Class of 2020: Pursuing their Passion for the Sciences
Three graduates from the Chemical Engineering and Food Technology cluster share their journeys into the world of science.
In this article of the 'Class of 2020' mini-series, we uncover how three graduates from the Chemical Engineering and Food Technology cluster grew their passion for the sciences by honing their specialised skills.
Fan Jia Hui, Food Technology (Class of 2020)
Jia Hui (left), the youngest in a family of five, was inspired by her siblings to pursue science.
"My interest in science started when I was around 6 or 7, when I was inspired by my elder siblings, who were studying physics and biology. They would always talk about their science experiments in school, which got me intrigued in science as well," said 24-year-old Jia Hui.
"I enjoy product development as it is driven by the needs of people, and I'm particularly interested in the research aspects of it – looking at how ingredients make up a product and how they affect its stability."
Jia Hui graduated from Singapore Polytechnic with a Diploma in Food Science and Technology, and the SIT-Massey University Food Technology programme was a natural progression for her.
"The first trimester in my first year at SIT was very difficult for me. I thought university classes would be similar to those in polytechnics, and I was wrong. The study load was heavy with many reports to be submitted, and the concepts were hard to grasp. Thankfully, through forming study groups and help from my classmates, I was eventually able to catch up," she shared.
Jia Hui did her Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) at Sensient Technologies Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, a leading manufacturer of colours, flavours, and extracts – an experience which made her more confident of her decision to enter the world of food technology.
"For my IWSP, I was part of the beverage team in charge of the application of flavours in beverages. It was a very enriching experience for me as I was able to see how the knowledge taught in classrooms came to life," she said.
Jia Hui did well enough during her IWSP to be offered a full-time position as an Application Technologist at Sensient Technologies. This allows her to do what she loves in her work, being involved in new product development as well as stability studies for other products.
"I hope to further my studies in another two to five years' time, after I have gained more work experience. I feel that it is important to attain a certain level of expertise before delving deeper into the subject area," she said.
Krithi Pushpanathan, Pharmaceutical Engineering (Class of 2020)
Krithi (left) in one of the soccer events that she participated in during her university days.
Science has always been intriguing for Krithi, 23. However, she wasn't entirely sure about her career path prior to joining SIT.
"The only thing I was sure about then, were the subjects that I was interested in. But I'm glad I made the right choice entering SIT as I found my interest in programming for pharmaceutical engineering and statistics. These new-found interests, together with my passion for speaking up against social injustice and helping people, were what made me decide to pursue a master's degree in Epidemiology after my graduation from SIT," said Krithi, who is now a Research Engineer at SIT. In her work, she uses MATLAB, a programming language, to model the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore to predict future trends of infections. The data can then be used to guide policies to improve public health.
Krithi has volunteered at Cheng San Family Service Centre since 2017, coaching primary school children from vulnerable families. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she volunteered to help migrant workers make injury and salary claims, as well as delivered essential items to workers staying in dormitories.
"I hope to make meaningful contributions to the community, not just through the regular volunteer work I do, but through my research work as well," she said.
Outside of her studies and volunteer work, Krithi was the Vice-Captain of the SIT Women's Soccer Team, a sport she loved and pursued since her junior college days.
"The highlight of my time at SIT was when our Women's Soccer Team beat our opponent in the Intervarsity Games 2018. It was our first win and an incredible experience," she shared.
Yeo Shu Hui, Food Technology (Class of 2020)
Shu Hui's (left) fondest memory in SIT was of her overseas capstone project with Fonterra New Zealand.
For Shu Hui, 25, her overseas capstone project at Fonterra New Zealand was the highlight of her university experience as it offered her a valuable opportunity to work with Prof Joanna Hort, a New Zealand food science academic and the 'Fonterra-Riddet' Chair of Consumer and Sensory Science at Massey University.
"It turned out beyond my expectations as I learnt a lot from Prof Hort, working with her to study the effects of different context on consumers' overall liking of chocolate milk. And I really enjoyed the experience of living in a hostel and interacting with students at Massey University," she said. She came in second place for her capstone project in her final year of study.
For her Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP), Shu Hui worked at the Sensory and Consumer Insights department in Firmenich, a global producer of fragrances and flavours.
"I was given the task of performing market studies and consumer research, by understanding key consumer insights on social media. It was challenging for me, given the amount of insights out there, but I really enjoyed myself," recalled Shu Hui.
These experiences assured Shu Hui that the field of sensory science is where she wants to be.
"It is my dream to work in the food industry and specialise in consumer insights, advising companies on consumer preference in terms of flavours and tastes," she said.
Her experience in sensory testing acquired during capstone project and IWSP was a key factor in Shu Hui garnering a position as Sensory Technologist at Symrise, a major producer of flavours and fragrances. In her current role, she conducts tasting tests for new products to guide the product development process and identify potential sensory risks.
"I am now doing what I love. Instead of resting on my laurels, I aim to deepen my knowledge in sensory languages to prepare myself for future taste tests, and to take on more consumer-related work at Symrise," she concluded.