Research Engineer, Optical Measuring Systems

YY Tan, 2001, 5Sc3

I obtained my bachelor’s degree in process engineering; process engineering is like a mixture of chemical and mechanical engineering. As a process engineer, you can work in production lines in different industries or in research.

I am currently pursuing my Master’s degree in chemical engineering. As a chemical engineer, your career options are not limited to companies within the chemical industry (e.g. Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, BASF etc.). Even companies like Porsche AG need chemical engineers. The auto body department of Porsche recruits chemical engineers to develop solutions to prevent weather & mechanical induced corrosion of the car body.

My personal experience is that of a research engineer
in R&D of optical measuring systems.

For the past 2 years, I have been working as a research engineer while pursuing my Master’s degree at the University of Technology of Mannheim, Germany. I am mainly involved in measurement principals and design of sensor prototypes in laser and optics, which has high marketing potential.

Lasers and optics are heavily used in industries to measure things. For example, Near-Infra-Red-Spectrometry is used to detect yeast concentrations in beer brewery industries. In UV/Visible Light Sectors, instruments are used in the production of skin care products such as sunscreen, to measure the level of tan after applying the sunscreen products.

Specifically, I research and design “test points” I come up with the best way to measure a sample using laser/optics without destroying or interfering with the sample itself. However, construction of a complete functioning measuring instrument requires teamwork. Expertise from other fields is necessary. For example, some of my colleagues provide expertise in electronic components. Others provide statistical knowledge for data collection and analysis.

Because so many players from different fields can be involved, it is part of a process engineer’s duty to play coordinator. This role allows me to get an idea of how other professions solve problems.  ;)


Click here to read about my journey.

My Journey

Throughout secondary school, I enjoyed the company of almost the same group of classmates till I left AMC (5Sc3) in 2001. I was an avid netball player and it was only due to the helpfulness of Pau Wei (my wonderful deskmate) that I kept track of homework. Even though my family has always been supportive of my plans, I could tell that they secretly wished that I would pick medicine instead of engineering after F5.

A few things have always been certain to me – first, I enjoyed science and math; second, I loathed Biology; third, I did not wish to do F6. Hence, engineering seemed pretty attractive. I longed to get away from school and home. So I applied for all sorts of scholarships and to universities that take in school-leavers right after F5.

Back then, I didn’t give much thought to the field I wanted to major in.
Rather, I convinced myself that I would excel
in whichever major I received, by hook or by crook.

I was lucky. I received an overseas scholarship (JPA) to further my studies in Engineering in Germany. I completed my A-Levels at INTEC, on the UiTM campus in Shah Alam. In addition to regular classes, we had 8 hours of German per week. Learning a foreign language from scratch was most challenging, but I survived! I am currently finishing up my Master’s thesis in Chemical Engineering. :D

My education in Germany was very industry-exposed; the majority of my professors had years of practical industrial experience and they imparted knowledge of the latest advances in technology. In addition, the German education system is very hands-on.

I had to complete two semesters of practical training
to obtain my Degree in Process Engineering.

This industrial attachment, which lasted for a total of one year, helped me blend into the local lifestyle and soothed my homesickness. Most importantly, it allowed me to get a feel for an engineer’s work routine in the industry as early as my third semester.

It has been a privilege to study in a country that is not only known for its yummy beer and sausages, but also engineering skills. I have been fortunate to build my engineering foundation in a country where the strict engineering guidelines and rules are adhered to.

Having seen so much, I think I can testify that those who dare to broaden their horizons will be met with an exciting world. As you move on with life, try not to look back at your past. Try not to ponder too long about what could have happened.

Instead, look forward and believe that you can succeed in
whatever field or profession you end up in,
regardless of whether it’s in the sciences or the arts.

If everyone wants to be doctor, who is going to take care of the flowers in the garden? Great civilizations are not built solely on technology, but also on culture and art.

Ask yourself what you enjoy and follow your intuition. You don’t have to plan your whole future! If you have a sense of what you like, start there and take baby steps. ;)



Y.Y. Tan



1 Comment
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