Research Engineer, Upstream O&G

Yeap Siew Hooi, 2002

As a research engineer for an oil field services company, I try to find ways to increase production from old oil wells – this is called oil field stimulation. In a methodical and scientific manner, I manipulate chemicals in the lab and try to mimic well conditions to enhance oil production.

Because I work for a for-profit corporation, the research I conduct can be categorized as industry research. Prior to this job, I was a project officer in NTU where I worked on academic research. Working as a research engineer (regardless of whether it is industry or academic) means spending a lot of time in the lab.

If you enjoy lab classes you might like this job.

The major difference between industry and academic research lies in the goals.

  • In academic research, the goal is for knowledge alone. What we aim for is to publish what we find to the world, through academic journals. This way, scientists everywhere can share discoveries and knowledge. But this is where the project ends if no industrial collaborators agree to develop/fund your project.
  • The goal of industry research on the other hand, is to develop and bring new knowledge to the market, to impact the economy and the public. Industry research is driven by companies with large funding resources. They pay you to research certain areas, so that they can improve processes and profits. The trickle down effect will be seen by the public, because goods become cheaper to produce with improvements in technology.


Click here to read about my journey.

 My Journey

I chose F6 Physics/Chemistry stream after SPM simply because I didn’t like memorizing Bio facts! After STPM, I had no idea what course to choose in university. So, I just kept going with the subjects that I liked. Since my main interests were in math and chemistry, I chose Chemical Engineering. I was lucky enough to secure a position at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore.

Since my family could not afford the fees,
I obtained a full study loan from the OCBC bank  ;)
and completed my degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

After graduation, one of my professors offered me a job as a Project Officer at NTU. Even though it was not my main interest, I took the job because I had to repay my study loan. I graduated in the midst of the economic downturn.  :(   In Singapore, it was especially hard to find a job; most of the vacancies were kept for locals and Permanent Residents. When I started at this job, I considered pursuing my PhD as my professor kept telling me that you cannot do research in academia without a PhD. However, as time went on in this job, I found out that my true preference was industry research.

In academic research, you may work very hard on a project, but publication in a journal will be where it ends if no industrial collaborators are involved. I did not find this fulfilling as I wished for my research to be further developed into a product that can benefit mankind. Hence, I decided to switch to industry research, where full development takes place along with research.

Even though I took the job as a PO because I had no choice,
I am glad for the experience because it made me more certain
of the path I wanted to pursue in the future.

Currently I am an associate research engineer in an oil field services company, where my duties are to develop methods to maximize production from old oil wells. After being exposed to industry through this job, I am fascinated by how simple methods can be used so fantastically to achieve goals, not just in the oil fields, but in all areas of life.  :D   The things we touch everyday are invented and manufactured by human beings; even machines used to mass produce goods are inventions. Processes have been made more efficient over time by ingenious methods in the lab, allowing us to spend less to buy a better product. Innovation gives science and technology life.

If you have no idea what to do in your future, consider what your interests and slowly develop from there!  ;)

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
Even the greatest journeys have to begin with small steps.


Good luck!

Siew Hooi


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