Malaysian student paving the way in AI

Jee Chee Chan is enjoying new opportunities in New Zealand as the first Malaysian student to enrol in a new Master of Artificial Intelligence degree at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch.

Jee Chee Chan celebrates her graduation from the University of Canterbury Bachelor of Science in Data Science and Statistics with friends Ada Mohd Izhair and Ri Anne Foo.

Originally from Ipoh, Chan recognises the growing significance of artificial intelligence (AI), and her attention was caught by the new master’s degree, offered at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) for the first time this year.

“AI is an emerging field and is gaining more exposure, but there are not a lot of people who have the skills in this field. The University of Canterbury programme will help to bridge the gap between a lack of resources and building demand, both here in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally,” Chan says.

The knowledge she had already gained from her UC Bachelor of Science in Data Science and Statistics made it an easy move, she says. “The course has a big workload – I’m currently working with AI models and prediction, it’s really cool. The UC Faculty of Engineering is working a lot in this field, especially machine learning and computer vision, something I’ll move into next year.”

UC Computer Science and Software Engineering Professor Richard Green says the UC Master of AI is a great opportunity to have fun learning about AI and end up with AI knowledge and experience that industry needs now more than ever since the emergence of ChatGPT.

Chan balances her academic pursuits with part-time work on campus.

“I feel comfortable with the environment and the atmosphere, it makes it easy to meet new people and UC is a place where you can explore your interests and step out of your comfort zone without fear of judgment. It makes it easy to integrate work, study, and my social life.”

From a smooth visa application process to the personal support provided by a dedicated agent, UC ensured an easy transition to New Zealand for Chan. “The response to my UC application was seamless which gave me a large sense of security,” she says. “That, and Christchurch’s reputation for safety and friendliness made it an easy choice. It is easy to walk or take transport and people are really friendly.  At UC, if you leave something in the library it won’t be lost, you can either find it where you left it or you will find it in the lost and found.”

Having taken part in internships during her undergraduate degree, Chan says while finding internships can be competitive, she feels confident about reaching out for job-placements. “Don’t be afraid to make connections with recruiters on platforms like LinkedIn.”

Chan’s personal growth has been further fuelled by UC’s vibrant club scene, where she has actively participated in clubs like Women in Technology and UC Global Society, and has been able to join a mentoring programme, mentoring first year students at UC. “These clubs and programmes have helped me develop new skills and connect with industry professionals and fellow students.”

Chan admits there was an adjustment to finding her place in a new country and there are some challenges, but she says it has been a good opportunity to discover herself and find the things she really enjoys.

Her advice to fellow students embarking on their own journey is: “Take your time, explore, and discover yourself. UC provides an environment and opportunities where you can find your path.”

University of Canterbury Sir Robertson Stewart Malaysian Scholarships

This year the University of Canterbury is celebrating its 150th anniversary and to mark this milestone it is offering five Sir Robertson Stewart Malaysian Scholarships to recognise and support top Malaysian students who are beginning their studies in one of our undergraduate degree programmes.

Having established his first business in Malaysia in 1974, Sir Robertson went on to serve as Honorary Consul to Malaysia for 28 years and received the Companion of the Order of Loyalty to the Crown of Malaysia (JSM) for his business and cultural links to the country.

UC Amokapua | Assistant Vice-Chancellor Engagement Brett Berquist says the scholarships honour the special relationship and long-standing connections the Stewart family holds with Malaysia while recognising the University’s historic ties to Malaysia.

“Since its beginning in 1873, UC has grown with Waitaha Canterbury to become a powerhouse of research and learning and is ranked in the top 2% of universities globally. We welcome applications from Malaysian undergraduate students who want to come and experience what UC has to offer.”

Find out more about the University of Canterbury’s programmes and international scholarships here.