Reach for the Sky(scrapers)

Published on 24 July 2020

Dr Sammy Chan graduated from Dundee in 1988 but his connection with the University didn’t stop there. 31 years later, he would be inspiring and equipping the next generation of civil engineering students.

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In the 4th year of his Civil Engineering degree, Maciej Jozwik joined many of his fellow students on the annual hunt for a summer internship. The industry experience a student gains from an internship not only enriches their academic studies but can open doors to an exciting career after graduation. So when an email came through to Maciej’s inbox advertising an opportunity to work in Hong Kong for an alumnus of the University, he had just had to go for it. He applied and was successful.

The alumnus in question was Dr Sammy Chan who studied for a postgraduate diploma in Civil Engineering and then went on to complete a PhD in Concrete Technology & Construction graduating in 1988. Five years after graduating, Sammy had started his own construction engineering consultancy.

While the decision to provide an internship to a student from the University of Dundee was a way for him to give back to his alma mater, it was also made business sense for Sammy. 


a man sitting in a black chair facing the camera and smiling
“As an alumnus, I know that young students from the University are tutored by some of the leading minds in the UK. They have also grown up in a technological environment that is changing at a rapid pace. Exchange of ideas between the intern and engineers in my company can be beneficial to both the intern and my staff”.”

Dr Sammy Chan

And so Maciej made the journey over to Hong Kong in July. Over 5000 miles from Dundee, he needed to acclimatise very quickly. “I walked the 30 metres between the airport and the bus to take me to Kowloon and the heat just hit me. 40°C and 90% humidity. It was like sitting in a bath tub”. While adapting to a new location can be a challenge, his new colleagues at Wong & Cheng Consulting Engineers Ltd made all the difference. “Everybody was really nice and welcoming on my first day in the company. And they took me everywhere in Hong Kong. The food is amazing, there is street food everywhere you go which is all fresh and all local. We went to different peaks and viewing points and you can see right over the whole city from above. It’s just so stunning, particularly at night.”

Maciej also had to acclimatise to working with high-rise buildings. “My experience of internships in the UK has been working on projects which have already been finished. But two weeks deep into the internship I was assigned to the structural team to work on the foundation designs of a project which was worth £1.3 billion”.

Yet Maciej was able to get by with a little help from his Dundee education. 

“When I worked for a week with the geotechnical team I was told by my colleagues to read a book called ‘Craig’s Soil Mechanics’ which they used a lot. When I told them that the author, Professor Jonathan Knappett, was my lecturer they were absolutely shocked.”

Maciej Jozwik

The University has seen many civil engineering students come through its doors and go on to establish careers in the industry across the world. Whilst in Hong Kong, Maciej was treated to dinner by two civil engineering alumni who are part of the HK institute of engineering who gave him advice on how to get ahead in his future career: “They gave me the kind of insight of the industry that I normally would never be able to get from anyone else. Sammy has also been amazingly welcoming and helpful with all his priceless advice for a "young engineer". While the internship lasted a month, Maciej had a marked impact on the company which did not go unnoticed by Dr Sammy. “Maciej worked well in the team that he was assigned to and it was a pleasure to have him working with us. He provided good evaluation and checking of structural drawings and contractor submissions that we asked him to review. We were impressed by his ability to get things accomplished in a short time and knew exactly what has to get done”.

His placement in Hong Kong has certainly given him the industry and travel experience of a lifetime. Maciej is now carving out a successful career in civil engineering as he pursues his PhD in Concrete Technology at Dundee.

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