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Undergraduate Study Abroad Student Profile: Getting SERIUS in Singapore

PITTSBURGH (November 17, 2017) - Jake Meadows, Hannah Liu, and Mazin Rahman are bioengineering juniors who spent eight weeks in Singapore with the Summer Engineering Research Internship for U.S. Students (SERIUS) program. 

SERIUS selects students from US partner institutions to participate in internships at the National University of Singapore (NUS) engineering labs. 

Jake and Hannah engaged in research with Dr. Hongliang Ren in the Medical Mechatronics Laboratory. The pair were given flexibility with their projects, which allowed them to explore this area of bioengineering. Jake worked on a surgical robotics project titled “Preliminary Development Of A Low-Cost Flexible Endoscope For Robotic Minimally Invasive Nasopharyngoscopy.” Hannah worked on a different project in Dr. Ren’s lab, “Four-Point Fortune-Teller-Inspired Origami Grasper for Increased Dexterity and Less Tissue Damage in Minimally Invasive Surgery.”

Mazin’s research was in the Biofluid Mechanics Lab with with Dr. Hwa Liang Leo. He worked with one of Dr. Leo’s graduate students on “Hemodynamic Investigation of Tricuspid Valvular Therapies in Treating Functional Tricuspid Regurgitation.”

Jake, Hannah, and Mazin discuss their experience in Singapore:

What was your favorite thing about living in Singapore?

The front entrance of the "Ordination Hall" at Wat Arun, a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

Jake: “Definitely the food and the people.  Singapore is an incredibly diverse country, consisting of large Chinese, Malay, and Indian populations.  Everyone we met was friendly and excited to share the culture with us -- especially in the form of food.”  

Hannah: “Easy access to anything you wanted to do. The MRT (public transportation) was super easy to navigate, and we could go virtually anywhere in Singapore like Sentosa beach, Pulau Ubin (biking island), Little India, Chinatown, etc. Changi Airport is also a great hub, and you can catch an hour-two hour flight to other countries nearby.”

Mazin: “The ease in which someone from any culture/religion can stay in Singapore. As Jake said, Singapore is a very diverse country with a variety of cultures and religions. As a Muslim, living in Singapore was honestly easier to live in than in the U.S. due to the large population of Singaporean Muslims, thus making it easier on religious requirements especially during the holy month of Ramadan. Also, the food!”

How did you enjoy your research project?

Hannah at Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) in Bangkok, Thailand.

Jake: “My day-to-day was mostly rapid prototyping, testing out early-stage design via Solidworks simulations and just trying things out in the workshop. My project was extraordinarily independent, and I could take it any direction I wanted. This was daunting, but also extremely liberating. This independence gave me an opportunity to really explore the research topic and understand this area of bioengineering.”

Hannah: “It was definitely outside of my comfort zone since I’m concentrating in cellular engineering while this project was more “medical product-focused.” Jake and I sat across from each other every day and helped each other along whenever we were stuck and needed help prototyping our designs. From talking to other students in the same program and from my own experience, the research project was very “you-driven.” Basically, the lab provided us with resources, and we could do anything we saw fit in our project - lots of flexibility and hands-on experience.”

Mazin: “This was in fact my first research experience, and I enjoyed it tremendously. As opposed to most other students, who were given their own research project, the project I worked on was an ongoing project of a PhD student. This was very helpful in that she would help us and give us advice and direction, while still allowing enough freedom for us to be able to design our own solutions and solve our own problems.”

Do you have any advice for those looking to study in Singapore?

The group on the Mekong Delta outside of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Jake: “Definitely apply! There are also semester-long programs available at two different universities in Singapore, NUS and NTU, that would be perfect for someone looking to study in Singapore and experience South East Asian culture.”

Hannah: “Jake, Mazin and I all agree that this is the best experience of our adult lives. It definitely changed me as a person and also affirmed my interest in cellular engineering as opposed to medical product, signals, etc. APPLY APPLY APPLY!! The application really is not difficult at all, and you won’t regret it!”

Mazin: “Definitely apply to this program! If you are interested in doing any study abroad, this is a great opportunity. The application is not a lot of work and since the application pool is limited to only a few engineering schools, I believe it is easier to get into than other study abroad programs that are open to all students. Not only was the research awesome, but we had a lot of fun exploring other parts of Southeast Asia. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you should not pass up.”

For more information about the SERIUS program, visit their website: https://www.eng.nus.edu.sg/exchange-students/serius/. To apply through Pitt, please visit: http://www.abroad.pitt.edu/engresearchsingapore.  The application deadline is January 28, 2018.

Contact: Leah Russell