The DSTA Scholarship is the premier scholarship in defence science and technology. Two scholars share with us how the scholarship has paved the way towards fulfilling careers for them.
By Jenny Mak
The DSTA Scholarship provides a fully-sponsored undergraduate education in selected fields of study at top local and overseas universities.
It gives scholars diverse opportunities to pursue challenging careers not just in the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), but also in the other organisations that make up the Defence Technology Community .
Behind the doors
For Ong Shin Rong and Eugene Ang, choosing the DSTA Scholarship has opened the doors to an extremely fruitful and fulfilling career.
27-year-old Eugene, an Engineer with the C4I Development Programme Centre, waxes lyrical about his time so far with DSTA.
“It is truly a career like no other,” he enthuses, “one that is full of challenges, yet is highly rewarding as you know that your vital contribution truly makes a difference to our nation.”
Shin Rong, a Senior Research Engineer with DSO, thoroughly agrees with Eugene’s assessment.
“There is a greater sense of purpose,” the 29-year-old says. “It goes beyond academic research or publishing papers. What you do after you graduate makes a difference to our national defence.”
Support throughout university life
In fact, being able to contribute to Singapore’s national defence and work in the exciting arena of defence science was what compelled Shin Rong to apply for the DSTA Scholarship.
To that end, she pursued Biomedical Engineering in Duke University, graduating with a Master’s degree.
Besides providing sponsorship for studies, the DSTA Scholarship Office also gives its scholars support in other areas. Shin Rong attended an orientation programme organised by the DSTA Scholarship Office to prepare her for university life. She was also assigned a mentor from DSO to guide her through her graduate and postgraduate years.
As part of the scholarship, Shin Rong did a nine-week internship programme with the Defence Medical and Environmental Research Institute under DSO. This experience proved insightful, acquainting her with the people and culture of her future workplace as well as exposing her to the rigours of R&D.
“It gave me a good idea of what my work would entail,” she says, “thereby enabling me to settle in quickly.”
Shin Rong is appreciative of the Scholarship Office’s guidance and encouragement during that period of time and credits the scholarship for her personal and professional growth so far.
“Not only did it sponsor my education,” she says, “but it also afforded me the invaluable opportunity to experience living and studying overseas, which I feel helped in my overall development as a person.”
In tune with IT
As for Eugene, work involves dealing with both software and “heartware” aspects as he develops computer programmes that assist people in daily operations, planning and decision-making.
“I help to develop Command and Control systems to enhance the communication flow between the commander and the soldiers on the ground,” Eugene says.
“The software systems that I have worked on play an important role in facilitating the exchange of information and help to improve the daily work and operations of thousands of soldiers.”
However, Eugene is not your typical Engineer.
While he was studying for his degree in Computer Science at the Carnegie Mellon University, the music lover decided to do a minor in Jazz Performance. This was a far cry from his major, but the DSTA Scholarship Office supported his aspirations.
“The spirit of Jazz appealed very much to me – improvisation, spontaneity, being in the moment and truly baring your soul! All these romantic notions inspired me,” Eugene explains.
“The DSTA Scholarship Office readily supported my decision to minor in Jazz from the very start,” he confirms.
Eugene feels that the process of learning Jazz has served him well in his work. “It taught me the importance of having an independent mind and proactive attitude,” he says. “I try to engage in my own independent learning all the time at work.”
He has been able to meld his musical talents with his professional life in another way—by performing at DSTA events.
“I was a pianist for an acapella performance during DSTA’s tenth anniversary dinner,” he says. “I also play the keyboard in DSTA’s very own rock band, The Star Electric Ensemble.”
Eugene praises the DSTA working environment as conducive for establishing and maintaining the often-elusive work-life balance.
“DSTA actively engages its staff by frequently holding events that promote bonding and cohesion between colleagues, in addition to the encouragement it gives staff to set up Special Interest Groups for various sports, activities and hobbies,” he says.
“Working and bonding with like-minded colleagues are easy and fun. I immediately felt at home with their working style.”
Reaping the benefits
Both scholars are reaping the benefits of the opportunities afforded by the DSTA Scholarship in their present, fulfilling careers.
Eugene has benefited immensely from the comprehensive suite of courses and training workshops that are frequently organised.
“This commitment to continuous learning in DSTA certainly helps to expand my depth and breadth of knowledge,” says Eugene.
“It keeps me abreast of the latest developments in technology, which ensures that I have the requisite expertise and capabilities to strengthen our country’s defence infrastructure.”
As for Shin Rong, she is extremely passionate about her work at DSO and has, in just six years, racked up an impressive list of achievements.
Besides holding an Adjunct Research Associate position with Nanyang Technological University, she has built networks with external parties in universities, research institutes, local and overseas companies, and has forged several collaborations.
One of these collaborations is a three-month attachment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to further research on Photonic and Phononic materials; artificially structured and engineered materials capable of altering the pathway of light and sound.
Through initiating new research areas and directions, she hopes to “change the rules of the game” in the future.
A stepping stone to greater things
The duo highly recommends the DSTA Scholarship to students.
“They will find that the scholarship will provide them with abundant opportunities to work with and learn from the best in the industry,” says Shin Rong, “and at the same time, handle cutting-edge technology.”
Agreeing, Eugene feels that taking up the scholarship was a life-changing decision which opened the door to a career with a higher calling.
“Joining DSTA has allowed me to play a role in keeping Singapore’s defence at the cutting edge, which is a great honour. I am always motivated to deliver my best.”