Syn Yee Chin, Parsons Brinkerhoff

Syn Yee Chin

What company are you working for, what is your role and what does it involve?

Parsons Brinckerhoff. Senior Supervising Engineer in traction power engineering. It involves supporting traction power engineering for a variety of transit projects – both alternating and direct currents. For California High-Speed Rail, I am one of two traction power engineers for this first in the nation project. My company is contracted by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to provide program management, engineering, construction support, and other services. This is my sixth year on the project. I lead high voltage utility coordination and work with multiple utility companies along the over 800 miles of proposed track alignment across California, with up to 24 passenger stations. Other than working on the conceptual design, providing construction support, and preparing bid documents, in these roles, I also need to manage and analyse many of our sub-consultants’ technical work and financial performance. In addition to my Leeds engineering honours degree, I also have an MBA with knowledge and skills that my former boss told me that he saw me using every day in my professionalism. I am uniquely both a licensed Professional Engineer in the US and a Chartered Engineer registered with the UK Engineering Council and Institution of Engineering and Technology. In addition to that, I am a certified LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional) and have the ENV SP (Envision Sustainability Professional) designation. One emphasises sustainability in buildings and the other on infrastructures.

In my electrical/traction power engineer position with Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), I also support the engineering needs of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) which is the fifth-busiest heavy rail rapid transit system in the US. My company did the original BART transportation plan back in 1960s, and then managed all technical as well as construction aspects of the project. Throughout the decades, we have continued to provide engineering and consulting services to this government agency. As a third or fourth generation of PB engineer to serve the same client, I worked on new line extension and upgrading their nearly half a century old infrastructure to meet the needs of a modern transit system.

Before working on transit system, I was the lead electrical engineer for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span Replacement Project which I supervised the preparation of electrical contract plans, specifications, cost estimates, addenda, change orders, etc.  The new east span is a single deck with the eastbound and westbound lanes on each side making it the world's widest bridge, according to Guinness World Records. It also features the world’s largest self-anchored suspension (SAS) span. It was the largest public work project in the history of California at the time, and for a long time. The bridge carries about 280,000 vehicles a day and continues to serve the San Francisco Bay Area communities since 1936. It is one of the busiest bridges in the world.

What would you say to students thinking about studying the same course at Leeds/thinking about the same career?

The sky is the limit! You don’t need to feel discouraged if the course seems too tough or you sometimes feel lost. When I started and finished my studies, I did not and could not imagine I would be where I am today – professionally and geographically. The one thing that is in my mind since the beginning of my professional career is: do Leeds proud! I was determined to excel and prove the excellence of my Leeds/British education. This was not an easy task in San Francisco Bay area where you’ll find the world’s top engineering universities and graduates. But I believe I have proven the superiority of my Leeds/British education through my leading roles in the nation’s and the state’s highest profile infrastructure projects. When you go back to Leeds 20 years after graduation, be sure to bring back more accomplishments than I had brought back walking through that Electronic and Electrical Engineering Department front door once again! I am happier than ever - thanks Leeds! Thanks to every professor who had taught me! And thanks to my parents for everything! Happy 20th Anniversary of Graduation!

Looking back, why did you choose to study your particular course and why did you choose the University of Leeds?

Because some odd circumstances (not a Leeds issue) caused me to miss an opportunity to pursue my first choice, civil engineering, which was inspired by a protagonist in a Hong Kong soap opera during my early high school years. Then I went with my second choice, Electronic and Electrical Engineering (EEE) which I believed was one of the more useful and practical majors. After I planned and began my EEE studies, lots of people around me started telling me EEE was the most difficult engineering major; right then and there I loved it even more for the challenge! The British Council in my hometown recommended Leeds for engineering.

What other activities outside of your studies were you involved in?

I signed up and paid for a lot of extracurricular clubs and societies. Mostly I was active with Malaysian and Singaporean Society. I held the post of Secretary during my final year and helped organising events including our annual ball, where we had our University Vice-Chancellor as our guest of honour. Other than that, I played a little football with Women’s Association Football Club, and I still wear our club hoodie today!

What other experiences you wish to have had at Leeds?

Represent Leeds and bring back the World Miss University title sooner than Year 2010!