Ryan Phillip Anthony Bettens

Ryan Phillip Anthony Bettens


As an educator of young adults in a modern technological and seemingly ever more complex world I feel that it is crucial to focus ones efforts on student enlightenment, understanding and an appreciation of the fallibility of the same in what we believe to be true. The journey a young student has tread before entering university is one which tends to inculcate a sense “what is, and isn’t”, that most things routinely dealt with are “known” with a bunch of “facts” and “truths” associated with them – there being no uncertainty – and all has “black and white” answers. To me a good teacher steers the student away from this view and shows them why we think as we currently do about nature. An appreciation of why something is “known” leads naturally to start questioning how well other things are known. A good teacher helps students find these answers and hopefully trains them to finally find the answers to questions they have for themselves.

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Ryan P. A. BETTENS (b. 1966) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science where he has taught since 2000. His current area of research interest is in theoretical and computational chemistry applied to efficient and accurate first principles energies and dynamics of large molecules as well as the modelling of complex reaction kinetics in electrochemistry. On the pedagogical front, Dr Bettens is interested in human cognition as applied to effective and efficient learning at the tertiary level, effective assessment, and imbuing students with the skill of “learning how to learn”. Prior to joining the NUS, from 1996 to 2000, he was a Research Fellow at the Research School of Chemistry, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Here his work focused on first-principles theoretical and computational chemistry. From 1994 – 1996 he was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Physics, The Ohio State University, Ohio, U.S.A. where he worked on elucidating chemistry in space (Interstellar Chemistry) and mm-wave spectroscopy. From 1992 – 1994 he was a post-doctoral fellow at the ETH, Zürich, Switzerland utilizing Fourier transform microwave spectroscopy to study weakly bound molecular complexes. He obtained his PhD in 1992 from Monash University (Clayton Campus), Victoria, Australia where he was on a teaching scholarship. His bachelor’s degree was awarded in 1986 from the University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia. He is married to LEONG Lai Peng, Senior Lecturer in Food Science and Technology, Faculty of Science (NUS).

About being a part of the Academy…

When asked “What do you do?” I would like to answer “I make things better.” This doesn’t just apply to research, service and teaching, but to all aspects of my life. It is with this answer in mind that I have joined the Teaching Academy. This is because I feel that Academy has a real positive influence on improving education and learning at the NUS. There are a number of areas that I would like to see tweaked, but a couple I’ll list here. Firstly, assessment and its alignment with learning outcomes. However, it’s not just assessment of students that perhaps needs further examination but also of teacher effectiveness. Also, a recent addition of the NUS learning landscape has been the academic credited and graded internships. The “value-add” of these internships on the student’s undergraduate education and their life-long learning outcomes I also feel need to be examined.

Teaching Awards / Accolades

  • Faculty Honour Roll (Faculty of Science) (2010/11)
  • Faculty Teaching Excellence Award (Faculty of Science) (2009/10)
  • UROPS CRISP Award, best 8MC UROPS project (Faculty of Science) (2008/9)
  • Faculty Teaching Excellence Award (Faculty of Science) (2008/9)
  • Faculty Teaching Excellence Award (Faculty of Science) (2007/8)
  • Faculty Teaching Excellence Award (Faculty of Science) (2001/2)