Diving From Offshore Drilling Platforms to Lecture Halls
Assistant Professor John Eow, Chemical Engineering and Food Technology, SIT, took the leap from offshore drilling platforms to lecture halls.
Assistant Professor John Eow, Chemical Engineering and Food Technology, SIT, took the leap from offshore drilling platforms to lecture halls to impart his knowledge and skills to the next generation.
When you are at the top of your game, making a career switch might seem like a reckless move. But, for Assistant Professor John Eow, taking the leap from offshore drilling platforms to lecture halls at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) made perfect sense. Having worked in the oil and gas industry for many years, Asst Prof Eow could not pass up on the opportunity to impart his knowledge and skills to the next generation.
What did you do as a specialist process engineer?
As a process engineer, I was involved from the proposal stage to the execution of detailed engineering to commissioning, as well as oversight of performance improvement in the process solutions for clients. It was rewarding to see my process designs and systems work well at my clients’ oil and gas sites. When I worked as a senior professional engineer, my most memorable experience was training and mentoring young engineers to be successful in their oil and gas careers. It was a great honour when I was awarded the Top Mentors Award 2021 by the Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM)!
Asst Prof Eow (centre) during the successful commissioning of four units of crude oil desalter systems in a refinery in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. Photo credit: Asst Prof John Eow
When and why did you decide to pursue your academic career at SIT?
I chose to pursue my academic career at SIT in 2018 because it is well known for being a University of Applied Learning. At SIT, I am able to pursue my passion for teaching. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and skills with undergraduate and postgraduate students who will undoubtedly become future talents and innovators in the oil and gas industry.
What is the most common misconception people have about your specialisation in Chemical Process Safety (CPS)? How would you describe its importance?
Many companies have the misconception that implementing CPS at their facilities is a costly and needless expense. However, proper CPS management is a life-saving necessity. It can potentially save a company from disasters such as fatalities, fires, explosions, and environmental contamination. In the oil and gas industry, every stage of a project involves specific elements of chemical process safety.
How is the CPS industry changing? Why is it important for industry professionals to keep up to date with training or retraining?
CPS is ever changing because the chemical and process industries are getting more complex and diversified. It is vital for industry professionals to keep up with training and retraining programmes, such as those offered at SITLEARN Professional Development, the lifelong learning division of SIT that caters to working adults.
You conduct the Hazard and Operability Study (HAZOP) training programme at SIT, which aspect of the training do students find challenging?
My students find it challenging when they need to perform a HAZOP review of the facilities at their organisations. In my course, I focus on building their competency in risk assessment by conducting hands-on case studies based on real industrial processes to help participants with their learning.
Students need to master many aspects of HAZOP, which is a formal technique to systematically examine the process design of a chemical facility, with due regard for the planned mode of operation, inspection, and maintenance.
Its aim is to systematically examine a system design, identify potential hazards and operational problems from all possible causes, and make judgements whether planned design or operational safeguards are adequate. I have trained participants from industries such as water and wastewater treatment, energy efficiency, centralised cooling systems, pharmaceuticals, green energy, power generation, and more.
Photo credit: Asst Prof John Eow
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar path as you?
I would advise young graduates who want to embark on a similar path to acquire deep industry knowledge, experience, and skills. Academics must be well-versed with KPIs such as teaching and learning, applied research, conducting CET training, consultancy work, and so forth. Good communication skills are essential, in addition to strong coaching and mentoring skills, so you can bring out the best in your students!
I want to continue sharing my knowledge and industrial experiences in chemical process safety with engineers, scientists, and managers from various industries who are working towards safe work practices and zero-injury.
To learn about SIT’s HAZOP training programme by Asst Prof John Eow, visit