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Maximising Singapore's water resources

It was Mr Gabriel Quek’s dream to pursue engineering in an organisation that could inspire him, so he decided to apply for the National Environment & Water (NEW) Scholarship offered by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and PUB, Singapore’s national water agency.

He recalls: “I could identify with NEA and PUB’s vision and mission — to achieve and promote environmental and water sustainability for Singapore.

“I also found the scholarship’s flexibility very attractive.”

Mr Quek went to Imperial College London in the United Kingdom to pursue a four-year Master of Engineering in Chemical Engineering programme.

The scholarship, which requires him to serve a six-year bond, covered his university study fees, monthly living allowance and a one-off reimbursement for extracurricular activities.

He also received a settling-in allowance and airfare for his first trip to the UK and for the final trip back home.

In addition, the scholarship provided return airfare when he travelled back for his internship attachment at NEA and PUB in his second year.

Living the dream

Mr Quek, 26, is currently an engineer at the Environment Technology Office (ETO), NEA, which he joined after graduating with first class honours in 2015.

ETO manages research and development (R&D) projects that benefit the environment and enhance NEA’s operational effectiveness and capabilities.

His team looks specifically at waste management-related projects and developments.

His role includes tracking technology trends, assessing the technologies, strengthening partnerships with research institutions and industry, administering research grant calls, evaluating the received research proposals and managing projects.

He says: “Singapore repeatedly punches above its weight. To keep doing so, we have to constantly improve and innovate.

“My job in promoting environmental R&D is a small part of this effort.

“I hope that Singapore will be a leading example of a modern, environmentally sustainable city state.”

Playing his part

It was a chance encounter that led PUB engineer Yeo Jia Han to sign up for the NEW Scholarship.

While working as a learning journey facilitator in 2012, he visited the Marina Barrage and learnt the story behind Singapore’s water transformation.

Mr Yeo, 25, recalls: “I was deeply impressed by how we managed to turn our vulnerability in the lack of natural water resources into our strength.”

To further his interest, he applied for the NEW Scholarship.

The scholarship fully covered the tuition fees for his Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering at the University of Southampton and Master of Science in Civil Engineering (Environmental Systems) from University College London, in the UK.

In addition to return travel costs, he was also given a monthly allowance.

In his second year of university, he participated in an eight-week internship at PUB’s Water Supply (Network) Department and the 3P Network Department (People, Public, Private).

After his internship, he decided to specialise in water-specific modules such as Advanced Hydraulics.

He also selected more modules related to underground infrastructure, in view of Singapore’s land scarcity.

At the end of his third year, he enrolled in the Harvard University Summer School Programme in the United States.

For a more well-rounded perspective, he took up courses that contrasted his major, such as Anthropology of Water and Environmental Economics.

“The interesting mix of students, coupled with lively class discussions, gave me new perspectives and insights. It was an eye-opener,” Mr Yeo says.

He joined PUB last October after graduation.

He is currently a project officer in the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System Phase 2 Project (DTSS2) department. The DTSS is a used water superhighway.

His role involves designing and doing the necessary calculations for tunnel construction work, consultations with industry experts and managing tender contract documents.

He says: “Engineering will continue to be crucial as Singapore progresses towards becoming a Smart Nation.

“As an engineer, I feel proud and motivated to contribute to the water sector and ensure that we meet the nation’s future needs.”

The NEW Scholarship is open to GCE A-level, International Baccalaureate, polytechnic and NUS High students.

Undergraduates and fresh graduates may also pursue mid-term and master’s scholarships respectively.