Engineering the Right Chemical Reaction to Excel




Test tubes containing reagents of different colours line the rack in front of the 16-year-old girl. Under the watchful eye of her teacher in the chemistry lab, she carefully mixes the substances in the right proportions to successfully produce the desired reaction. But the fun is not over yet. Next, she heads over to the physics lab to conduct an experiment using the Laws of Motion. If she had her way, the girl would spend all her school hours in both labs.

That 16-year-old girl is now 22. Agnes Chew’s love for science, nurtured since her secondary school days, has led her to pursue chemical engineering, which combines both physics and chemistry to power industries.

“Chemical engineering is when chemical knowledge is applied to solve problems in the physical world, which makes a lot of sense to me,” she explained. “And I like studying things that make sense.”

As a student from the pioneer batch taking the Chemical Engineering degree programme, jointly offered by the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and Technical University of Munich (TUM), Agnes is learning from the best in Singapore and Germany. The programme allows her to master the discipline by understanding different perspectives and learning to apply them throughout her programme of study – even before she steps into the working world.

“It is very enriching to benefit from so many different perspectives within the chemical industry,” she said.

A Global Learning Experience

Her initial excitement at being accepted into her top choice degree programme had turned into mild apprehension when she discovered it was brand new.

“I was generally worried about the environment as there were a lot of unknowns,” she recalled.

Getting used to the unique mix of local and German approaches to education has helped her appreciate the subjects better – the former builds on her existing knowledge while the latter offers alternative angles to strengthen her basics.

For example, her favourite module, Chemical Engineering Principles, challenged her with “a lot of basics” that she had never learnt before. Undeterred, she would participate in online Q&A sessions with her German professors even if she had no questions. The lecturers helped her tremendously by deepening her foundational knowledge.

In fact, the programme equips her with relevant Industry 4.0 skills – where digital transformation revolutionises industry processes. These skills have helped her decide on her specialisation. Today, her goal has never been clearer.

“What stood out for me with SIT-TUM was the Data Engineering specialisation that I’m interested in, and the chance to go to Germany,” said Agnes, who is keen to learn how data empowers chemical engineering. She hopes to fly to Munich when travel restrictions ease.

She is also excited about her upcoming Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP), an eight-month work attachment that is a distinctive feature of SIT’s applied learning pedagogy. Agnes hopes to explore the manufacturing side of engineering and plans to work with specialty chemicals after graduation, something she already got a taste of during her polytechnic internship at a leather-coating company.

Dancing Fulfils Varsity Life

One aspect of her journey that mirrors her education path is her love for dancing. As a member of SIT’s contemporary dance club, “Poco A Poco”, her graceful moves and interaction with her fellow dancers show off their chemistry on stage.

Dancing has honed her skills in time management and working with new teammates, while giving her 90 minutes of undisturbed bliss and workout each week. It also trains her to be adaptable.

She prides herself as a lifelong learner, and she feels that her constant quest for knowledge is consistent with the SITizen-DNA of ’Able to learn, unlearn and relearn’.

“It’s not intuitive to unlearn something, but I see it as a way to upgrade what I already know,” she said. “When I learn in a different way, I get to retain the core knowledge and build on the same concept.”

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