Ask Mr Johann Chan about the waltz, tango or quickstep, and he’s likely to show moves he picked up from a ballroom dance club at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
Thanks to NTU’s Renaissance Engineering Programme (REP), he also enjoys exposure to engineering and business, learning about nanotechnology and leadership skills such as financial management along the way.
The 22-year-old REP scholar says: “To me, social activities are good pressure valves. I would definitely be more stressed if studies were the only determinant of what I would consider a great university experience.”
On the academic front, REP allows Mr Chan to pursue two disciplines for a dual-degree — a Bachelor of Engineering Science and a Master of Science in Technology Management — after 4 1/2 years.
He says: “REP integrates both business and engineering, so it is very interdisciplinary, and I feel, much more rounded than other options I would find elsewhere.
“I like the intersection between the two, and I feel that rather than settling for one or the other, getting more types of mental stimulation would make my university life more exciting.”
Mr Chan also feels this opens up more doors for him in the future in terms of career options.
“Although my plans are not yet set in stone, when I graduate I’ll have the flexibility to go into finance or engineering or management,” he adds.
Now in his second year of studies, Mr Chan has chosen to specialise in materials engineering to learn concepts such as nanotechnology and material structure/kinetics.
This partly stemmed from his fondness of the science fiction genre since his secondary school days. This interest deepened after covering most of the engineering spectrum — including chemical and biomolecular engineering, computer science, as well as thermal and electromagnetic engineering in his first year.
This year, he is also involved in an interdisciplinary design project that involves working together with coursemates from other engineering specialisations on “pose estimation”.
This harnesses artificial intelligence to ensure that people do not use incorrect poses during various activities, and can be applied in the fitness and sports industry.
In August, he will fly to the United States for a much-anticipated year-long exchange at the University of California, Berkeley, one of NTU’s participating partner universities. This overseas exposure also includes an engineering-related professional attachment.
“America is pretty well known for its entrepreneurial culture, and I think its education system will be an eye opener,” he notes.
On the social front, Mr Chan is an avid dancer and even a co-initiator of Belleza: NTU Ballroom Club.
“It was initially tough to find support to start the club, but thanks to NTU’s Residential Education programme, it got off the ground, after which I felt a mix of relief and elation,” he recalls.
Through the NTU Residential Education programme, which is chock-full of other student-initiated and -led activities that those staying on campus can attend for free, the club receives funding to hire professional instructors.
Other student-run initiatives on campus include talks by startup founders organised by the NTU Entrepreneurship Society; and the Foodcraft and Fermentation Club, which dabbles in baking and the fermentation of foodstuff such as kombucha.
NTU students are guaranteed two years of campus accommodation. A resident of Tanjong Hall, Mr Chan loves being in close proximity to his classes, hanging out with his schoolmates till past midnight, and bonding over supper and late-night study sessions.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Feb 23, 2019.