DAAD Prize Goes to Noel Chia

Working for European integration in Mannheim and abroad, experience as a working student and highly interested in Data Science: Noel Chia from Singapore is an outstanding master’s student. For his excellent academic achievements and his social commitment, he has now received the DAAD prize.

Noel was born and raised in Singapore. “In Singapore, everything is different: It is a very small country on an island and a fast-paced life, with many people and many high buildings,” says Noel. During a trip to Europe after graduating from high school, he decided to study in Germany: While he stayed in Munich, he learned that it is possible to complete a degree in Business Administration and Data Science in English at a German university. The fact that tuition fees for international students are in Germany are rather low, while the quality of the education is high, was an additional benefit. Noel began to study in Munich, but he was more interested in the technical part of his studies. He knew early on that he wanted pursue his master’s degree at another university. “It is very difficult to switch universities, if you want to change your specialization from non-technical to technical. But in Mannheim, the admission requirements for the Mannheim Master in Data Science allow for many academic backgrounds and students benefit from a great flexibility when choosing courses,” the 26-year-old student says.

Noel enrolled for the Mannheim Master in Data Science. In addition to the program’s contents, he was convinced by the very good ranking results and the Schloss. During the program, he learned how to collect, organize, analyze, and visualize data. “What I like most about this program is that I have the freedom to choose what I would like to learn. My degree was the basis for understanding the research in the rapidly growing and evolving field of Data Science and to keep up with the developments,” says Noel. While he was a bachelor’s student, he began to work for a semiconductor manufacturer. First, he worked in the supply chain before he joined the research and development department. He continued to work there after he started to study in Mannheim.

“The selection committee chose Noel Chia, because of his outstanding academic achievements and because he has been a member of several student organizations with different focus areas for quite some time and is, inter alia, a member of the AEGEE Mannheim board,” says Angela Dörflinger from the International Office. Since 2021, Noel has been a member of the student organization AEGEE (Association des États Généraux des Étudiants de l'Europe). The organization is a European forum for students working towards a diverse, politically and socially interconnected Europe that is actively shaped by young people. Noel is part of a team which organizes local events and projects in Mannheim. The international Summer Universities at the various AEGEE locations are the highlight of the year for AEGEE. Like other student organizations, AEGEE also had problems in finding new volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic. “It was a challenge, because we had not many volunteers, we could not find new volunteers and we were not allowed to host local or international events,” the master’s student says. After most restrictions had been lifted, Noel had the opportunity to visit an AEGEEE Summer University in Florence and meet new people.

Noel plans to graduate at the beginning of 2024 and has already decided on a topic for his master’s thesis. “My thesis will be about Natural Language Processing, i.e. how computers can be trained to understand human language,” he says. He does not know yet what he will do once he has graduated and whether he wants to stay in Mannheim or Germany. “I think the culture here in Europe is interesting. There is a good work-life balance and good job opportunities. I will see what the future holds.”

Text: Sabrina Wagner / August 2023

About the DAAD prize

The DAAD prize is worth EUR 1,000. Each year, the prize is awarded to an international degree-seeking student at the University of Mannheim. By awarding the prize, a selection committee consisting of the International Office and the schools honors the excellent academic achievements and the volunteer work of the laureate.