Professor Francis Lok was elected a member of The Institution in 1999 and a Fellow in 2006. He worked as a structural engineer in the United Kingdom at Stoke-on-Trent City Council before pursuing a PhD at the University of Warwick. Subsequently he took up a teaching and research post at the Royal Military College of Science (RMCS), Shrivenham. In 1991, he moved to Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, where he teaches and researches today. He also sits on the IES-IStructE Joint Committee, which among other work provides extra education opportunities for students of structural engineering. Here he talks us through the activities and opportunities available to students in Singapore.
An engineering career, in general, is a highly prized and respected career in Singapore. Many structural engineers choose their career for the great prestige that comes with the role, and competition is intense.
I teach Structural Analysis at NTU, and as part of that work we run a bridge building competition as a supplementary component. The exercise sees students fabricate a bridge out of aluminium angles. The bridge models are weighed and loaded to failure, after which students submit a report, describing how and why the bridge failed and what they learned from this exercise. A prize is awarded to the best performing bridge.
It’s a really useful competition, as students gain practical experience of bridge building essentials in a fun and friendly environment. More recently, NTU students organised a bridge building competition using a different material and with competing students from other education institutions in Singapore and Malaysia. The project also gives student engineers invaluable exposure to professional engineers, who can offer them practical tips and careers advice. Learning by doing is really important in structural engineering as a sure way of embedding knowledge, and I’m very proud of the contribution the bridge building competition makes to our students’ progression.
The competition is just one of the many opportunities for structural engineering students in Singapore. As well as the six-month industrial attachment offered by the curriculum, students often have the chance to travel overseas to gain new experience, plus there are the many talks, meetings, seminars and visits to iconic structures organized by the IES-IStructE Joint Committee. I’m really proud of the work the Committee does for students, particularly when it comes to providing students with career advice. Our members can provide crucial information on private practice, government engineering procedures and further education opportunities, and help students make an informed choice for the next stage in their careers.
Whatever they chose, the future is exciting for structural engineers. Projections show that increasing numbers of people will migrate to cities in the next 30 years, and a huge amount of planning will be required to deliver the new buildings, (whether domestic, hospital or school) to accommodate these new populations. Structural engineers will be in the best position to provide these essential elements, making it a real career of choice for the future.