SUTD’s PhD student Vishaka Weerasinghe (pictured below, leftmost) and alumnus Hum Qing Ze (pictured below, fourth from left), share their experiences at the St. Gallen Symposium.

Vishaka Weerasinghe
“In my two and a half years as a Ph.D. student, if I look back on what would be a clear highlight of my postgrad experience in SUTD, it would be being selected as a ‘Leader of Tomorrow’ participant in the St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland through the knowledge pool. The symposium was an exciting format beginning with a Touristic Day to the city of Basel and Novartis. Then there was a full day of workshops, discussions, and critical reflections of top essays, followed by two intensive days of inter-generation dialogues under the theme of collaborative advantage addressing the topic from different generations; 200 brilliant young minds (“Leaders of Tomorrow”), 600 senior leaders and 100 aspiring leaders (“Leaders of Today”) from diverse backgrounds ranging from academics, entrepreneurs, politicians, scientists, to change-makers and shakers from all over the world.

It was an excellent opportunity to hit my brain not only from the usual science and tech perspective, but also through multi-disciplinary dialogues by inspiring professionals including Switzerland’s President Ignazio Cassis, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister at Ministry for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, CEO of Novartis Vas Narasimhan, Professor of Sustainability Management, HSG, Prof Dr. Judith Walls, Director General, European Space Agency – ESAJosef Aschbacher, and Former NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration Astronaut Franklin Chang.

I was delighted to be a part of “Team Singapore” at the 51st St. Gallen symposium. The highlight was the reception by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and Environment in Singapore. Many thanks to Ms May Loh, Senior Advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group who brought SUTD to St. Gallen Symposium. She introduced us (Team SUTD) to Minister Fu and we had a chance to share our achievements and goals with the team. I brought out the point about how the multidisciplinary culture of SUTD aided my transition from an undergraduate of textile engineering to a researcher in advanced 2D materials for environmental sustainability. The way SUTD structured its curriculum for each pillar and its unique design of semesters gives its students many opportunities to explore different industrial attachments, internships and projects, and the outcome is not just a graduate with in-depth knowledge but a leader with innovative design thinking that I find is highly valued in today’s world.”

Hum Qing Ze
“It was the very first time any SUTD participants took part in the Symposium but I was sure many of my peers would have been able to contribute to the inter-generational dialogue it was centered upon. This year’s theme of Collaborative Advantage directly opposes the concept of a ‘competitive advantage’ and I believed that our perspective of design grounded in the realities of engineering practicalities helped breathe some practicality into ideas discussed.

Getting to meet a myriad of participants across the world was truly eye-opening. In a serendipitous way, many of us faced the same concerns and care for the impending climate emergency we would eventually have to grapple with coupled with the pressures of being early in our careers – housing issues seem to stand out amongst all of us. Yet, amidst all these challenges, we still held on to optimism and hope that our lives would enact the change that we wanted to see.”

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