Q: What was your inspiration that led you to pursue an education and career in Chemistry?
Thomas: Ever since my early teens, I have always been fascinated and drawn to science, particularly to Chemistry. My Chemistry teacher was an inspirational figure to me. I recall that she would often dye her hair in all sorts of colours and she would often stroll along the hallway and yell at the class in a high-pitched voice saying “Chemistry is interesting!” Her unique methods to engage the class encouraged my interest in the subject and left a fond impression on me. To this day, I can still remember her words, “Chemistry Is Interesting”, to my class like it was yesterday.
Q: What made you decide to pursue your Master degree?
Thomas: I began working as a researcher after completing my undergraduate studies. As a researcher, the career advancement is limited if one does not have a doctorate. I felt that pursuing a Masters in Industrial Chemistry would help me to achieve my career goals. The programme at TUM Asia was able to provide what I needed to advance my career. It has allowed me to enhance my knowledge and expose myself to modules related to the business aspects of science and engineering. I am also glad that my bosses and colleagues were supportive of my decision to pursue higher education.
Q: Comparing your Bachelors and Masters, what has changed in your perspective towards studying?
Thomas: The teaching systems are very different between my Bachelor and Master programmes. During my Bachelor programme, we have to take approximately five to six modules per semester and sit for the final exams, which span across a period of 3 weeks. The stress level that I experienced was much higher as I had to study these modules within the same period of time. On the other hand, my Master’s programme typically follows a block teaching schedule, where we study one module within two to three weeks. It is easier for us to give each module our full attention. However, I suppose this works differently for each individual because everyone retains information in a different manner.
Q: You will be graduating this year. Looking back, how do you feel about your graduate studies’ experience?
Thomas: The programme has been reasonably fun and I remember being excited to meet the different German professors in my programme. Each of them bring with them their expertise from different areas of chemistry. I particularly enjoyed Professor Johann Plank’s lecture from the module ‘Building Chemistry and Construction Chemicals’, which allowed us to make cement every day in class. Professor Michael Rossbach was also one of the most friendly, flexible and helpful professors I have met. I am also lucky to have a group of fun and supportive classmates from different parts of the world – China, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia and Singapore. We often exchange cultural and language tips (and laugh at each other).
Q: Every Master student has to complete an internship. You completed your internship at SGL Carbon. How did it go?
Thomas: My internship was conducted in Germany with SGL Carbon and it was an amazing experience. SGL Carbon is a German chemical company and they are known for being one of the world’s leading manufacturers for products made of carbon. During my internship, I was required to observe the manufacturing plant, conduct quality control testing, work on research and development, and worked on many innovative ideas that they were exploring to keep up with the industry trends. The German working culture was really nice as well – focused, efficient, and professional. I would love to work in Germany in future should there be an opportunity.
Q: Now that you have come to the end of your Masters, what’s next for you?
Thomas: After returning to Singapore from Germany, I started working as a Research Engineer in National University of Singapore (NUS). Till now, I am still intrigued by the spontaneity of research and the opportunity to learn new things. In time to come, I hope to further expand my knowledge in Chemistry and eventually become a lecturer. This would allow me to impart my knowledge and ideas to the next generation.
Thomas Goh is a graduate in the joint TUM-NUS Master of Science in Industrial Chemistry programme. More information about the programme here >>
This interview was published in the DIGEST May – Aug 2017 issue >>