Beating the odds, with honours

NTU graduate Amos Lin overcame two debilitating illnesses to earn a second upper honours degree in materials science and engineering.
NTU graduate Amos Lin overcame two debilitating illnesses to earn a second upper honours degree in materials science and engineering.PHOTO: NTU

Two NTU students overcome personal setbacks to do their families proud

Two weeks into his first semester at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2010, materials science and engineering student Amos Lin came down with a fever - one that would not go away.

After blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy, doctors said he had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells.

"I didn't think I would be diagnosed with cancer, especially not at this young age," said Mr Lin, who had to defer his studies for a year while undergoing treatment, including chemotherapy.

Despite the delay, Mr Lin, now 27, will graduate with second-upper honours in materials science and engineering this year.

He is one of more than 8,600 students who will receive their degrees at 18 NTU convocation ceremonies, starting today.

FOCUS ON SURVIVAL

When I had leukaemia, I didn't think about graduation, but how to live each day.

MR AMOS LIN, on battling cancer

PARENTAL SUPPORT

It wasn't easy for my parents, especially my mum, who had to stop working for a while to care for me.

MR LIN, paying tribute to his family

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who is NTU Chancellor, will preside over the first ceremony, with Education Minister Heng Swee Keat also attending.

"It was hard to see this day coming," said Mr Lin. "When I had leukaemia, I didn't think about graduation, but how to live each day."

It was not an easy journey.

In 2011, he was well enough to return to school but at the end of the first semester, he became stricken with another debilitating ailment. What was a dull ache in his hip turned out to be avascular necrosis - a bone disorder which left him needing four operations, including major hip-replacement surgery.

Undeterred, Mr Lin continued attending classes on crutches. Schoolmates carried his books and laptop. "School life would have been a lot harder if not for them," said Mr Lin, who is one month into his career as an engineer at semiconductor giant Micron Technology.

He also paid tribute to his family. His 65-year-old father is a construction manager and his mother, 60, is a financial manager. He has two brothers, aged 25 and 31. "It wasn't easy for my parents, especially my mum, who had to stop working for a while to care for me," he said.

Another student who beat the odds is Mr Joel Quek, 25, who will graduate with a double degree in business and computer science. He lost his father to cancer at the end of his first year, but soldiered on to top his class.

"We were very close and his death affected me a lot," said Mr Quek, who is one of the valedictorians at this year's ceremonies. "My father would have wanted me to do well. I hope I did him proud."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2015, with the headline 'Beating the odds, with honours '. Print Edition | Subscribe