Four SUTD graduates share what they’ve learnt (in SUTD), and what inspired them to further their studies.

Jonathan Ng, Architecture and Sustainable Design
Pursuing Masters of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD)

Why did you choose SUTD for your undergraduate studies?
I was drawn to its technologically-forward and design-centric pedagogy, as well as its multi-disciplinary, hands-on approach to learning.

What were some of your biggest takeaways from SUTD?
Problems are getting increasingly dynamic and complex, and it’s unlikely that a single person or profession will be able to solve them alone. SUTD’s strong focus on a multi-disciplinary approach to problem-solving has enabled me to build a strong foundation and exposed me to its potential and benefits. I believe this approach is the way to go, and I hope to continue to develop and leverage on it in my future practice.

What inspired you to take up post-graduate studies?
Harvard GSD has one of the best Masters of Architecture programmes in the world. It offers me the opportunity to learn from and study alongside some of the best professors and young designers from all around the world. I believe this exposure would not only give me a broader global outlook, but also equip myself with the skills, knowledge and network to better navigate the increasingly interconnected global challenges that Singapore and its architecture will face in the future.

Rachel Lee, Engineering Product Development
Pursuing Masters in Energy Science and Technology at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL)

Why did you choose SUTD for your undergraduate studies?
I chose SUTD because I felt that SUTD’s motto, “a better world by design’, really resonated with me. When I visited SUTD’s Open House in 2015, I was inspired by how the faculty incorporated the motto into the curriculum.

I always wanted a university that has a more hands-on approach, and so I was drawn towards SUTD because it focuses a lot on project work, where design and problem-solving skills are greatly emphasized. I’ll admit I was also attracted by the free usage of equipment, such as the 3D printers and laser cutters, and believed that they would help me improve my understanding of lesson concepts and realise my own designs (they did!).

What were some of your biggest takeaways from SUTD?
My SUTD experience has inspired me to dream bigger. The opportunities are all out there, and you just need to be open, take the initiative and be resourceful to achieve your goals.

My professors and peers were always very supportive and pushed me to dig deeper, to strive harder and to always stay curious.

What inspired you to take up post-graduate studies?
I took up my Master’s programme because I’m interested in being part of the energy transition in Singapore, and hopefully the ASEAN region in the future (I’m specialising in Energy Management and Sustainability).

What sparked my interest was actually a project on energy harvesting from the Power Electronics course in SUTD. After the course, I decided that it would be best for me to broaden my knowledge in Europe, a region more developed in renewable energy, before returning to give back to Singapore.

Tan Jia Hao, Engineering Systems and Design
Pursuing Masters of Philosophy (MPhil) in Industrial Systems, Manufacture and Management at the University of Cambridge, UK.

Why did you choose SUTD for your undergraduate studies?

  • Unique curriculum/learning pedagogy of SUTD: I was motivated by the unique curriculum and learning pedagogy of SUTD which emphasizes the application of concepts to solve real-world problems. This is in contrast to typical lecture-tutorial systems offered by traditional universities.
  • Small close-knit community: SUTD has a small student population, which allows for much closer interaction with peers. A small student population also means that most students can be housed in the SUTD hostel (compulsory for first-year students). This was an important factor because it allowed me to develop a closer bond with my friends in SUTD through a shared learning and living experience.

What were some of your biggest takeaways from SUTD?

  • Learning to lead and work in a team: SUTD provided me with lots of opportunities to work in a team (design projects, Capstone programme, 5th row activities, etc). Through these opportunities, I was able to hone my project management skills and learn to be an efficient and effective team player.
  • Learning to take charge of my own learning: Most of our design projects were open-ended questions. There was no step-by-step guide on how to solve these design problems – we were encouraged to be creative and apply the academic knowledge we picked up in class to address the problems. This helped to train us to be proactive in our learning, and to seek logical and reasonable solutions for the design problems posed to us.

What inspired you to take up post-graduate studies?

  • I wanted to deepen my understanding about industrial systems and understand how these systems are managed across different industries worldwide. This builds on my undergraduate degree in Engineering Systems and Design (ESD).
  • I also wanted to expand my international network and build relationships with the global community, hence my decision to pursue my Masters outside of Singapore.

Katherine Fennedy, Information Systems Technology and Design 
Pursuing the SUTD PhD Programme (ISTD) at SUTD, specialising in Human-Computer Interaction

Why did you choose SUTD for your undergraduate and graduate studies?
Back in 2012, when I had to decide between multiple offers, SUTD’s flexible curriculum really stood out. I knew that I like maths and science subjects in high school, but I couldn’t translate that to a specific course to pursue. SUTD’s curriculum allows its first-year students to taste what each pillar could possibly offer before committing to one of them from the second year onwards. Within each pillar, we can also choose further track specialisations after taking the general modules. This iterative process of designing an education suits curious learners who have difficulties choosing from the many interesting options out there. From 2013 to 2016, while pursuing my undergraduate studies at SUTD, I experienced the pioneering spirit and kampung culture of the tightly knitted community that the university is now synonymous with. I believe that such an environment is ideal for a postgraduate journey too, so it was a rather easy decision for me to choose SUTD again.

What were some of your biggest takeaways from SUTD?
My biggest takeaway would be the confidence to trust one’s gut instinct while navigating a journey full of uncertainties. There are many platforms here in SUTD (e.g. UROPs, 5th Rows) that support passionate individuals and groups in realising their ground-up initiatives. By immersing ourselves into these diverse experiences, not only do we expand our skillsets and social network, but we also learn a lot about ourselves: what we are good at or what has room for improvement. So when it comes to an idea that I genuinely believe in, I have progressively learnt how to embrace the fear of failure by just placing my best foot forward, one step at a time.

What inspired you to take up post-graduate studies?
A conversation with Assistant Professor Hyowon Lee in 2016 was probably what inspired me to consider post-graduate studies. I was looking for advice on the possible career routes that would allow me to flexibly pursue both my interest in software development and interface design. When he expressed confidence in supervising me if I were to choose to do a PhD here, I paused with disbelief. I used to associate such a privilege with someone who has close-to-perfect GPA, but Hyowon proved me otherwise. In addition, the limited awareness of what a doctorate degree entails made me more curious to at least find out for myself before simply taking someone else’s word. I asked myself: what was the worst thing that could possibly happen? That mental exercise made me realise that I was just afraid of the unknown and potential failure, and so I asked myself if not now, then when?

Like what you just read?
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