Prof Datuk Dr. Asma Ismail is a woman of many firsts. She currently serves as first woman Vice-Chancellor, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and first woman VC of Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia in 2012, making her the first woman to be appointed twice as VC of public universities. She served as the country’s first woman Director-General of Higher Education and is currently the first woman President of Academy of Sciences Malaysia (2016-2019).

With her BSc in Biology from University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), MA (Microbiology) from Indiana University, Bloomington and PhD (Cellular and Molecular Biology) from UNR, Asma made scientific discoveries that led to the attainment of 13 patents and commercialization of rapid diagnostic test for typhoid called TYPHIDOT which was advocated by WHO.

As a researcher, she published 131 papers, received more than 213 awards and recognitions, presented more than 387 papers including 351 invited talks/plenaries and 36 keynotes both at national and international levels. She was elected to The Academy of Sciences Malaysia in 2003, The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) in 2010 and the Islamic World Academy of Sciences in 2016. She was elected as Honorary Member of the Iranian Academy of Medical Sciences in 2017.

Her landmark contributions to Malaysia’s higher education system include establishment of the prestigious National Academic Award, 5 Research Universities in Malaysia and co-helmed development and implementation of The Malaysian Education Blueprint (higher education) 2013-2025.

For these and other achievements, she received an Honorary Doctor of Science from University of Glasgow in 2013, Indiana University’s Thomas Hart Benton Mural Medallion in 2015, Honorary Degree Doctor of the University, Keele University and Honorary Doctorate in Literature from Kyoto University of Foreign Studies (KUFS) in 2017 respectively.