The Malaysian boy sits with his friend, surrounded by bicycle scraps. For a school project, these 10-year-olds are trying to turn the jumble of parts into a workable car. They’re not even sure they’ll be able to put the bicycles back together, much less turn them into something new.

“Of course, we failed miserably!” says JitKang Lim (CIT’05, ’09). He says that he and his partner (like many adults) had no idea how a car actually worked. But it didn’t stop them from trying, and that’s a lesson he never forgot:

“It’s important for engineers or researchers to learn that you really need to do it first, and then you can rationalize what’s coming out; you can’t just keep reading without going into the lab—you need to do it, get some hands-on experience.”

As Lim grew up, he had considerable academic success, which led to the Malaysian government sponsoring his Master of Science studies at Carnegie Mellon. He would go on to earn his PhD in chemical engineering, sponsored by the Dowd–ICES Fellowship.

He has returned to Malaysia, where he is a senior lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering at the Universiti Sains Malaysia, one of the nation’s public universities, with an enrollment of around 30,000 students. He also conducts research into hybrid magnetic nanomaterials and their applications.

He has received several awards, including most recently the National Young Scientist Award. Awarded by the nation’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation, the award is the highest honor given to a scientist at the age of 35 or younger by the Southeast Asian country.

—Janet Jay (DC’07)