Melendres Howe (MSc and PhD. in Computing, 1990 (MSc), 1994 (PhD)

Why did you choose to study at Imperial?

From lecturing in engineering at the top university in the Philippines, I wanted to expand into computing and mathematics. Imperial, with its prominence as the top engineering university in Europe and its world-class ranking, was the obvious choice.

Tell us about your time at Imperial?

I studied at Imperial for both my M.Sc. and my Ph.D. in computing. The international character of the student population brought to my awareness an interesting interplay between culture and academic achievement. The variety of mindsets and personal philosophies, risk-taking propensities, idea generation and exploration, different social and cultural attitudes, and high-quality humour were a delight to experience.

My fellow PhD students and I made Imperial our home – cooking, dining together, studying together – and I’m not talking about the dormitories but the Computing Department. The dining was especially enjoyable with a wide range of topics discussed that extended far beyond computing. Of deep impact was my time with my supervisor, Emeritus Professor Berc Rustem, who pushed me to think. Our collaboration extended well beyond my PhD days, with the successful completion of a well-received book, Algorithms for Worst-Case Design and Applications to Risk Management, published by Princeton. 

Can you tell us what you’ve done since Graduation?

After the PhD, I joined investment banks RBS and Nomura, and JP Morgan Investment Management. I then joined the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2001 where I helped manage ADB’s reserves for four years. Then from 2005 to the present, I headed an investment team that managed ADB’s Staff Retirement Plan investments. In 2011, I discovered I can paint with Chinese ink and watercolour on xuan paper, and later found I can create digital art. I won the 2016 International Emerging Artist Award in Dubai where one of my digital artworks was displayed in large mural-sized format (in my artwork website: I also collaborate with my husband on a major literary project - we rescript Shakespeare's plays to a modern English voice, making them readily accessible to, and easily performable by, ESLs (people learning English as a Second Language).  In our rescripts, we aim to retain much of the power and the beauty of the original language. 

How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?

Imperial helped me to look introspectively and challenge myself. At Imperial, I was exposed to high academic standards and to high-achieving people embracing those standards and achieving more. Throughout my career in finance and pension investments, I espoused those standards, creating high-achieving teams in the process. Imperial also helped me develop three important life skills: critical thinking, measured risk-taking to realize my potential, and teaching. On teaching, I mean the skill to impart knowledge to my staff and clients for their benefit, and for which acts of teaching I earned their respect and enthusiasm to work with me to achieve high-quality work.

What would be your advice for current students?

While academic discussions are a given, philosophical discussions are not, and it’s up to you to engage. Open yourself to engage in a wide variety of discussions, examine your personal philosophy in the company of friends and colleagues, give and receive knowledge on all sorts of topics, no matter how grand or trivial. It would be in the future, faced with different life circumstances, that you would feel how Imperial has enriched and empowered you.


Sei Howe is the daughter of Melendres Howe and you can read her Alumnus profile here