Published in January 2003
Warm greetings to all Alumni Club members. Welcome to the third edition of newSMAker.
In this edition, we are very happy to bring you articles on some of our alumni’s experiences in their overseas stint. We are also glad to share with you an article on the Sentosa overnight camp that was held in September 2002. This camp was the first major activity organised by the 2nd Management Committee and we had an overwhelming participation of more than 70 alumni and students.
In the coming months, the club aims to put together a few more activities for our members. So keep a lookout for the publicity materials in your “Inbox”.
In addition, we are going to introduce the Life Membership scheme for all SMA graduates. This scheme allows for only one-time payment of the membership fees. No more hassle of paying your Ordinary Membership dues annually. More information on this will be released soon.
Many thanks to the members of our editorial team, who have spent much time and effort in putting this edition of the newSMAker together.
Last but not least, enjoy the newsletter.
Tee Chin Wee
2nd SMAAC Management Committee
The second Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the SMA Alumni Club (SMAAC) was held on 4 May 2002 at 1:30 p.m. in NUS LT3. The incumbent president, Alvin Teng, gave a welcome speech to start off the AGM. A brief on the activities that had been organized during the Work Year (WY) was then given. These activities included a Pulau Ubin biking trip, gathering at Sentosa and bowling competition. The incumbent treasurer, Mong San Ping, then reported on the financial status of the club.
The election for the new Management Committee was carried out smoothly. Congratulations to the following members who were elected to the SMAAC Management Committee for WY 02/03:
2nd SMAAC Management Committee
This year, the SMAAC Annual Gathering was held at Sentosa campsite for the participants to enjoy the great outdoors and relax in the lush tropical surroundings. It was also a rare opportunity for the participants to step away from the hustle and bustle of working life. Furthermore, Sentosa offered many attractions for the participants to enjoy during their free-and-easy time.
The ice-breaking game, Treasure Hunt, was organised by Sid and George. The participants were divided into groups and each group had to solve some challenging problems in order to find the treasure. The objective of the game was to let the participants interact and get to know each other better.
After the game, the participants were taught how to pitch a tent. This was important because some of them would be spending the night in Sentosa. This was a first for most of the participants and it was an experience that they enjoyed. Laughter from the participants could be heard amidst the falling tents. After some hard work, all the tents were finally pitched and it was then time for the participants to enjoy a hard-earned break.
During their free-and-easy time, the participants engaged in activities such as swimming, cycling and beach volleyball. The sandy beach, crystal blue sea, mild evening sun and light sea breeze made it an excellent environment for outdoor activities. Having expended all their energy on fun and games, it was time for dinner - a barbeque! The fire at the two barbeque pits was started and on went the meat, otah and sausages. The food was grilled to a mouth-watering golden brown by the barbeque experts who were present. As dinner continued into the night, lanterns were lit and the participants sat under the dark blue sky and shared their life experiences with one another. And of course, there was nothing nicer to round off the dinner with some delicious watermelons.
The final game for the evening was a very interesting guessing game. Instead of using pen and paper to write out the words that other group members had to guess, the participants acted out the words. After the first member of the group had seen the word, he or she had only a limited time to act it out to the second group member, who in turn had to act it out to the third member and so on. The last member of the group had to guess the word. Even though no penalty was meted out to the losing group, all groups had put forth their best theatrical skills to act out words like “Shaolin soccer” and names of famous movie characters. Who knows? We might have a future Oscar-winning actor among the SMA students and graduates.
After the last game, most of the participants flocked to the musical fountain to watch the musical show “Magical Sentosa” that featured a lively actor and a cheeky monkey called Kiki. Colourful laser images projected onto a giant waterscreen, together with some lively music, set the stage for a night of mystical drama and awe-inspiring visuals. After the show, hungry participants had a late-night supper and continued to chat into the night. Soon silence descended upon the camp, punctuated only by the occasional singing of crickets.
In the early hours of the next morning, the whole camp arose and prepared for another day of fun. Some of the participants visited the Dolphin Lagoon and Underwater World, at discounted entrance tickets, courtesy of the SMAAC. The antics of the pink Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins enchanted the audience, and the Underwater World offered an underground tunnel that enabled visitors to watch the sea creatures from near. Definitely something new for urban dwellers! After the visit to the Underwater World and Dolphin Lagoon, the participants proceeded to other attractions in Sentosa. It was absolutely a memorable visit for all.
Low Sok Chay
“ Where?” “Minne-what?” These are some of the questions that people typically asked when I tell them where I have been living and working. Prior to graduating from SMA in 2000, I was fortunate to have gone for several interviews with 3M (formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company). I was successful and en route to 3M headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, before the inaugural SMA graduation ceremony.
My task of learning and bringing home unique, new semiconductor planarization technologies was substantially enhanced by the knowledge of IC processing acquired at SMA. Prior knowledge of mechanical engineering, project management, product design, materials selection and development also made it easy to fit into a company that lives and breathes materials development.
Interestingly, 3M celebrated the “Century of Innovation” in 2002. It has been a time of interesting and significant changes, where a large, century-old company, making in excess of 60,000 products, needs streamlining to enhance its competitiveness in today’s fast-paced business arena. Yet, it remains a truly unique company, making diverse products ranging from sandpaper to high-end medical and electronic components. I am glad to have the honour of saying that I have worked in a company where the wealth of internal knowledge is simply mind-boggling!
St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota and is adjacent to Minneapolis. Collectively, they are known as the Twin Cities. Conservative, polite and a little laid-back (in a good, relaxed way) is how I would describe Minnesotans. The suburbs are growing fast, due to the good family life that is possible there. Strangely, and perhaps fortunately, much of the American population thinks that Minnesota is a slow, backward farming state. I am sure that this has prevented a population explosion. Of course, if you cannot take the long, cold winters, then you are not likely to move there either! Yes, the severe winters are feared, as temperatures plummet from 30 °C to –30 °C!
Being an outdoor enthusiast, I took full advantage of this to learn new skills for winter camps and survival. Moreover, being devoid of mountains, the Midwest was a great place to take up cross-country skiing. On less severe days, I went running in winter. I also took every opportunity I had to travel and spent time roughing it out in the outdoors and even took up mountaineering! The proactive spirit of the American culture manifested itself in the multitude of special interest groups within 3M and across society in general. One would always be able to find people who share the same interests – tennis, running, golf, chess - you name it! What also made life fun is my love for interacting, travelling and roughing it out!
When I returned to Singapore in January 2002, many people asked if I was sad to leave America. My answer is simply that there is a time and place for everything and one should try to learn, as opportunities for development exist wherever we go! I feel that the important aspect of the ‘American way’ that one should emulate is not the individual freedom but the individual responsibilities that come with freedom. Only then will we be able to have a truly developed and gracious society!
How do I make this interesting? Why would anyone want to read about my experiences and stories? Surely you are not going to be reading this article for my fine English or my articulate thinking! On second thought, maybe. Yeah, right. But one reason why I recommend this article is because I hope to inspire you with stories of a simple, ordinary boy in Cambridge.
I once asked my girlfriend what she thought of Cambridge. “Impossible, but exciting.” she said. While I flinch at her former statement, I cannot agree more with the statement that Cambridge is an exciting place to be. Better still, Cambridge is a paradox. It offers the unique feeling of a dynamic and cosmopolitan modern town in the setting of a traditional and formal medieval university. While rich in history (Cambridge approaches its eight hundredth anniversary in 2009), it is indeed looking towards the future, of being an international center for modern teaching and research. Fuelled by the Cambridge University graduates who stay here, the growth of high-technology industries, i.e. The Cambridge Phenomenon, has resulted in the town and its associated science and business parks, due to the similarities with Silicon Valley, being given the tag of Silicon Fen. With this, Cambridge is to represent the best of European entrepreneurial spirit, the same as MIT is to America.
Cambridge has been my home for the past two years. I divide my time between work and play over here, since all work and no play makes Jack an uncool boy. My weekdays (and occasionally weekends) are spent at the Cavendish Laboratory, where I continue to hone my experimental and analytical skills in condensed matter low-dimensional physics, hoping for a revolutionary breakthrough one day. My supervisor at the Cavendish Laboratory has taught me well. He has never failed to emphasize the importance of research to be driven by passion and its utility to society. Thus, my doctorate study has always been guided by my love for science (remember MacGyver?). Since this place consumes so much of my time, I have started to grow rather attached to it. As such, I would like to talk briefly about it.
James Clerk Maxwell, Lord Rayleigh, J.J. Thomson, Rutherford. Besides being highly respected intellectuals, all of them also have one other thing in common. They were all Professors of Cambridge’s renowned Cavendish laboratory. This lab was named after Henry Cavendish, in honor of his contribution made to the world of physics. American ideas were used to establish the teaching labs of Cavendish. However, it has managed to retain its British feel despite American influences. As early as the 1920s, Cambridge emerged as the leader of experimental physics in Europe. Currently the Cavendish Laboratory houses around 12 sub-groups across the entire spectrum of traditional and modern experimental physics and an Interdisciplinary Center (IRC) in Superconductivity. Strong industrial partnerships are reflected by the presence of the Toshiba and the Hitachi Research Lab and the new Gates Computer Laboratory. A new IRC in Nanotechnology will be completed by end-2003 as well and will surely complement the interdisciplinary nature of the Cavendish. I work in the sub-group of Semiconductor Physics headed by Professor Pepper. The people in my group investigate fundamental electronic phenomena using advanced, often unique, semiconductor structures. I work in the area of Micro/Nano-Electro-Mechanical Systems doing both basic and applied research, and have recently gained a strong interest in the integration of carbon nanotubes and biophysics.
Now, I had better stop talking about Cavendish. It is getting a tad bit shy.
Besides being famous for the Cavendish lab, Cambridge is also a wonderful host to an extensive range of activities. During my free time, I usually (I am very much tempted to say sleep here) play sports, the guitar or simply take a nice and peaceful stroll around the colleges. The scenery here is simply breathtaking. During drier and warmer seasons, my friends and I go punting (the act of pushing a huge stick against the river bed to propel the boat forward i.e. Newton’s Third Law) along the Cam River. Last year, I was most fortunate to be elected the captain of my college boat club and led them to second place in the competitive annual Ergo rowing event. It was really fun1. My PhD training has also allowed me to travel to many other European countries, giving me the opportunity to be exposed to new ideas and also meet new friends, many of whom are still in contact with me now.
We usually think of a typical European winter as cold, miserable and depressing. Well, let us not get ahead of ourselves here. As the mercury hits downtown towards the end of the year, Cambridge is not short of surprises. In the winter of 2000, not too long after my arrival, I was greeted with a truly white Christmas! I had not seen snow in my life, and thus the moment of drawing the curtains to find a pure and beautiful blanket of snow was truly amazing.
Finally, I would like to say that the SMA programme had been a wonderful experience and has truly instilled some strong fundamental scientific knowledge in me. This has been vital to my further pursuance of knowledge in Cambridge. The SMA course has developed my mental strength and prepared me to strive for what I believe in. If you can survive SMA, you can pretty much survive anything. I said it previously in my valedictorian speech, and I say it now. We should not give in to hardships and resign ourselves to something less than what we have always wanted. We should continue fighting to the day we succeed, and beyond.
The ends of this article seems pretty tied up now, so I shall end here. Oh, and one more thing. Cambridge is not impossible. My girlfriend is correct 99.99% of the time2, but I guess this is the 0.01% that she is not.
I acknowledge Zern Chu Tay who is currently pursuing amateur photography for some of the photos shown below.
Teh Weng Hong
1 After the event and a few subsequent rows later, I was unfortunate to sustain a completely torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) on my right knee. I was hospitalized and was bedridden for months. Still, it was worth it.
2 Guess who insisted on this.
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