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Breaking out of his comfort zone

For non-Chinese speaking students, China may not be the top destination for overseas learning journeys. But mathematics and science ace Mohammed Ammar Rafik Madakia did not let the language barrier get in his
way as he sought the tutorage of prominent experts in the field of nanotechnology.

The 22-year-old chemical and biomolecular engineering undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) spent two weeks in the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in Shenzhen as part of an overseas learning journey organised by NTU’s CN Yang Scholars Programme (CNYSP).

“Before setting off for the trip, I felt the language barrier would be rather challenging as I don’t speak Chinese. However, the researchers whom I was attached to were very understanding and answered my queries in English.”

The experience turned out to be very enriching for the plucky engineering student, who has a research interest in sustainable energy. During his time at SUSTech, the professors he shadowed allowed him to visit their labs and observe them running experiments on electrocatalyst and nanomaterials; the experiments are part of research on how new nanomaterials can be used to create processes and products that emit less greenhouse gases.

Mr Ammar says: “Before the trip, I had already finished my first research attachment in NTU on heterogenous nanocatalyst for carbon dioxide hydrogenation to methanol.” The research revolves around a process of converting carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels to methanol.

One of the professors he was attached to at SUSTech was also doing research on a similar process.

High growth potential

Such one-of-a-kind learning experiences are what the CNYSP aims to provide for outstanding NTU science and engineering freshmen. Mr Ammar, an Anglo Chinese School (Independent) alumnus, says he was attracted to the CNYSP as it offers unrivalled exposure to research in Science, Technology, Engineering and
Mathematics (STEM).

“I would recommend the CNYSP to those who want to gain research experience and pursue a career in academic research. The scholarship provides many opportunities to pursue research projects both locally and overseas under the guidance of mentors and professors,” he adds.