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The UCL Colin Chapman Lotus Engineering Scholarship: the chance to make a change to the world we live in

1 February 2011

Nicholas Mak, a Singaporean UCL MSc Mechanical Engineering student, received the first UCL Colin Chapman Lotus Engineering Masters Scholarship on 27 January.

The scholarship, inspired by UCL alumnus Colin Chapman (founder of Lotus) and sponsored by car manufacturer Group Lotus and the Chapman family, is awarded for engineering excellence and lasts for one year. Comprising £10,000 and a practical internship at Lotus Engineering, the scholarship is one of the outcomes of the Lotus event held at UCL in 2007.

Nicholas received the scholarship at a ceremony attended by UCL President and Provost Professor Malcolm Grant, Dr Robert Hentschel (Director of Lotus Engineering), Clive Chapman (Colin Chapman’s son), Professor Stephen Caddick (UCL Vice-Provost, Enterprise), Professor Nicos Ladommatos (UCL Kennedy Professor of Mechanical Engineering) and Dr Anna Clark, Director of UCL Business Partnerships.

Here Nicholas describes how the scholarship will help him fulfil a childhood ambition and make a valuable change to the world we live in.

“The Colin Chapman Scholarship first caught my eye when I was in my third year of my MEng Engineering with Business Finance degree at UCL. I found out that the scholarship was available to MSc Mechanical Engineering students and not the undergraduates. Realising that the scholarship included an internship with Lotus Engineering I was inspired to alter the course of my degree and give myself the opportunity to try for the scholarship. I managed to coax my undergraduate tutor to let me go on the BEng course and reapply for the MSc.

Watch a short film about Nicholas’s scholarship

I have always been obsessed with cars since I was young, being able to identify the different brands and types of vehicles when I was in kindergarten. Since then I’ve been reading about cars and how they work, which inspired me to get into mechanical engineering. One of those car companies that stood out was the Lotus brand.

Lotus was inspiring to me because it was one of those organisations that had a soul to it, which was shown in most of its cars. In fact, one of the reasons I chose to come to UCL to do engineering was because of the founder Colin Chapman, who is an alumnus of the university.

When the time came to apply for the scholarship, the application required me to put down all my personal and work experiences as well as hobbies. The interview consisted of many pressing questions which encompassed the future of transport, the roles an engineer plays within the whole scheme of things and, most importantly, my thoughts on innovation. I was surprised to find out later that I had won the scholarship, which meant that I would be able to go for the practical internship at Lotus Engineering.

The practical internship at Lotus Engineering will be part of my research project for the MSc Mechanical Engineering dissertation. The internship is very flexible as I am allowed to pick any field of engineering of interest to me and also to pick a location around the world that Lotus Engineering has a presence in. The internship will last for six to eight weeks, and it was mentioned to me that Lotus Engineering would happily extend my internship should I need more time for research. This was the icing on the cake for me as the internship, which I was so focused on getting, had opened up so many possibilities for me.

Nicholas Mak (centre)

I was elated to hear that this internship would allow me to focus on my interest in alternative power sources for automotive applications and beyond, one of which being fuel cell technology. With Lotus Engineering at the forefront of this technology I was excited to hear that I could take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put the theories into practice with the experts.

Along with the practical internship at Lotus Engineering, the scholarship includes a £10,000 fund. With this money I will have fewer financial worries, which will allow me to focus better on my studies and research.

From this internship, I hope to be able to gain a wealth of knowledge, but more importantly the experience gained will be something no words can describe or money can buy. By gaining hands-on knowledge and experience of real-world applications of fuel cells I hope to be able to get a headstart into alternative power research and to start up an alternative power systems solution provider for industry, automotive and consumer applications – and hopefully make a change to the world we live in. With our never-ending need for power and finite natural resources, I believe that we need to find a solution to our problems, and this is the path to our future.

When asked in the scholarship interview if I thought I was going to become a great engineer, my answer was ‘Time will tell’. With the experience gained from this internship, it might just give me that opportunity to become one.”

Image (from left): Dr Robert Hentschel, Director of Lotus Engineering; Nicholas Mak; Clive Chapman, Managing Director of Classic Team Lotus, and Colin Chapman’s son

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