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An Insightful Internship at Malaysian Palm Oil Board for IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry Students

06 Sep 2023

The Pharmaceutical Chemistry Programme in IMU is an undergraduate programme that focuses on pharmaceutical sciences and applied chemistry. It takes 3 years to complete, in which in the final main semester, students are required to undergo 4 months of internship that will allow them to understand more about their career pathways in the future.


From November 2022 to March 2023, 5 Pharmaceutical Chemistry students from the PC220 cohort had completed their internship in the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB). MPOB is a government agency that oversees most things about palm oil, from research, product development to promotion. It has 6 main divisions for research and development, including divisions for Biological and Sustainability, Advanced Biotechnology and Breeding Centre, Smallholder Development, Engineering & Processing, Advanced Oleochemical Technology and Product Development & Advisory Services (PDAS). It has 6 regional stations across Malaysia, with the main office in Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor.


The students were assigned to the nutrition unit of PDAS and supervised by a few researchers. The function of the unit is to gather new scientific evidence on palm oil nutrition, and any other phytonutrients found in the oil. Students were tasked to assist in product development and analysis, where they will help gather information, assist in formulations and analysis in order to develop a marketable product in the future.


Here, our students from the PC220 cohort, Choong Kar Weng, Chee Yuen Chi, Rachel Koh Leu Earn and Cherlyn Cheng Chen Xi share their experience during the internship.

Choong Kar Weng

Throughout my pre-university years in A-levels, I’ve already determined my favourite subject, which is chemistry. As I plan to pursue an undergraduate degree, I aim to select a programme that aligns with both my career advancement goals and my passion for chemistry. Thus, I had chosen to study the Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme at IMU as not only is it equipped with adequate chemistry curricula, but it also consists of a guided pathway towards drug discovery and development with its pharmaceutics modules. With both a chemistry and pharmacy background, I would also gain more insights in the research world, where I am more in touch with what the current trend of research is.


During the time when I was searching for internship, I have a clear goal in mind, which is to explore a new experience.  I opted for the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) as it met my requirements for gaining insights into the workings of Research & Development. I am truly glad to join MPOB for my internship because it provides invaluable insights and hands-on experience into the world of research, highlighting how chemistry truly thrives as an interdisciplinary field.


In my internship, my classmates and I was supervised by a research officer in MPOB. We were tasked with two projects aimed at developing distinct products, essentially involving the determination of optimal materials and compositions for the test items. Not only do I get to use my prior knowledge from both pharmacy and chemistry fields in these projects, but I was able to further increase both my theoretical and technical knowledge as well during this internship period. This includes the HPLC, Zetasizer, LUMiSizer, Ultrasonicator and more.

The staff in MPOB are very friendly and helpful. They offer appropriate guidance whenever required, striking a balance between support and independence. This enables me to engage in research tasks and make decisions in a manner akin to that of a researcher. I am grateful that the experience helped honed not only my soft skills like problem solving and decision making, but also honed my technical expertise in the various equipments I’d used as well. I am sure that this will allow me to be a better researcher in the future.

Chee Yuen Chi

During secondary school, I’ve always had a passion for chemistry. I always wondered how the shampoos we used daily were made, so after graduation from secondary school, I’ve enrolled in IMU Foundation in Science (FIS). During foundation, I learned about the Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme which comprised of pharmaceutical science and applied chemistry fields of studies. These two broad fields which interested me, and I decided to enrol into the BSc (Hons) in Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme. It gave me more views and insights of the applied chemistry and pharmaceutical science world. I was also exposed to various possible industries like oil industry, medicinal industry, and cosmeceutical industries.


During internship, I have learned a lot from my supervisor from Lipid Nutrition group, Nutrition Unit from MPOB where most samples are involved in the palm oil industry.

During my three years of study, I only learnt the theoretical aspects of transesterification. However, I had the opportunity to actively engage in practical experiments related to this process during my internship. It was an interesting experience for me. The 4 months internship in MPOB has provided me with much knowledge and experience in Malaysia’s palm oil industry.

Numerous pieces of equipment were utilised within the Nutrition Unit to examine the compositions of diverse oils for various research endeavors. Among the equipment that I became familiar with throughout my internship were GC, tissue grinder, HPLC, vacuum-assisted SPE, slip melting point apparatus, and several others. I felt that I have learned a lot about the palm oil-related research methodology. Most of the methods were very foreign and new to me, and it helps me in the transition from a full-time studying student to a full-time employee. With these experiences, I am confident that I am able to adapt fairly well to the changes I’m going to face in the future.

Rachel Koh Leu Earn

I have chosen the IMU BSc (Hons) in Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme as my degree due to several factors. Firstly, having studied chemistry during my A-levels, I developed a strong foundation and a deep fascination for the subject. However, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that truly emphasised the critical significance of research in the field of pharmaceutical chemistry. Witnessing the global impact of the virus and the urgent need for effective treatments and vaccines heightened my awareness of the vital role that pharmaceutical chemistry plays in improving public health. IMU’s Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme offers me the opportunity to combine my passion for chemistry with my aspiration to be part of meaningful scientific advancements.

During my internship as a lab researcher, I had the opportunity to engage in a multitude of enriching experiences. As part of my role, I acquired a diverse set of skills and gained hands-on experience with cutting-edge laboratory equipment, including HPLC, Zetasizer, Lumisizer, and many others. Through extensive training and practice, I became proficient in operating these machines, analysing data, and interpreting the results they generated. This hands-on experience not only strengthened my technical abilities but also deepened my understanding of their applications in the field of pharmaceutical chemistry.

In addition to the practical aspects of the internship, I also had the chance to develop crucial research skills. I learned how to conduct comprehensive literature reviews, enabling me to explore existing scientific knowledge and identify gaps for potential research. Moreover, I gained proficiency in using various databases to gather relevant information, ensuring that my research was grounded in reliable and up-to-date sources.

These skills have equipped me with the tools necessary to critically evaluate scientific literature, synthesize information, and contribute to the advancement of pharmaceutical chemistry through evidence-based research.

Cherlyn Cheng Chen Xi

Chemistry was one of my favourite subjects during high school life, and I realised that I’m the type of person who can just stay at the laboratory the whole day to complete my task. Thus, I  enrolled myself into the Foundation in Science programme at IMU as I was more passionate towards chemistry and the medical field. In IMU, I discovered the Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme, which spiked my interest as this programme introduced me into different aspects of applied chemistry as well as the pharmaceutical science fields of studies, which allowed me to be exposed to different industries. IMU’s Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme has prepared me well with a strong chemistry background and has enhanced my laboratory skills.


During the four months of internship as a part of the pharmaceutical chemistry programme, I  joined as an intern in the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB). I was supervised by my two supervisors under the Phytonutrients group in the Nutrition Unit. My classmates and I was assigned to a research project that my supervisors are in charge of. The main goal of our internship project was to come out with the best formulation by doing research on the excipients, ensure the quality attributes by conducting various tests such as HPLC, particle size analysis, moisture analysis, stability, solubility, wettability, and zeta potential analysis.


The knowledge acquired during my studies in Pharmaceutical Chemistry has facilitated a smoother adjustment during my internship. The laboratory skills adopted during practical sessions helped me to gain a better understanding of the equipment used in MPOB. While attached to the industry, the hands-on experience in MPOB has not only enhanced my laboratory skills but also enhanced my understanding of the research and development field. The independence of doing the work has also enhanced my soft skills like problem solving and decision making. I am grateful that this internship journey allows me to prepare and adapt well into the industry in the future.


Written by Choong Kar Weng, Chee Yuen Chi, Rachel Koh Leu Earn, Cherlyn Cheng Chen Xi

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