2009 President's medal

Professor Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

In recognition for her work in developing astronomy education in Malaysia and her leading national and international role in space science, through her setting up of the Malaysian Space Agency and as Director of United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Professor Othman was educated in Malaysia and studied Physics at the University of Otago, New Zealand becoming the first woman at the University to receive a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. She returned to Malaysia as her country's first astrophysicist and set about establishing university courses in astronomy, laboratories for undergraduate and post-graduate training and actively promoting the space sciences.

Her campaigning to promote public awareness of astronomy led to a position with the Prime Minister’s Department to direct the design and construction of the National Planetarium. Whilst here she also established the nation’s Space Science Studies Division and as Director-General, initiated the National Microsatellite Programme which gave birth to TiungSAT-1.

In 1999 she was appointed Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and in 2002 returned to Malaysia to set up and lead the National Space Agency. As Director General of the National Space Agency, her strategic initiatives included instituting national level coordination on spaced related activities, formulation of the national space programme and policy, and ratification of international space treaties and conventions. She set up the Malaysian Space Centre which accommodates the Satellite Control Facility, the Assembly, Integration and Test Facility and other calibration laboratories. She also established the Langkawi National Observatory which houses the stellar and solar telescopes that are a part of an international network for monitoring space weather. 2007 saw the launch of Malaysia’s first astronaut to the International Space Station, the result of a programme Othman began in 2002. She returned to the post of Director of UNOOSA in 2007.

Othman has a keen interest in fusing the sciences with the arts and initiated the Science Inspired Arts Camp series co-sponsored by the National Art Gallery, which brings together prominent artists and scientists. She was also instrumental in the production of two large format film science documentaries and has produced four planetarium shows.

Othman has published and presented numerous academic papers, not only on astrophysics but also on sustainable development and many aspects of management.