Mazlan Othman

Mazlan Othman

Overview
Mazlan Binti Othman is a Malaysian astrophysicist who has served in several roles within her country, and as Director of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Office for Outer Space Affairs in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

.

Born in Seremban, Malaysia, Othman attended Tunku Kurshiah College, a boarding school in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan. Her aptitude for mathematics led to enrollment in a science curriculum, and though her family encouraged her to become a physician, she decided to pursue physics instead.
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Encyclopedia
Mazlan Binti Othman is a Malaysian astrophysicist who has served in several roles within her country, and as Director of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Office for Outer Space Affairs in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

.

Early life and education


Born in Seremban, Malaysia, Othman attended Tunku Kurshiah College, a boarding school in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan. Her aptitude for mathematics led to enrollment in a science curriculum, and though her family encouraged her to become a physician, she decided to pursue physics instead. She attended University of Otago
University of Otago
The University of Otago in Dunedin is New Zealand's oldest university with over 22,000 students enrolled during 2010.The university has New Zealand's highest average research quality and in New Zealand is second only to the University of Auckland in the number of A rated academic researchers it...

 in New Zealand on a Colombo plan
Colombo Plan
The Colombo Plan is a regional organization that embodies the concept of collective inter-governmental effort to strengthen economic and social development of member countries in the Asia-Pacific Region...

 scholarship, earning a BSc. (honors) in 1975. She joined the National University of Malaysia
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
The National University of Malaysia is a public university located in Bangi, Selangor which is about 35 km south of Kuala Lumpur...

 (UKM) as a tutor, but negotiated an extension to her scholarship and returned to Otago, earning her Ph.D. in physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 in 1981 - the first woman to do so since the University was founded in 1869.

Career


Othman returned to Malaysia as the country's first astrophysicist, and worked to create a curriculum in astrophysics at the national university, as well as to build public awareness and understanding of astronomy and space issues. She also performed research for a semester at the Kiso Observatory
Kiso Observatory
Kiso Observatory is an astronomical observatory located at Mt. Ontake in Japan. The observatory was founded in 1974 and is maintained by the Institute of Astronomy, Faculty of Science, University of Tokyo . It is home to the 105cm Schmidt Telescope....

 in Japan.

Her interest in public education was rewarded in 1990 when Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad
Mahathir bin Mohamad
Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad . is a Malaysian politician who was the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia. He held the post for 22 years from 1981 to 2003, making him Malaysia's longest serving Prime Minister. His political career spanned almost 40 years.Born and raised in Alor Setar, Kedah, Mahathir...

, a strong supporter of education and science, placed her in charge of the Planetarium Division of the Prime Minister's Department, overseeing development of Planetarium Negara
Planetarium Negara
The National Planetarium is the national planetarium of Malaysia. It is a blue-domed structure that is situated on top of a hill in the Lake Gardens at Jalan Perdana, Kuala Lumpur. It is about in area.-History:...

, Malaysia's national planetarium in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the second largest city in Malaysia by population. The city proper, making up an area of , has a population of 1.4 million as of 2010. Greater Kuala Lumpur, also known as the Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7.2 million...

. After the planetarium opened in 1993, Othman was made Director General of the government's new Space Science Studies Division, where she launched a microsatellite development program. She received a full professorship the following year.

In November 1999, Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan
Kofi Atta Annan is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2006...

, Secretary-General of the United Nations, appointed Othman as Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs is an organization of the General Assembly charged with implementing the Assembly's outer space-related policies. It is located in the United Nations Office in Vienna. The Office implements the Program on Space Applications and maintains the...

 (UNOOSA) in Vienna. At the request of Prime Minister Mahathir, she returned to Malaysia in July 2002 to serve for five years as the founding Director General of Angkasa, the Malaysian National Space Agency, where her work led to the launch of the first Malaysian astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor
Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor
Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor is a Malaysian orthopaedic surgeon and was the first Malaysian to go into space. He was launched to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz TMA-11 with the Expedition 16 crew on October 10, 2007...

.

Othman was reappointed as UNOOSA director in 2007 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon is the eighth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations, after succeeding Kofi Annan in 2007. Before going on to be Secretary-General, Ban was a career diplomat in South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the United Nations. He entered diplomatic service the year he...

, and left Angkasa to return to the post that December. At UNOOSA she deals with issues of international cooperation in space, prevention of collisions and space debris, use of space-based remote sensing platforms for sustainable development, coordination of space law between countries, and the risks posed by near-earth asteroids, among other topics.

In September 2010, several news sources reported the United Nations would soon appoint Othman to be the ambassador for extraterrestrial contact, apparently basing their claims on remarks she made suggesting that the UN coordinate any international response to such contact, and her scheduled appearance on a Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 panel that October, "Towards a scientific and societal agenda on extra-terrestrial life." However, a UN spokesperson dismissed the reports as "nonsense" in their continuous effort to deny any knowledge of extraterrestrial awareness to the general public, dismissing any plan to expand the mandate of UNOOSA, and in an email to The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, Othman stated, in compliance to the wishes of the United Nations, "It sounds really cool but I have to deny it." She later explained that her talk would illustrate how extraterrestrial affairs could become a topic of discussion at the UN, using as an example the advocacy that led to UN discussion of near-Earth object
Near-Earth object
A near-Earth object is a Solar System object whose orbit brings it into close proximity with the Earth. All NEOs have a perihelion distance less than 1.3 AU. They include a few thousand near-Earth asteroids , near-Earth comets, a number of solar-orbiting spacecraft, and meteoroids large enough to...

s and space debris
Space debris
Space debris, also known as orbital debris, space junk, and space waste, is the collection of objects in orbit around Earth that were created by humans but no longer serve any useful purpose. These objects consist of everything from spent rocket stages and defunct satellites to erosion, explosion...

.

Honors


In the 1997 Agong's honours list
Agong's honours list
-2005:* Tan Sri Datuk Seri Ahmad Fairuz Datuk Sheikh Abdul Halim and Tan Sri Datuk Seri Muhammad Ghazali Shafie are the 2 recipients of Seri Setia Mahkota , which carries the title Tun....

, Tuanku Ja'afar, tenth Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, conferred the federal decoration and order Panglima Jasa Negara (for meritorious service) on Othman, granting her the honorific "Datuk."

Also in 1997, Othman's alma mater, the University of Otago, awarded her the degree of Honorary Doctor of Science.

In 2009, for "her work in developing astronomy education in Malaysia and her leading national and international role in space science," the Institute of Physics
Institute of Physics
The Institute of Physics is a scientific charity devoted to increasing the practice, understanding and application of physics. It has a worldwide membership of around 40,000....

awarded Othman its President's Medal.

Personal life


Othman has two children, and lives with the daughter (youngest) in Vienna, Austria.

External links