Kristen Ong of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, was the recipient of the 2022 PSC Scholarship. “Kristen was the standout candidate from the applicants for the $7,000 NZD scholarship as she is clearly interested in the Power Engineering sector and being involved in the move towards sustainability and decarbonization” stated Peter Brown, GM of PSC NZ.
Kristen recently completed her university studies and will start a graduate position in the new year. We spoke to her about family, travel and her aspirations for a career in engineering.
Firstly, congratulations on the scholarship! Why did you choose to throw your hat in the ring for this opportunity?
Kristen: As I am already a Power Engineering Excellence Trust (PEET) scholar, as part of the University of Canterbury Electric Power Engineering (EPE) Centre, I saw the PSC scholarship advertised online and thought it would be valuable for my future too, as I want to be a part of the power industry, to provide solutions for sustainability, and this will help me achieve some of those goals.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?
Kristen: I spent my first nine years in Penang, Malaysia, and then in 2010 I moved with my family, firstly to Auckland in New Zealand for a year, and then to Tauranga. Then I made the difficult decision to move away from my family to study at in Christchurch at the University of Canterbury.
I still feel connected to the family through our weekly video calls, and though the experience of living away from family has been hard, it has also allowed me to grow a lot, and I have learned how to adult. Christchurch was attractive to me as it is close to nature, the seas, hills to walk in, and snow for skiing, enabling me to explore the South Island. Also, the rent is a fair bit cheaper too!
Christmas is also very special for us as a family, and this year I will be spending it with my mum’s side of the family in Malaysia. Among other traditions, we end up eating lots of eating yummy things this time of year that I’m looking forward to, including ham and sometimes a Peking duck! Yum.
What hobbies or passions do you have outside of work?
Kristen: I enjoy day walks around Christchurch, and when I have time I like picnics, where I can chill out and enjoy the outdoors. I also like reading books and sometimes just soaking up the sun, mainly because I tend to be stuck in buildings for hours at uni. I got into crocheting early last year and found it a great hobby, and I have even made a few things, including a few half-finished projects I am still working on, but my proudest creation was a pair of mittens. They came in handy given how chilly it gets here. I go to the gym to keep fit and really like weightlifting.
So what was it that drew you to engineering?
Kristen: Being able to solve a wide variety of problems in any domain. And I chose electrical engineering because of the wide variety of problems you can get into solving. Some are super big like hydro dams, right down to minute issues related to microchips, signals and software. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to head so I thought electrical would be the broadest and offer the greatest opportunities for problem-solving. I really was drawn to electromagnetism. I loved playing with magnets and my grandads’ soldering iron as a kid, and generally tinkering around the house with him. He used to make things that made his life easier. For instance, he had a wet room in his house, and to make it a more enjoyable space, he constructed a small door with a motor attached to the roof which would open to let the sun in. He even added a little chime for when the door opened.
What items are on your list to tick off now that you have finished your studies and started your career?
Kristen: I love to travel and have already been to a few places such as Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Since borders opened up, I have been looking forward to more travel. Next on my list is North America and Canada, which seem so much bigger than NZ. French-speaking regions also hold appeal, and though I don’t speak French, I think if I made plans to travel there, I would dig deep into learning that language. I already speak Mandarin Chinese and Malay.
You mentioned yummy food earlier, what do you enjoy eating?
Kristen: During uni semesters I tend to prep my meals on weekends to save time and money. It is a mix of meat, rice, veg, tofu and pasta. Whilst I really enjoy Asian cuisine, I do love spag bolognese, and when I go out to eat, I am quite adventurous.
So where will you be working in the new year?
Kristen: I have a graduate rotation position with Connectics, a design and construction firm locally in Christchurch. I’ll be part of the design team of engineers, which will likely include reticulation, generation and other types of design. I am most looking forward to learning, broadening my perspectives and horizons, and just knowing what possibilities are out there.
PSC wishes Kristen all the best in her new career, and along with supporting her, we are committed to supporting other students in NZ and across the globe. This aligns with our value of ‘investing in the future,’ and we offer industry experience alongside our sponsoring of scholarships locally:
- Next year we are increasing our scholarship pool to $8,000 NZD and dividing this into two scholarships: a $3,000 NZD for a 3rd-year student and a $5,000 NZD for a 4th-year student.
- We also offer a summer student and graduate program.
The PSC Scholarship was established in 2005 with the support of the Electric Power Engineering (EPE) Centre to recognize academic achievement by students pursuing courses in electric power engineering. The Scholarship is open to students in their 3rd professional year.