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Timothy Lo - Many Strings To His Bow!

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The Malaysian-born student is currently in his second year of an automotive engineering degree, but his journey here wasn’t straightforward. Tim came to Coventry via the clearing system and in a way, Surrey’s loss was definitely Coventry’s gain as he has established himself as a popular volunteer who likes nothing more than to share his love of life with others.

In fact, it would be hard to sum Tim up in one article as he is such an accomplished person and his abilities totally defy his young age.

At 20, he already speaks multiple languages, he is a musician (mostly violin and piano), he enjoys photography, nutrition, choreography, medicine and he’s ‘passionate about steam trains’ – so as you can imagine, talking to him was an absolute revelation and amazing to think that one man can fit so many things in his life and still have time to volunteer!

It is fair to say that over recent times, his volunteering activities have had to be cut to working on shorter projects like one-off Make A Difference Day events, or volunteering fairs and socials but as a member of the SVT, his job is to inspire others so that their volunteering efforts can be made best use of.

Students at one of the food banks on a MADD event


Tim’s academic interest is in vehicle safety and that is what he is concentrating his efforts on. This came about after a tragedy within the family where he lost his Grandfather in a car accident and this spurred Tim on to want to specialise in car safety.

“Automotive engineering covers a lot of disciplines and the use of technology in cars is getting more advanced by the day. I don’t want other families to go through what we did and this is why I want to specialise in safety.”

When it comes to volunteering, Tim is very keen to try and find some work at a science museum as one of the things he is most keen on is explaining to youngsters how things work.

“Kids are fascinated by science. The enthusiasm is there from a very early age and I am trying to capture that enthusiasm and nurture it so that more of them consider taking STEM subjects at University, especially girls”.

“STEM is still a very male-dominated field, just look at the demographic in the University. I’m hoping to reach out and encourage more women to challenge the stereotype. In fact, there are so many women who inspire me academically; Dr Shini Somara, Katherine Johnson* and Olga Ladyzhenskaya to name a few.”

*The inspiring autobiography of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who helped launch Apollo 11. Due out in July, 2019 from Simon and Schuster*


Tim added: “I don’t want young girls to feel intimidated by engineering. There have been women who have made indispensable contributions to the development of Science, but they don’t seem to get the recognition they deserve. But now, films and books like ‘Hidden Figures’ are helping to inspire the next generation of female engineers to get their voices out there.”

Before Tim chose to study automotive engineering, he was toying with the idea of working in aerospace, but “that never really took off” – no pun intended!

Tim thinks everyone should think about doing some volunteering work at University. His experience has been a very positive one because he found that volunteering was a confidence booster:

“As a student rep, I present PowerPoints to a lot of students, and I would usually go from the same script all the time. However, the more I practiced, I got used to working with different people and tailoring the way I spoke to them depending on what kind of group they were.

“Volunteering has helped me to develop as a person and has given me confidence to work a room to maximum effect, something that I wouldn’t have had the skills to do before.

“Barclays came to speak on campus to the Economics, Finance and Admin students and they spoke about how important volunteering was and I totally agree. If you have had some volunteering experience, companies tend to prefer a candidate who has packed a lot in to their university life rather than one who has just studied.”

It is because of his new-found talent for public speaking that Tim is the face of volunteering within the SVT as he can relate to a lot of people.

“I’m very fortunate as I have the best of both worlds. I was born in Malaysia and I’ve had a western education, so I feel that when I talk to students about volunteering, I can see why it is important as it is something people from all cultures can do and it certainly breaks down barriers, both culturally and socially.”

Tim became a member of the SVT as he thought it would broaden his horizons and once he had submitted his application and had the interview, they welcomed him with open arms as his enthusiasm for a lot of subjects made him an ideal candidate.

“I must admit, I do have a lot of interests and one of them is talking to young people and explaining things to them. I did some work for a STEM outreach programme and was talking to young people about how planes fly –they love things like that and because I am fascinated as well, I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm with others.”

Tim is off to Germany soon for his placement year. He will be working with a company for six months and then studying at a university for the rest. It does help that he speaks German! Once he has completed his placement year, he will be back to finish his degree and maybe then do his MEng or MSc in Germany.

“There are so many things I would like to do but with so much going on in my life, it is hard to fit in as much volunteering as I would like, but I will still be doing some.”

“My main ambition is to be the best that I can be with the skills I have acquired, both academically and personally with volunteering. I want to be able to get a good job and put that knowledge to good use in order to help others around the world.”

“My parents have encouraged me every step of the way and just when they think my life is going in one direction, I have a change of mind and I go off in another. They are very supportive and want me to be happy and to find my way in life where I can do the most good.”

“When I speak to students about volunteering, I always tell them that by giving up some of your time, you can make such a difference to others. You share your skills with other people and organisations, and in return, you get a better understanding of the world and the people in it.”

“Without my experience of volunteering, I would not have been able to feel so relaxed and confident when meeting new people. I can talk to anyone and don’t get phased about speaking in public or being an MC at a SU social or volunteering event.”

“I have learned so much about myself while in Coventry and the self-belief I have is all down to giving back to the community and getting life skills that I can use anywhere in the world.”

It is evident that Tim has a great deal to offer and will be a person to follow with interest. He is proof that volunteering gives you a voice and the ability to use that voice to encourage others.

The next chapter in Tim’s story has yet to be written as many adventures await but his journey started by coming to Coventry through clearing and we’re so glad he did!

If you would like to know more about volunteering and get involved, then why not visit: and see what opportunities are available.


Text: Ali Bushnell

Photographs: Timothy Lo, Phoenix Media and *Simon and Schuster


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