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Women in Engineering in Malaysia

Our female engineering staff are inspiring the next generation of students to discover the amazing career opportunities open to women in the broad field of engineering.

Meet some of the academics at our Malaysia Campus and find out how they are supporting the next generation of female engineers.

Dr Suhaila Mohd Sanip, Head of Research and Associate Professor of Engineering

Dr Suhaila Mohd Sanip
Dr Suhaila Mohd Sanip

Dr Suhaila Mohd Sanip has a natural curiosity for science, and enjoys trying to understand ‘the how and why’. Throughout her career, Suhaila has always been involved in research, but establishing the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus in her hometown of Johor was a good opportunity to experience a new challenge.

"The campus is in a new development zone, Iskandar, and I am proud to be a part of this new development in my home state of Johor," she says.

Suhaila was invited to be a committee member on the prestigious Professor Council Malaysia, and was awarded funding to run a public initiative programme, Women in Stem: Closing the Gender Gap.  This programme, which involved a workshop and seminar, was attended by over 100 schoolgirls, who were motivated to look into the STEM area as a future career.

"Seeing increasing numbers of women enrol to study Engineering at the Malaysia campus is very satisfying and something I look forward to growing in the future with more women in STEM events," says Suhaila.

When asked for advice for female students looking to pursue a career in engineering, Suhaila says: "It takes determination, perseverance and a lot of hard work, but retain your creative thinking and think outside of the box to come up with solutions."

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Dr Grace Chai, Lecturer in Optoelectronics and Engineering

Dr Grace Chai
Dr Grace Chai

Dr Grace Chai has had a love of problem solving, mathematics and physics since a young age. Encouraged by her parents to seek a career in engineering, she chose to major in optical engineering as “light is very mysterious”. She is actively involved in nurturing students in STEM subjects in Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia, and was one of the organisers of the first Women in STEM: Closing the Gender Gap programme, held in Johor in November 2017.

"I encourage all girls to pursue engineering if you are an inquisitive person, who likes to find solutions to problems," she says. "It is my opinion that women do better in certain engineering fields such as electronics, as it often requires a lot of imagination".

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Dr Ch'ng Shiau Ying, Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering

Dr Ch'ng Shiau Ying
Dr Ch'ng Shiau Ying

Dr Ch'ng Shiau Ying had a strong role model in her elder brother, so it seemed natural for her to follow him into engineering. They studied at the same university, and now they both have rewarding careers in the same area. When becoming a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, Ch'ng has had to overcome some barriers. However, she notes that women make excellent mechanical engineers, and she sees them perform as well as their male counterparts.

Ch’ng advises: “Retain your curiosity, and don’t be afraid to learn from your failures. There are certain things in engineering that will be challenging, but it's not impossible to overcome.”

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Teyo Zhe Yong, Year 2 MEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering

Teyo Zhe Yong
Teyo Zhe Yong

When it comes to challenges, Teyo is not the type who would back down. Just halfway through her MEng course, the 21-year old has already produced two research articles and won a bronze medal for designing a mobile biodiesel reactor using mesos-scale tubular reactor technology.

"I am a person who likes to take challenges, and engineering is the ultimate field for challenges. Engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM but I would like to prove that girls can be great engineers, too,’’ explains Teyo who is now spending her summer break on another research project. 

Being the youngest participant and winner at The International Conference and Exposition on Inventions by Institutions of Higher Learning (PECIPTA 2017) is the result of Teyo’s persistence and the guidance of her advisor Dr Jo-Han Ng, the engineering foundation director of the Malaysia Campus.  

‘’At the beginning of all the project, Dr Jo-Han will set a few small targets with deadlines, when I finished one by one, more tasks will come later on. He breaks the complicated project into many simpler parts, which will not only ease the process, but will increase the efficiency. He will always discuss the project with me and provide feedback. Through his guidance and I am becoming more confident. I had a great learning process throughout the internship, especially the development of my peTeyrsonal attributes.’’ 

Proving a point has not always been easy feat for Teyo, she also shares her gruelling experience with coding. For her, the coding process comes with its own surprises. ‘’You will never know when the problems will emerge, and when it does, you have to debug the code every single time. We still came up with a robot, which entered the semi-final round. It was tough but I enjoyed the experience,’’ she reflects.

Despite the challenges brought by student life, Teyo continues to look for opportunities for new learning, and hopes that young women like her would also feel inspired to do the same.

Her word of advice: ‘’Work hard because no one is born a genius. It is not easy to be an engineer hence you must get out of your comfort zone. You must believe that hard work will pay off, and the more you do, the more you will learn.’’

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