Mr. Nicholas Koh (Class of 2009)


1) Full Name: Nicholas Koh

2) Current Location (Country): London, UK

3) When did you leave GIS: 2009 (Yr13)

4) Graduation class year of: 2009

5) What comes to your mind as soon as you hear of GIS?
Fun memories – mufti day, the canteen curry laksa and fried rice (when Ms. Jenny and her daughter used to run the canteen!)

6) What is your most memorable experience in GIS?
6th form experience – first taste of ‘freedom’ being able to drive to school, going out for lunch with friends and having to dress smartly.



1) University: University College London

2) Location of University (Country): London, UK

3) Degree / Masters / PhD: MEng (Hons)

4) Field of study: Mechanical Engineering

5) What did you study before entering University?

– GIS Year 5-13, Kaplan Singapore Diploma in Financial Management

– Singapore National Service 2 years – trained as a counselor and manpower sergeant.

– Service class & Lean/6Sigma trained.

6) How did GIS prepare you for University?

– GIS: all my teachers contributed to where I am today.

– IGCSEs: Mrs Yeoh for refining my ‘Engrish’, Mrs Lopez for drilling me in Add Maths

– A levels: Mr Donaldson, Ms Heyes, Mr Christley, Ms Yap, Mrs Bisby for imparting a strong sense of the need to understand the study material

7) Who or what inspired you to pursue your interest in Engineering?

Love of cars and figuring out how things work, as well as my other interests such as motorbikes, mountain bikes, aircraft, computers, and technology in general drove my decision to work with Formula Student (an annual worldwide competition) in the 4th year of my studies. Interest area for my 3rd year’s project was investigating the use of carbon dioxide as a refrigerant in heat pump water heating systems.

8) The best and worst bits about university life?

The good:

There’s nowhere else you can get to work in this environment and have the freedom to realise ideas. For Formula Student, we’re looking to implement forced induction (turbo/supercharge) and the necessary ancillary systems – in a competitive environment. One also gets to learn about really interesting things – jet engine design, control systems for robotics, radiographic techniques and many, many more.

One of the coolest things that were recently brought up in one of our lectures at Uni concerned high speed, high volume inspection of aircraft panels using ultrasonics. It doesn’t make sense to take a sensor and manually scan the panels of an entire aircraft for cracks (and not forgetting having to apply an acoustic coupling layer beforehand), a process which is similar to ultrasound scanning for a baby in a mother’s womb, the industry came up with a way of firing a stream of water at the panels and pulsing the ultrasound wave through the water. This means that the jet of water can be moved along the panels quickly, giving real time results to the engineer.

I’ve also had the privilege to attend international student conferences in my field, representing my university. The last one was in TU Munich, Germany and the next one will be in Stavanger, Norway!

Last but not least, being in London, there are plenty of things to do, with museums, free lectures, and great food!

The not so good:

Workload is intense, with an expected 40+ hours a week of student contribution (24+ hrs lectures, 16 hrs self study) and coursework requirements mean that one won’t get out very much. We’ve had lectures begin at 7am and finish at 6pm, with only an hour lunch break in between… but this is representative of the real world.

Also, once you understand certain things – engineering pervades into every aspect of life. I now hate flying, because you suddenly realise that you are in a pressurised cylinder with a relatively low factor of safety in terms of strength and propulsive power. I also avoid theme park rides now because of the implicated consequences with the failure of a single support.

9) Happiest moment at university

Completing lab assignments with solid results always feels good. Thereafter, rewarding yourself with something engineering related is nice too! (eg. visiting car factories, engineering facilities, attending driving courses)

10) Would you have made the same choice if you were given another chance?

Without hesitation!

11) What’s your advice to current students who will be making the same choice as yourself?

Use the summers wisely. GIS students tend to end up in prestigious universities around the world, so use any time you have to gain every additional advantage. It will make your life easier. Browse through textbooks pertaining to the course. You can also find course content online. This will allow you to both prepare yourself better and more importantly, realise before you start if you really-want-to-do-what-you-think-you-want-to-do.

Then, keep your options open and study your target market thoroughly before making any decisions. Look at what degrees are recognised where you intend to work, and qualification equivalencies eg. US BEng = UK MEng, UK MSc =/= AsiaPac MSc (one is research focused, while the other is coursework based)

For fellow budding engineers, have a look at the professional institutions (iMechE, iChemE, CIBSE etc) and subscribe to online journals/magazines, there are plenty (American Scientist,, MIT TechReview etc). TED and TEDX have plenty of interesting videos too. Don’t be daunted by the depth of it – be persistent and consistent and things will fall into place.

I’d like to encourage students to go into engineering – a very rewarding field that makes one highly adaptable. There are so many different specialisations that one is spoilt for choice.

The Future

1) What are your goals and dreams?

– To work in the engineering sector, and run some sort of Tech Company.

– Gain chartered membership and recognition by all the big professional institutions.

– Everything I do is motivated by the desire to own a dream garage of supercars, covering all drivetrain layouts! Gearheads among you will know what this means: FR – Front Engine Rear Wheel Drive, RR – Rear Engine Rear Wheel Drive, MR – Mid Engine Rear Wheel Drive, AWD – All Wheel Drive, FF – Front Engine Front Wheel Drive.

2) What’s your say on life-long learning?

It is extremely important to never stop learning.

Develop and adopt your own meticulous approach to problem solving. This will accelerate the rate at which you learn new things, because you will have a structure that you can follow in defining the problem and devising a logical and feasible solution.