By: Yuk Chi ChanClass of: 2019 College: College of Hild and St Bede Subject: Law Location:London/Los Angeles
Your Durham Inspiration
Do you remember why you first chose to study at Durham?
Durham has a fantastic reputation in the Singaporean legal industry, and I was first told about it by a family friend who's a partner at a reputable law firm here. After doing some research, I found that I really enjoyed the look and feel of Durham above and beyond what other schools had to offer, so even without visiting I decided to take a leap of faith.
Tell us about any sports, societies or clubs you were involved in at Durham.
I was the elected president of Durham Pro Bono from 2018-2019, and I was the founding president of Durham Krav Maga from 2016-2019. As the president of Pro Bono, I expanded the organisation’s scope with new projects and numerous talks and activities. I also oversaw planning of its inaugural Summer Festival, cut down on inefficiency, and rewrote its constitution to improve governance and administration. Under my stewardship, Pro Bono continued to enjoy its title of best Law Society in terms of Contributions to Society in Durham. As the president of Durham Krav Maga, I taught students self-defence through military-style combatives training. I ran everything virtually single-handedly for all three years of university, and I also taught classes for free at least twice a week, drawing on my own military and martial arts training as a basis.
What work or moment were you most proud of at Durham?
Probably all the community work I did as president of Krav Maga: I taught students from all walks of life, but in particular the Krav Maga Society focused on marginalised or vulnerable groups. For women, people of colour, and the LGBTQ community, we ran regular seminars on practical solutions to stay safe in common scenarios that students may find themselves in - on nights out, in confined spaces like dorms or clubs, and situations involving protecting vulnerable third-parties from aggressors. By the time I graduated, I had taught hundreds of students and given them the confidence to face an uncertain world.
What are your fondest memories from your time here?
Winter walks along the river, hot chocolate in the rain, the first blooms of spring, and laying out on the college lawn basking in the summer sun.
What have you been up to since you left Durham?
I founded Charter, a venture-backed startup developing logistics software for satellite companies to launch missions faster. Previously, I trained as a litigator at one of Singapore's oldest and most prestigious law firms. I also published papers and a book chapter on space law, spoke at the United Nations on space sustainability policy, and advised the government of Uganda on their proposed draft space legislation and national space policy.
What are you doing that is most meaningful to you now?
By building the new industrial standard for satellite logistics, the software we're developing at Charter directly enables the greatest civilisational endeavour that humanity has ever attempted. I have always known that I stand on the shoulders of giants, but every day I am grateful for the rare and precious opportunity to become one of the giants on whose shoulders my own children and grandchildren will stand.
Space law, science fiction, writing (academic, fiction, and opinion pieces), cooking, boxing, Muay Thai, Krav Maga, powerlifting, yoga, and strategy games.
Pass It On
What would be your top advice for current students and/or recent graduates?
My advice would be that if you're thinking about building a startup, think carefully. Sleep on it. It is a difficult, costly, and lonely journey. But if you have found an important problem that you are completely driven to solve, and you believe that you are the only one with what it takes to solve it, then you will not be dissuaded by warnings, and you will already be on your path to building a great company.
Is there anything that you know now that you wish you'd known when graduating?
The amount of luck one enjoys generally correlates to the frequency with which one takes risks.
Any published work?
Yuk Chi Chan et al., 'How Low Can You Go: Advocating Very Low Earth Orbit as the Next Frontier for Satellite Operations' (8th European Conference on Space Debris, Darmstadt, 2021).
Yuk Chi Chan, 'Protecting the Million-Year Picnic: The Importance of Importing the Rule of Law to Mars' in Annette Froehlich (ed.), Assessing a Mars Agreement Including Human Settlements (Springer Nature 2021).
Yuk Chi Chan, 'Who's Right About Rights? A Critique on the Universality of Human Rights' (Cogito Magazine, 12 May 2019)