Professor Christopher Ian Baldwin, affectionately known by his students simply as Prof. Baldwin, is no stranger to working in many different places. Having worked in Northumbria University and as the Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences (BMS) at Newcastle University, Prof. Baldwin is now Dean of BMS at NUMed, a long way away from his home. Clarissa and Hui Yun sat down with the good Prof. to get to know him a little better and to ask him about his experience both abroad and here in tropical Malaysia.

From Past to Present

A goalkeeper in a government school, Prof. remembers the unforeseen victory of 5 to 4 against a stronger private school team. Unforeseen—this has been a recurrent theme in Prof. Baldwin’s life. As a “naughty” teenager who failed his A-Levels, he never imagined getting a degree, let alone a Ph.D.

After having talked with some of the technicians in his school, juvenile Chris Baldwin considered working in the field. So, he applied for several technical jobs and was fortunate to be employed by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), working on sleeping sickness, a common disease in Africa. It was then, at the age of 18, that his interest in research was sparked. Baldwin went on to meet numerous influential people, such as John Williams and Peter Surgeon, who would be key in encouraging him to continue his studies. It was Williams who showed him the connection of microscopic work with real humans, saying, “Remember, what you are doing impacts people.” Their influence would continue to affect him throughout his academic career, shaping him to be the caring lecturer that he is today. From failing A-Levels to getting a Ph.D., the Prof. has come a long way since, becoming the first person in his family to get a degree.

Prof. Baldwin now lives with his wife, Lisa, and their two children. While Lisa, an A-Levels teacher herself, supported his decision to move to Malaysia, their two children, George (13) and Scarlett (10), have had some difficulty in adjusting to life in this country. Although George is finding adapting more difficult than his sister, Prof. Baldwin is committed to helping ease his son’s transition here. To the Prof., family matters, and their happiness is paramount to him. Their move also included the addition of a new family member: Lola, a golden retriever. Unafraid of the rambunctious fireworks during Chinese New Year, Lola is curiously suspected to be Chinese.

Prof. Baldwin finds his greatest satisfaction in life from both his academic achievements and his family. When asked about the current state of things, he simply replied, “I wouldn’t want to change anything.”

Things You Never Knew 

Prof. spends most of his free time walking Lola. Bird-watching is also something he enjoys doing, however, he can only do that on weekends as it takes about an hour’s drive to a beautiful spot. So, he would rather stay at home to play some Final Fantasy on his PS4! If playing the PS4 is not surprising enough, the Prof. also mentioned that he enjoys heavy metal music, in particular, the rock band Muse. A family man, Prof. Baldwin loves taking his family out and spend time with his children too. A busy man, the Prof. relaxes whenever he gets to. “I just like to sit there and vegetate,” he explains, leaving the room filled with laughter.

The Principled Principal

A cheerful and easygoing man who believes in doing his best, Prof. Baldwin lives by this sagacious advice: “Do not be arrogant.” Despite his high position, he appreciates everyone, regardless of status, from his ‘please’s’ and ‘thank-you’s’, ensuring that praise is given to all parties involved when an achievement is accomplished.Prof. Baldwin also finds pride in supporting his students and in leading his staff by example. He is not the kind of person that would expect his staff to do all his work for him. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you,” he believes.

Prof. Baldwin also finds pride in supporting his students and in leading his staff by example. He is not the kind of person that would expect his staff to do all his work for him. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you,” he believes.

An Unsung Hero

When asked about something great he did that went unnoticed, the Prof. recalled encountering a Palestinian final-year BMS student while he was still heading the BMS programme in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. She could not access any money due to the political situation in the West Bank, and therefore, could not pay her tuition fees. Knowing that the management was about to terminate her studies because of this, the Prof. stepped in and guaranteed her fees. Thankfully, the student managed to resolve her financial dilemma in the end. One can never feel the joy and pride felt by the Prof. when he mentioned that the student graduated with first class honours. There are many unsung heroes out there; hopefully Prof. Baldwin’s act will not be among those forgotten.

New at NUMed

Coming to Malaysia in a time when Educity did not exist, he immediately fell in love with the site where NUMed would be built. When the management proposed to have the MBBS course here in NUMed, the idea of running BMS alongside it was conceived immediately. He was originally scheduled to begin working at NUMed from its inception but was appointed as the Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences, which delayed him for 18 months.  In his stead, Dr. Nicholas Morris, whom Prof. Baldwin complimented for his effort in setting up and running the program, was appointed the Dean of BMS at NUMed.

When Dr. Morris requested to return to the UK, Prof. Baldwin decided to take the opportunity to further develop the BMS program in NUMed. As the Dean of BMS, he is responsible for ensuring that the program runs successfully and that it recruits a targeted number of students. Also, Prof. Baldwin is working on NUMed’s new Foundation programme.

When talking about foreign universities in Malaysia, Prof. Baldwin feels that it is important that students from NUMed feel like they are a part of their English counterpart. He aims to continue getting  . Hiring local staff for teaching would, in his opinion, “drift off from the purpose of setting the university itself.”

When asked about his vision for the BMS programme and NUMed, the Prof. announced, “to stay comparable to Newcastle!”

Prof. Baldwin aspires for NUMed to advance in other areas – research, for one – by liaising with other researchers in Malaysia. The Prof. is also ambitious to introduce school children (of ages 9-11) to issues related to science, the variety of university courses, as well as future job opportunities. This is a great way to provide information to those in the local community who do not have a chance to enter university or those who never even thought of it.

What Makes a Good Teacher

In the field of teaching, passion is the thing that Prof. values the most. He is persuaded that in order to make students passionate about a subject and inspire them to do their best, a lecturer needs to be engrossed in the topic at hand. He described a lecture as a performance. A good lecturer is able to hook the students onto his or her lecture. The Prof. also said that students are able to identify whether a lecturer is passionate or not and will lose their initial interest in the subject if the lecturer presents it mundanely.

Passion is not the only thing, however. Prof. Baldwin also thinks an educator needs to be able to listen to students. He always tries his best to listen to and understand his students’ and staffs’ quandaries, directing them into finding their own solutions to their problems. Due to NUMed’s comparatively smaller population with Newcastle, he finds doing so easier.

Ideas, Concerns, & Expectations: Malaysia

Prof. Baldwin adores Malaysia! Before being appointed as the Dean of BMS at NUMed, he visited Malaysia several times with his family and has been to Kuantan, Penang, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuala Lumpur. According to him, the people here are nice and friendly and there is good food almost everywhere. “Definitely worth exploring more,” he said with a smile.

Interestingly, the Prof. thinks that Malaysia is not a third world country, but a developed country with developed infrastructure where people can live happily and comfortably. This is a view that is apparently not shared by many in the UK. Prof. Baldwin loves the working style in Malaysia, though, unfortunately, the paperwork is just as much as in the UK.

Staying in Malaysia allows him and his family to visit other beautiful Southeast Asian countries during the holidays. There are more opportunities for them to understand the culture within and around Malaysia. Although there may be some multicultural problems in Malaysia, he thinks it is better compared to in the UK. He is delighted that his children get to mingle with Chinese, Malay, and Indian friends, something they would never have gotten a chance to do, had they stayed in the UK. He hopes that this gives them a good stand in the future.

But Did You Learn Malay?

“Hahahaha . . . For my sins, I haven’t,” admitted the Prof. Language was his weakest subject in school, but when he came to Malaysia, he promised himself that he would learn a smidge of Malay and a dash of Mandarin. His proficiency in the Mandarin language is limited to Ni Hao (Hello) and Xie Xie (Thank you), and he knows no Malay words, the Prof. admits. “Unfortunately, I have been making excuses and I haven’t done anything.”  However, he promised again to try to learn some more by the end of this year.

A Professor’s Advice

Although Professor Baldwin wants his students to succeed, he also hopes that they will enjoy their university life. “You just have to do the work and have to read,” the Prof. calmly advises, continuing with, “Mix work and play together, can’t be all work. But it mustn’t be too much play.”

Words From the Others

What type of a person is Prof. Baldwin?/How do you see Prof. Baldwin?

Dr. Kenneth McKeegan (Academic Dean): Prof. Baldwin is a people person who gets on well with everyone regardless of who they are. He a brilliant communicator and teacher. Prof. Baldwin is a vastly experienced and successful academic who overlooked a big expansion of student numbers in the School of Biomedical Sciences in the UK when he was Head of that School. Under his leadership, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the courses that it offers are regarded as among the very best in the UK.

 Amanda (Stage 2 BMS): Best “DAD” ever. Hilarious and silly sometimes but these are the moments we will forever cherish. Perhaps we could all chill/drink together someday.

Yuet San (BMS Representative): Jovial personality, sometimes waving both his hands as he greets the students with his light-hearted voice. He willingly shares experiences about his university days, thus making student interact with him more comfortably. His travelling tales to different countries be they for academic conferences or in teaching experiences helps motivates students to strive for success and create awareness of the opportunities around them. He also cautions us against academic malpractices and instills confidence in our own ability to overcome failures.

Dwayne, Gloria, Dominic, Shin Hui, Nur Hazirah, Neveen and Nur Alya (Stage 1&2 BMS): Supportive. Attentive. Energetic. Humorous. Cute. Awesome.  He is deeply committed to delivering captivating lectures. Professor believes in us and we will make him proud by becoming first-class honor students and successful molecular scientists.


Writers: Ng Hui Yun and Clarissa Lister


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