Recognising the importance of technology in Singapore’s defence led Mr Shawn Ang, 29, to take up the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) Scholarship.

The DSTA Scholarship (Undergraduate) prepares budding engineers and scientists for a meaningful career in organisations including DSTA and DSO National Laboratories (DSO).

Mr Ang, who studied mechanical engineering at Northwestern University in the United States, graduated magna cum laude for his Bachelor of Science degree. He continued his studies there for a year more to receive his Master of Science in 2012.

Upon graduation, he returned to DSTA’s Naval Systems Programme Centre as an engineer working on the upgrading of the Republic of Singapore Navy’s (RSN) Missile Corvettes to extend the ships’ lives and upgrade the combat systems for improved capabilities.

His team managed to deliver the upgraded ships ahead of schedule and exceeding the project’s requirements. For their efforts, the team received the Defence Technology Prize Team (Engineering) Award presented by the Ministry of Defence to scientists and engineers in recognition of their contributions to Singapore’s defence capability.

“My studies in mechanical engineering proved useful in my job working on naval vessels — when working on the designs of ship structures, hullforms and hydrodynamics,” says Mr Ang.

“The work of a defence engineer often requires us to think at the next level to come up with the best engineering solutions. Challenging myself to take on more difficult classes at a junior level in university built my confidence and capability.”

Now a senior engineer, his current work is on submarines — acquiring, reviewing and integrating systems and technologies on board Singapore’s submarines to meet RSN’s stringent requirements. His work takes him to naval bases and shipyards where he works with his colleagues, the navy and contractors to conduct platform tests and trials.

Mr Ang was also posted to Germany after Singapore signed a contract in 2013 to acquire two submarines from it. There, he ensured the design and production of Singapore’s submarines met the technical requirements while addressing technical issues on-site.

“It was a valuable learning opportunity as I got to participate and lead in the design review process and build up my technical proficiency in submarine technologies. Besides monitoring submarine building and quality processes, I developed crucial project management skills during my two-year stint there,” he says. He also mentored the scholars who were undergoing DSTA’s Global Internship Programme (GIP) at Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems in Germany.

Something meaningful

The GIP is a unique aspect of the DSTA Undergraduate Scholarship and provides DSTA scholars the chance to learn and work alongside engineers in top multinational companies while pursuing their studies.

Like Mr Ang, a passion for science, mathematics and technology led Mr Tan Pin Quan, 27, to choose the DSTA Scholarship. He graduated with first class honours for his Bachelor of Engineering degree at National University of Singapore in 2014. Mr Tan has now been working at DSO for two-and-a-half years.

DSO is Singapore’s national defence research and development organisation.

“At DSO, we develop cuttingedge technologies for our nation’s defence. I hope that I, too, will be able to do something meaningful for my country,” says Mr Tan, who develops electronic warfare solutions as a research engineer.

His daily work sees him studying concepts, conducting tests in the laboratory and in the field to validate the performance of his solutions.

Both DSTA and DSO have a strong culture of learning and knowledge-sharing. DSO organises an annual techKNOWfair where its various divisions showcase their projects to allow its engineers and scientists to exchange ideas and expertise, and create opportunities for collaboration.

At both organisations, engineers are encouraged to build technical breadth and depth through diverse and multidisciplinary work experiences. This is complemented with training and courses to develop technical competencies, leadership capabilities and other skills.

As they prove their abilities, engineers take on enlarged responsibilities within projects and the organisation.

“I appreciate the emphasis that DSTA places on the holistic development of staff through multiple career advancement pathways, in-house milestone and leadership development courses, and career planning,” says Mr Ang.

Mr Tan adds: “What I love most about my job, and engineering in general, is that I get to identify real-life problems that we face today and provide the solutions for them.”