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Making tracks

WHILE some may find the prospect of an engineering career in land transport daunting, Ms Leong Huiyu, 23, finds it to be an appealing option — as she feels it would enable her to contribute to society. Her interest in the field was piqued in 2013, when she attended a higher education fair in her final year at River Valley High School. There, she got to learn about the engineering-related nature of work in the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the complexity of transport challenges in Singapore. She also found out about the LTA Undergraduate Scholarship, which comes with a four-year bond, at the event. After deciding to apply for the scholarship, she attended information sessions organised by LTA for interested scholarship applicants that provided her with insights into a career with the company. The sessions included a visit to LTA premises to understand the history of Singapore’s transport system, a sharing session from a scholar working in the company and another visit to a LTA office. Says Ms Leong: “Speaking with the officers provided greater insight to the different types of engineering work available in LTA. “I also got a glimpse into the operational aspects of our traffic-monitoring system, an experience that I can still recall vividly.”

Learning journey

Ms Leong was awarded the scholarship after a rigorous application process that included three rounds of interviews. In 2013, she enrolled for the mechanical engineering undergraduate programme at the National University of Singapore (NUS). It offered her an opportunity to intern in the Mechanical and Electrical Services department under LTA’s Rail/Road Systems Engineering Group. It was there that she built models to simulate airflow in road and rail tunnels in the event of a fire to determine the placement of tunnel fans. It was a great learning experience for her as she got to learn how fan configurations in stations were designed to allow the public to evacuate safely in the event of a fire. After graduating from NUS in 2016, she enrolled in the Master of Science (Mechanical Engineering) programme at Stanford University in the United States, where she pursued her interest in control systems and mechatronics Both degree programmes were sponsored by LTA. Ms Leong’s favourite subjects in high school were physics and mathematics and choosing to study engineering which requires knowledge in these subjects was a natural one for her. One of her university modules, Introduction to Mechatronics, she had to design and build an autonomous robot. Through this project, she learnt how hardware and software need to be integrated for a system to work. As part of her postgraduate education, she also learnt that during the process of engineering design, other factors, such as the user experience, should be considered as well.

Maximising potential

Since Ms Leong joined LTA as an engineer in the Systems Assurance & Integration department last September, she has been working on safety and reliability management. She is currently involved in testing tunnel fans. She says: “At the start of a project, we identify potential safety. “Then we follow up to ensure there are adequate mitigation measures protecting concerned parties from risks as far as possible,” she says. When a project is completed, her team does a review to ensure the risks, if any, are addressed. At LTA, its scholars go on a job-rotation exercise so they get to gain experience in different departments to learn the various aspects of what the organisation does. This may include areas outside engineering, such as policy and planning. Ms Leong appreciates that the scholarship has given her more exposure to the industry. “Having the opportunity to understand the non-engineering considerations behind the system allows me to develop more holistically as an engineer,” she says.