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NUS professor awarded prestigious international prize for geography

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SINGAPORE: National University of Singapore (NUS) professor Brenda Yeoh, who specialises in migration, has become the first Singaporean to receive a prize regarded as one of the world's highest honours in geography.

Modelled after the Nobel Prize, the Vautrin Lud Prize is awarded to geographers for outstanding achievements in the field, NUS said in a statement on Tuesday (Oct 12).

The prize was established in 1991 and is given annually to a single laureate selected by a panel of five international jury members.

With the award, Professor Yeoh joins the ranks of luminaries like Prof David Harvey, a Marxist economic geographer who teaches at the City University of New York, and Prof Doreen Massey who is known for her work on space, place and power.

"I am honoured and humbled that my research has received a nod from peers for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration," said Prof Yeoh in the statement.

"I thank the university for giving me support, encouragement and the opportunity to work on the salient issues related to transnational migration that is affecting our society and I look forward to advancing research in this field," she added.

A human geographer by training, Prof Yeoh has deep expertise on a range of migration research in Asia, including themes such as cosmopolitanism, gender and social reproduction, said NUS.

She received the award at the International Geography Festival in France earlier this month, where she also delivered a presentation on migration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her presentation, Prof Yeoh spoke about how COVID-19 has exacerbated the precarity that transient migrant workers face, and how this has "laid bare the unsustainable nature of temporary migration for nation-states such as Singapore", said NUS.

She also saw opportunities for a more sustainable and equitable basis to temporary migration, such as visas and contracts of longer duration, selective pathways towards residency, and incorporation of migrant workers into national healthcare safety nets, said the university.

Prof Yeoh has taught and researched at NUS for more than 30 years. She joined the university's Department of Geography at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in 1987, after completing her doctorate at Oxford University.

She is currently Raffles Professor of Social Sciences and Director for Humanities and Social Science Research at the NUS Office of the Deputy President (Research and Technology).

She also serves as Research Leader of the Asian Migration Cluster at the Asia Research Institute in NUS.

Among her other achievements, the scholar has published extensively in 35 books and more than 230 journal articles.

In July, Prof Yeoh was elected a fellow of the British Academy, the United Kingdom's national academy for the humanities and social sciences.

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