Scholarship awardee foresees energy sector as major challenge for next-gen engineers


Lewis regards the overall experience of studying abroad during the time of Covid-19 pandemic as ‘still great’ despite all the tight regulations in place.

KUCHING (June 22): A Shell Scholar advises all Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) holders who are eyeing to apply for the Shell scholarship, to exude confidence, sincerity and passion in sharing their life stories during the interview sessions.

Lewis Tang Wei Hao also assured the aspirants that the prestigious scholarship would serve to be a life-changing opportunity for them.

“Don’t be shy to shine and show who you are,” the 21-year-old Kuching-born youth told The Borneo Post about the scholarship, of which the application window for the ‘2021 Class of Shell Scholars’ would close this June 30.

On his own journey towards being granted the Shell scholarship, Lewis recounted: “I first submitted an online application on Shell’s website after the release of my SPM results. I was then notified via email to complete a few online assessments, which was Step 2.

“A few weeks after that, I was fortunate to have been shortlisted for Step 3: the ‘on-demand video interview’, in which I was asked a series of pre-recorded competency-based questions.

“For each question, I was given 30 seconds to prepare and three minutes to record my answer. I was able to share my past academic, community and leadership experiences while answering the questions.

“A few more weeks later, I was notified via email that I had been shortlisted for Step 4: the ‘final interview’. I could choose to do it either in Kuala Lumpur or in Miri, Sarawak.

“I chose to attend my final interview in Kuala Lumpur, at Menara Shell.

“I experienced for the first time the ‘Shell’s Safety First’ culture, as Shell had meticulously performed the ‘Journey Management Plan’ for my final interview. Shell was also kind enough to sponsor my trip for the interview.

“For the final stage, I was interviewed by the scholarship’s board of rrustees on scenario-based questions and also my academic and leadership experiences. There were five questions – the whole interview lasted just over an hour. So, I shared (with the panel) quite a lot of experiences and thoughts for each question.”

Lewis said in the interviews, he talked about his active involvement both inside and outside of school, as well as his past achievements.

He said his initial reaction towards getting the scholarship was ‘extremely delightful’.

“I was over the moon to learn that I had been selected as a Shell Scholar. It was made even better that the announcement came as a surprise.

“As I had been checking my emails multiple times every day, never did I expect to receive a call from the Shell Office in Singapore or Manila – I couldn’t remember exactly which office called me, but I was informed of the results via that call. Shortly after that, I received a formal email from Shell too. I immediately shared the great news with my family,” he reminisced.

Lewis, the youngest child of a farming factory assistant manager and a housewife, completed his secondary education at SMK Kuching High.

Currently studying at the Engineering Tripos in the University of Cambridge (UK), the young man has just finished his first year.

The Engineering Tripos is a four-year integrated Master’s Degree in Engineering programme, with a broad foundation in the first two years, followed by specialisation into a specific branch of engineering from the third year onwards.

The first two years cover ‘Mechanical Engineering’, ‘Structures and Materials’, ‘Electrical and Information Engineering’, and ‘Mathematical Methods’.

On what motivated his choice of course, Lewis explained: “Having a deep passion for Science and Mathematics since I was young, I was determined to pursue an engineering degree. I have always been inspired by technological advancements made in the engineering world.

“While doing my A-Levels, I designed and built my own open-circuit subsonic wind tunnel.

“The completion of the project sparked my thirst for knowledge of advanced fluid dynamics.

“Having done internships at Shell and the Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Engineering, I was fascinated by the creative integration of technologies under the principles of green engineering. Hence, I am keen to study Mechanical Engineering and eager to make an impact, particularly in the disciplines of fluid mechanics, materials and renewable energy.

“In this respect, Cambridge offers top-notch teaching, world-class research and great prospects. Other than its prestige and hundreds of years of history, the collegiate system, which is unique to Cambridge and Oxford, helps form a close-knit community and makes Cambridge a place to call home.

“As much as I love Mechanical Engineering, I am aware that the ability to perform efficiently in a multidisciplinary team makes for a great engineer. Adding on, I would like to widen my horizon by exploring more engineering disciplines and not constraining myself to just one.

“That’s why I find the Cambridge’s Engineering Tripos especially compelling.”

The engineering degree at Cambridge is meticulously designed to have both breadth and depth, and at the same time, special emphasis is also placed on practical laboratories and hands-on projects.

In this regard, Lewis said: “All of these have no doubt made the engineering ‘tripos’ a demanding degree, but I am up to the challenge – to do my best and be the best that I can. “Furthermore, Cambridge offers unparalleled experiences outside of the classroom, such as punting on River Cam, visiting the University’s Botanic Garden, attending formals in the Formal Halls, or even just taking a stroll around the city.”

Lewis reiterated that it was ‘an absolute honour’ to have received the prestigious Shell scholarship.

“I had the dream to study overseas when I was in secondary school. However, it would be financially unviable for my family to support that. So, it’s accurate to say that it was a dream that came true for me! It also encouraged me to continue putting all my dedication and commitment into whatever I do in my life.”

Lewis undertook his A-levels, also under Shell scholarship, at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar in Negeri Sembilan.

Throughout those two years, he could return home every term break.

“I flew over to the UK last September to start my first year in university. It was a little inconvenient in making calls to home given the different time zones – still, I called my parents every day, as I did during my A-Level years.

“So, I was not too homesick – I was doing just fine adapting and settling in.”

In describing his first day of college life, Lewis reminisced: “I landed at London Heathrow (Airport) in the morning and took a cab directly to Cambridge. Upon arrival there, I was thrilled to lay my eyes on the university buildings – it felt just like the moment I received my offer to study at Cambridge!

“When I arrived at my accommodation, I was initially helpless and did not know my way around the college ground. Fortunately, I quickly got to know the people living next to me and the friendly staff, with their helpful guidance, made my day a lot better.”

A typical day as a Shell Scholar studying abroad was not any more special than that of any student, said Lewis.

Still, he said the scholarship had allowed him to ‘have such typical day that any student could have without worrying too much about the financials’.

“Without the financial burden, I could concentrate on my studies and make the most out of my time in university.

“My typical day would begin with two or three lectures in the morning. I’d usually spend the afternoon solving example papers. Example papers would contain questions that could be attempted after watching the lectures and attending supervisions.

“Supervision is another teaching method unique to Oxbridge, where two to three students would spend an hour with a supervisor, who is an expert in the field.

“During supervisions, we’d discuss the example papers that we solved beforehand.

“It’s a great time to clarify any concept that’s not understood properly.

“I would also spend some afternoons working on courseworks in the laboratories at the Department of Engineering. I’d also spend my free time participating in robotics competitions, design tournaments and hackathons.”

He said the best time of the day would be having lunches and dinners at the college’s over-an-century-old ‘Great Hall’.

“After a long day, it’s very relaxing to spend an hour or two in the music room, playing the piano and singing along,” he added.

On weekends, Lewis would take time off playing basketball, cycling around the city or cooking Asian cuisine.

On studying abroad during the time of Covid-19 pandemic, the young man said the overall experience was ‘great’ despite all the tight regulations in place.

“Lectures were being pre-recorded, but I did get the chance to attend some supervisions physically with all the safety measures in place. I particularly enjoyed working on courseworks in the department’s labs.

“We were tasked with designing and building a steel cantilever just a few weeks into the first term. The learning experience was incredible. Sadly, the lab sessions were moved online starting in Term 2 as Covid-19 cases were on the rise.

“Still, the overall experience was great for me. I strove to ensure that my health was not compromised but at the same time, I strove to make the most out of my first year,” he said.

Lewis said he was looking forward to equipping himself with all the relevant knowledge and technical skills to make an impact in the field of energy production and consumption.

“This is a major challenge for the next generation of engineers, as seen from the sustainable development goals.

“I am excited to contribute towards that goal, which is also closely aligned with Shell’s efforts,” he added.