Mr Jae Lee almost chose accountancy for his tertiary education, but a quick glance though an accounting textbook convinced him that the subject was not his cup of tea.

He decided to go with his interests in mathematics and business instead. He enrolled for the SUTD-SMU Dual Degree Programme in Technology and Management (SUTD-SMU DDP) offered by the Singapore University of Technology and Design and the Singapore Management University even though the programme was new.

“Most local double-degree programmes I explored would require at least five years of studies,” says the 22-year-old. “The four-and-a-half year SUTDSMU DDP was attractive as I wanted to start work quickly.”

At the end of the programme, students will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in business management and engineering from SMU and SUTD respectively. The graduates will also hold a major in one of three specialisations — engineering product development, engineering systems and design and information systems technology and design.

Learning to adapt

Mr Lee was awarded the SUTDSMU DDP Scholarship, which subsidised his tuition fees and provided an allowance for books, a laptop, stipend as well as overseas opportunities, including internships. Upon graduation, scholars are obliged to work in a Singapore-registered company for up to two-and-a-half years.

Since he started school in May 2015, Mr Lee has been enjoying the markedly different curriculum and environment of both schools. He says: “The hands-on nature of SUTD’s curriculum helps me to learn not just from lectures and theoretical situations, but also from practical processes. We are challenged to use our creativity and I’ve picked up many different skills in the process of making the final product.”

On the other hand, he finds that SMU’s strong emphasis on participation has helped him to brush up his communication skills. “Learning to contribute to a vibrant class atmosphere with questions and thoughts as well as growing in one’s presentation skills are important factors for doing well in SMU classes,” says Mr Lee.

“I’m constantly forced to change — from dressing and presentation styles to adapting to different grading criteria — as I move between the two schools. This keeps me flexible.”

One of Mr Lee’s most memorable projects was developing an application with the diagnostic and interventional imaging department of KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) to make MRI scans a less anxious experience for children.

The project, which was funded by the SUTD-MIT International Design Centre (IDC), was carried out under the SUTD Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) in partnership with SingHealth.

He says: “The Unity3D software for creating the application was new to us, so we spent many sleepless nights figuring out how it worked.

“We also had several rounds of observing how the MRI scanner was used and got feedback from radiologists, nurses and other medical professionals who work with children.

“I had to volunteer for MRI scans of my head and body to learn what happens at each stage and how a child might feel. It helped us to design the application with the child’s perspective in mind.”

Enjoying every moment

It has not been all study and no play, though. The outgoing and adventurous student leader went on a one-week entrepreneurship study mission to Atlanta in the United States, where he worked with a start-up.

He is involved with the SMU Eagles Inc entrepreneurship club and is currently working on an online platform to streamline human resource processes and an artificial intelligence-based product with other club members.

Mr Lee has also participated in conferences such as the Asean- India Student Exchange Programme and the Ecosperity Youth Leaders’ Dialogue, as well as built solar lamps and taught programming to less privileged communities in Vietnam.

With all these opportunities and more coming up, Mr Lee is enjoying every moment of his undergraduate life.

He says: “I like how different both universities are because my learning becomes more than just a diverse set of academic disciplines.

“It also shapes my maturity in relating to others and understanding myself and the world around me. The people I meet are also different, and the diversity in friendships enriches my life greatly.”