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DSTA – From Tinkerer To Researcher

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Eugene Chow is one who loves pushing the envelope and thinking out of the box.

‘L.ife is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna .get,’ Forrest Gump once said. In uncertainty comes excitement, and at the Centre for Strategic Infocomm Technologies (CSIT), I ­experience lots of excitement every single day.

During my adolescence, I was known as a tinkerer and a ­collector of old stuff. I often kept faulty equipment and later attempted to repair them. I get satisfaction from conquering the faults that caused things to fall apart. Once, I even attempted to replace the capacitors on a bunch of dusty, malfunctioning motherboards. I suppose what makes me the researcher I am today, is this desire to fix things and in the process, exercise my creativity and satisfy my curiosity.

After my ‘O’ Levels, I enrolled in ­Singapore Polytechnic to study ­Electrical ­Engineering. My passion for ­experimentation led me to participate in the National Skills ­Competition, and then the World Skills Competition in the area of personal ­computers and network ­support. Through hard work and support from my ­lecturers, I emerged champion. My ­experience as a competitor made me want to ­pursue a ­university education and career in ­Computer Engineering.

I chose the DSTA Scholarship as it ­allowed me to pursue my passion in this area and offered me a promising and meaningful career as a defence scientist.

The scholarship programme kick ­started with an exciting orientation ­programme to bond the fresh crop of scholars. The most memorable part of the orientation was the challenging sea ­expedition at the Outward Bound School, where we were battered by Nature’s ­elements day after day. The programme bonded the scholars so well that we felt as if we had been buddies for years!

During my university days, the DSTA Scholarship officers prepared us by ­helping us to remain connected to the defence community and arranged our ­participation at events such as the Army Open House and the Singapore Airshow. After I ­graduated, I stepped out of my ­comfort zone to ­backpack around Europe for 68 days. My trail from East to West ­Europe truly ­humbled me, and made me feel ­fortunate to be ­living in a prosperous nation that is safe and well-governed.

Upon my graduation in 2009, I joined the CSIT as a Research Engineer ­under the Information Security Technology cluster. Ever watched a movie in which a malicious hacker steals crucial data from a ­corporation’s servers? In my role, I have to wear the hat of a hacker and attempt to break into our in-house software. ­Reverse engineering, interpreting binary codes, ­debugging applications, and writing ­software are some of my daily tasks.

Software auditing is a task that ­requires unconventional methods to break ­application codes. At CSIT, I push the boundaries and explore new ways to accomplish my tasks. What CSIT ­offers is a highly open and collaborative ­environment, and the scope for engineers like myself to guide the outcome of the project. ­Teamwork is very important in the nature of our work. Project managers have to work closely with engineers and listen to feedback to achieve our ­objectives. As part of our development, CSIT ­emphasises learning through ­participation in ­conferences and ­workshops, including overseas courses in the US and Canada.

CSIT is defined not only by the work we do, but also by our social ­culture. The ­organisation is also supportive in ­promoting a healthy lifestyle and ­camaraderie among the staff. Along with like-minded ­colleagues, we channel our passion for sports by organising ourselves into teams to participate in the Standard Chartered Marathon and the Army Half Marathon. One of my colleagues ­organises monthly workshops such as Coffee ­Appreciation and Workplace Health, and I was invited to whip up frozen delicacies at our very own Ice Cream Workshop. That was how I found my proverbial work-life ­balance – by engaging and ­contributing actively to our culture, where we are ­recognised as individuals with both professional and ­personal aspirations.

EUGENE CHOW CHOO TUCK
DSTA Scholarship
Age: 30
Attained: Bachelor in Computing ­­
(Computer Engineering) from NUS
Now: Research Engineer,
Information Security Technology, CSIT
From: Singapore Polytechnic