Prof. Dato’ Dr. Nor Aieni Haji Mokhtar was born on 10th March 1957 in Kampong Raja, Besut, Terengganu. She is the 5th out of 10 children for Haji Mokhtar and Hajjah Kalsom.
She received her early education at Sekolah Rendah Kampong Raja and was selected to a boarding school for her secondary education – Sekolah Tun Fatimah, Johor Bahru. She was also briefly enrolled at Sekolah Menengah Tengku Mahmud, Besut and Sekolah Menengah Sultan Sulaiman, Kuala Terengganu. She later won a MARA Scholarship for her tertiary education in the USA.
Nor Aieni obtained her first degree in Physics from the State University of New York, Binghamton, New York, USA (1980) with a Physics Honor Award (Sigma Pi Sigma) from the American Society of Physics and a Masters in Physics from University College of Swansea, United Kingdom (1983). Subsequently, she obtained her PhD in Physics-Laser Technology from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM, 1992) on Laser Technology Application in fluid flows studies, becoming the 4th post-graduate and 1st woman PhD graduate produced by UTM.
She began her career in the public sector in 1980 as an academic at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), and has now attained academic experience of more than 30 years. She has taught at the Faculty of Science and has conducted research at the Coastal and Offshore Engineering Institute, Civil Engineering Faculty. Her areas of expertise include computer and physical modelling studies, hydraulic and coastal engineering, instrumentation, oceanography and marine science, island and marine environment studies: ecosystem and resource management, policy, experimental design and field studies such as integrated coastal zone management, coastal processes, structures design and feasibility studies. She became a Professor in 2002. She was also a member of the University Senate.
She developed other administrative and management skills with her experience as Deputy Dean which included developing programs, policies, coordination and management of Intellectual Property (IP), Entrepreneurship, IP Commercialisation and Innovation for Research Management Centre and Bureau of Innovation and Consultancy. She held the post of the Deputy Executive Director of Institute Sultan Iskandar (ISI) and CEO ISI Ventures Sdn Bhd, the commercial arm of the R & D company established by UTM.
She has been involved in supervising research and has led consultancies related to Physics, Hydraulics, Physical Modelling, Data Management, Coastal Engineering, Environment-Marine sciences including climate change, coastal and island studies as well as strategic and planning policy studies in the areas of R & D Commercialisation, Technology Transfer, Innovation, Techno-preneurship and Management of Intellectual Property (IP) and University-Industry partnership.
Nor Aieni has also won several national and international awards for her research and innovation: Gold medals in the Geneva International Exhibition, including for Best Woman Inventor; the Khwarizmi International Award; the National Inventor Award; the IPTA invention; and the UTM Discovery and Innovation Award. She is a Fellow of RINA-InMAREST, an Associate Fellow to the Academy of Science Malaysia and a member of the National Professors Council (Environment).
She has patented a product, namely a system developed as a solution to coastal erosion. This award-winning contribution to society is a coastal protection system called “Sine Slab”. An R & D product for commercialization, the system was installed and was proven to work successfully at coastal beaches in Tanjung Keling, Melaka, Butterworth, Penang and Miri, Sarawak.
She was seconded to the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation, Malaysia (MOSTI) as the Director/Under Secretary of the National Oceanography Directorate (NOD), from February 2008 until February 10, 2014. She was, in fact, a member of the Task Force Team that formed the NOD, having joined the team as early as 1998. This fact motivated her to accept the invitation from the Minister of MOSTI to spearhead the investigation into national needs for capacity building in research and development (R&D) programs and activities in oceanography and marine sciences.
As the Under-Secretary/Director of NOD, Nor Aieni focused on research planning, designing, coordinating and bringing together resources and expertise (both domestic and international) in order to ensure application of knowledge in oceanography and marine sciences towards wealth generation and community well-being. She also served as the head of the Sea-to-Space division in MOSTI and was a member of several steering, technical, and management committees including for management, finance, grants, ICT, KPI, Audit and also sat on bi-lateral/multi-lateral and post-cabinet meetings.
She was appointed as 2nd Vice Chairman of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO for the Western Pacific (IOC/WESTPAC) and Scientific Advisory Group. She led the related Scientific Committees and the organization of national and international Symposia, presented papers in ASEAN, APEC, ICSU and EU-SEA, and conducted scientific research and expeditions in marine science and oceanography. Her technical publications in books, journals and proceedings number more than 100 and she has presented keynote papers in several national and international events, co-organised with Marine Centres of Excellence(COEs) in universities and other organisations (industries and NGOs) nationally, regionally and globally. She presented her case for interventions in capacity building in Oceanography and Marine Science at the National Science and Research Council, National Maritime Council as well as at the UN Assembly representing Malaysia (Group IV) in the Executive Council for IOC, UNESCO-Ministerial Round Table in Paris, UN International Convention on Law of the Sea (UNICOPOLOS) in New York, USA. In 2014, she was also involved in the Global Ocean Forum, Busan, Republic of Korea and Our Ocean Conference in Washington DC, USA.
She participated in the Coral Triangle Initiative-Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) Leader’s Summit and Ministerial sessions in Manado, Sulawesi, and Jakarta, Indonesia and also in Gizo, Solomon Islands. She anchored the National Secretariat for the CTI-CFF for national and regional coordination and was advisory member for Coral Triangle Centre based in Bali, Indonesia. She chaired the country’s Climate Change Adaptation Working Group and Knowledge Management program with Asian Development Bank (ADB), advocating the national STI, Climate Change, Biodiversity and draft ICZM, Ocean Policies and Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management implementation. In support of CTI activities in Malaysia, she led, with support from other ministries, the ratification process for the establishment of CTI Regional Secretariat, Regional program, CTI National Coordinating Committee (NCC) and coordinated the Sabah State Committee and Development Partners such as USCTI (USAID), AUSAID, ADB, WWF, TNC, CI, ReefCheck, Nature Society, Malaysian Society for Marine Science for the implementation of National plan of Action. Publications include the State of the Coral Triangle Report, ASEAN Coastal Environment Profile and ADB-RETA BIMP-EAGA Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. Along with Philippine and Indonesian counterparts and the WWF, she initiated the formation of the CTI-CFF Business Forum for the Malaysian Committee. She led the CTI Women Leadership Network/Forum and was selected as a candidate for the national program for Leadwomen on board.
The 3 major touch points for the Ministry and Cabinet include capacity building and development particularly for the National Ocean Policy, the development of National Ocean Data justify (MyNODC) and the establishment of the National Institute of Oceanography feasibility study as well as for increased marine scientific cooperation internationally. The National Directorate of Oceanography has won the 2013 MOSTI Key performance Indicators (KPI) Award for achievement in application of the STI policies and capacity building in Oceanography and Marine Science, with national funding support, improved governance and extensive coordination activities towards high impact on communities of scientists and engineers, other ministries and agencies, and society at large.
Upon returning to university after a 6 year stint at MOSTI, Prof. Dato’ Dr. Nor Aieni Haji Mokhtar became a member of the faculty of the Perdana School, generating post graduate specialists in Science, Technology and Innovation Policies and Governance for Sustainable Development at University Technology Malaysia International City Campus, Kuala Lumpur. She is a member of the National committee for Artificial Reefs, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Committee on Marine Parks, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and also a member of the Focus group for University-Industry Partnership and the National Academic Awards Panel Committee under the Ministry of Education. She initiated the national EU-Horizon2020 project planning initiative together with the international division of MOSTI and EU Commission based in Kuala Lumpur.
Nor Aieni was appointed as Vice Chancellor of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) on 13th April 2015, becoming the first woman to hold the post. Previously, in November 2014, she was appointed by the Right Honourable Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Malaysia as the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and International Affairs) of UMT, on secondment from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Having embraced the National Higher Education Philosophy and Strategic Plans, she is also on the National Committee for Deputy Vice Chancellors/Rectors and is a panel member for National Academic Awards (Innovation and Commercialisation), anchored by the Department of Higher Education. As a believer in Blue Economy and Sustainability, continuous participatory holistic approach and stakeholders’ engagement, she strives to harmonise policies with UMT’s Vision and Mission as a focused university, its particular niche being in Ocean Knowledge and Aquatic Science.
She advocates academic excellence particularly in strategic planning and corporate promotion of quality of standards and procedures, governance, ethics, curriculum review and development of new programs, internationalization, scholastic outcome-based teaching and E-learning, English Learning Centres/Hub, talent development and promotion, infra-structure and facilities, education accessibility and services efficiency, quality intakes, Scholarships and Trust Funds, graduation and convocation, graduate employability, post-graduates program, innovation and entrepreneurship, autonomy and sustainable action plans for efficient management of human, assets and financial resources. She is an Ex-Officio member of the University Board of Directors, the University Planning and Management Council, Senate and chairs several related committees. She embarked on the first strategic partnership program for IPTA-IPTS collaboration with Taylors University upon direction from Minister of Education II and, as she is UMT’s Chairman and on its Board of Directors, also other flagship ideas for innovation and development, such as UMTJaya Holding on Teaching Factory and Aquapreneurship Cooperative. From her experience as a researcher, she supports the university’s research programs by leading the Task Force Committee on Coastal Erosion Control and Advisory to Coastal Engineering.
She is a member of the Special State Committee for Petroleum, the proposed Terengganu Royal Institute for History, Legal Affairs and Oceanology and is on the Task Force for Terengganu’s New Transformation for Education cluster. She is also a board member in the Ulul Albab Foundation, Persatuan Anak Terengganu (PESAT) and was recently appointed as President of Badan Kebajikan Amal Wanita Professional Terengganu (BERKAT). She has directed and managed several research and consultancy projects for the state of Terengganu such as the Development of Pulau Rhu and Bukit Keluang, Terengganu Coastal & Island Studies, innovative songket weaving machine, artificial reefs for Pulau Perhentian as well as other strategic state planning meetings and outreach programs. Together with Alam Sekitar Malaysia (ASMA) and a consortium of consultants, project proposals for the Terengganu Marine Atlas and Feasibility Study for Terengganu State Parks are ready to be tabled to the State of Terengganu Authority.
She received the Johan Setia Mahkota (JSM) in 2010 from His Majesty the YDP Agong of Malaysia and later in 2012 received the Dato’ Paduka Mahkota Terengganu (DPMT) which carries the title Dato’.
Nor Aieni has also carved a place in history after being awarded the rank of honorary captain in the Pasukan Simpanan Sukarelawan Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia (Royal Malaysian Navy Reserve Unit) by the Royal Malaysian Navy on 11th August 2015, being the first woman ever given the honour.
Prof Dato’ Dr Nor Aieni Haji Mokhtar is married to Prof Dr Mohamed Amin Alias (Retired Academic/ UTM Professor) and is blessed with 6 children and 5 grandchildren. She loves reading, writing, music, travel, cooking, swimming and scuba diving.