2017 - The President’s Technology Award
2018 - The Nanyang Award – Humanitarian Work
Fellowships & Other Recognition
2012 - Fellow of the Singapore Academy of Engineering
2018 - Top 100 Scientists in Asia