The military flypast is always a hot favourite during National Day celebrations. For Ms Madeline Wong, it was also the inspiration for her engineering passion.

“When I was young, my father used to take me to the National Day Parade rehearsals when he was working in the Singapore Air Force,” says the 24-year-old engineering graduate from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

“I was curious to know how machines work and how they could be made to fly.”

Making sense of science

Ms Wong, who was in the pioneer batch of SUTD students from May 2012 to August 2015, chose to major in engineering systems and design.

The SUTD Asian Leadership Programme (ALP) scholar was drawn by the curriculum’s emphasis on design from the onset, even in science subjects like physics and mathematics.

She says: “It allowed me to think of the balance between form and function early on, and not just focus on the technical details.

“We literally left our marks on the ceilings with homemade water rockets and even test-fired potato cannons to see which ones could shoot the most potatoes through a goal post!”

On the ALP scholarship, Ms Wong received subsidised tuition fees for her four-year undergraduate studies and full study-related expenses for her 15-week summer exchange programme at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, from May to August 2013.

During her exchange programme, Ms Wong went on an internship with an industrial design company. There, she was a part of team that developed a bedside night lamp that could change colour with a wave of the hand.

“It was my first time creating a product from scratch with a company, and it included producing a product booklet and video. All of us in the team were not product engineers, so it was an interesting experience for us,” she recalls.

Despite not being fluent in Mandarin, Ms Wong overcame the language barrier by sketching out ideas and enlisting the help of a Zhejiang University senior who accompanied the SUTD exchange group wherever they went.

She says: “The exchange programme gave me time to explore Zhejiang and experience a different culture and pace of life that is vastly different from Singapore’s.”

Equipped for the job

Ms Wong is currently an associate specialist in information technology (IT) in the IT risk management and security department of MSD Singapore, a global healthcare company headquartered in the United States.

Since starting work in September 2015, she has been on MSD’s two-year Emerging Talent Rotational Programme. This allows her to work in different departments — including project management organisation and user experience — to gain a better understanding of the company’s infrastructure.

She says: “I wanted a job that was meaningful and would help people. I realised that what I studied was relevant for healthcare, especially in a multinational corporation like MSD.

“From the manufacturing supply chain to the delivery and sales systems that bring our medicine to people, all these large-scale systems need to run smoothly for efficient operations.”

Her studies came in handy when the company had a project that required specific skills.

She says: “SUTD’s emphasis on design and technology enabled me to join the project as a user experience designer and to quickly gain the skills needed.”

Ms Wong says it is important to find a school and scholarship that fits one’s passion.

“Find a course of study that interests you and makes you excited to learn. Visit the campus and see if the environment is a good fit as it will be your second home for a number of years,” she adds.