Scroll to top

IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry Alumnus’ PhD Journey During a Pandemic

07 Dec 2020

perseverance /pəːsɪˈvɪər(ə)ns/ Learn to pronounce noun 1. persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

We thrive on being successful, almost all the time. However, in doing so we often forget the challenges and difficulties that we may have to cross on our journey to success. Human nature is always to achieve things right away with no patience. We often forget that may cause us to fall short of our goals. Challenges and difficulties can lead to frustration, and it may or may not shatter the self-confidence we had in the beginning. Ultimately, it is our will power and mindset that helps us to overcome these hurdles. Feeling overwhelmed is how Shazeli described to me as he is completing his PhD, especially during these final stages with his thesis. Not forgetting how anxiety kicked in for most of us due to the current pandemic we are facing together globally. This too has affected Shazeli and his learning journey. An IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry Alumnus shares his jouney from degree to PhD. In February 2020, Shazeli embarked on a journey to South Korea for 3 months to complete some parts of his research work. He is to develop some sort of formula on an animal model call zebrafish (Danio rerio). He decided to collaborate with the Chungnam National University in Daejeon, South Korea for his research. No one knew at that time how the world would need to stand still for a couple of months due to this pandemic. We all assumed it was a temporary outbreak in certain areas only. He was asked to return home as he may not be able to sustain living in South Korea due to the lockdown. Nevertheless, unfortunate incidents took place and Shazeli was stuck in South Korea and was not able to return home due to multiple flight cancellation. He had to stay back for another month in South Korea. Three-month research attachment was not enough, hence the extra time became an advantage for him to complete his research. Imagine, no family, not much activities can be done, stuck in a room in a foreign country that you just arrived a month back. Shazeli did mention that it was not a pleasant situation, but it was better than in Malaysia in terms of the virus. Let us back track a little on how Shazeli’s fate got him stranded in South Korea yet it was a meaningful journey. Shazeli was completing his Masters in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and during his fourth semester he was upgraded to a PhD course instead. He had a vision of using natural product resource to develop into high quality and affordable product for pharmaceutical use. Why this research? During his bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry at IMU, he was exposed to natural product chemistry and formulation in science modules. He has a high passion for the healthcare field and at the same time he was attracted to phytochemistry. He spent his senior years mostly in the labs. He had no intention of formulating anything out of the blue, but he wanted to get to the root and understand the foundation of it. There is a knowledge gap in Malaysia regarding this concept. In order to bridge the gap between natural products in chemistry and formulation in science Shazeli knew he had to do something. So, his next step was to carry out his internship in a Malaysian Palm Oil company. He was already aware of what type of master’s he would like to pursue during the last semester of his degree. An IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry Alumnus shares his jouney from degree to PhD.An IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry Alumnus shares his jouney from degree to PhD.An IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry Alumnus shares his jouney from degree to PhD.

Wonderful memories at IMU

To understand better, he made appointments with other lecturers and universities regarding his interest. However, he was not able to find any resources with both expertise – natural products and formulation science. He then approached one of the lecturers in UPM and she was into organic chemistry – Prof Khozirah (UPM). Prof Khozirah agreed to meet and have a chat about Shazeli’s interest. Prof Khozirah was keen on Shazeli vision and expected him to start immediately however he was not able to have he had a month more to go to complete his internship. Challenges and hurdles that Shazeli had to overcome in order to ensure that he does not lose this opportunity. Not forgetting the numerous research and networking. Not wasting any time, Shazeli used that one month to prepare a research proposal along with her guidance. She was happy to guide him in the research project. He took the challenge with this huge scope, spend his time reading and researching. He managed to finish his master’s scope and did few publications before the due date hence the conversion to PhD accelerated. For the conversion, he had to prepare an extended proposal. The risk he took was that he is doing his master’s and Ph. without any research grant. Later, UPM provided fellowship – work and help the university to tutor their undergraduate students. My, my what a juggling master he has become.

What got Shazeli through this was his family, they have been very supportive. They understand his situation very well. For him, they are forever his cheerleaders in his life. Whenever he is feeling down, they always there for him no matter what. He loves them very much.
As for friends, most of them are already in the scope of developing their careers. Some of them are already married with kids. Hence, everyone is occupied in their own way. Despite their busy and occupied schedule, they keep in touch via messaging. Shazeli releases his stress through sports and movies.
His passion is still within the research field. He still feels undone and there is more to venture, as they say, there is no end in research. He wants to inspire youngsters to love science. He was shortlisted as a top 15 finalist in Chrysalis award 2020 under Young Scientist Network – Academy Science of Malaysia (YSN-ASM). How to communicate and deliver about science to the community and understood by them.
One thing Shazeli learned from IMU
 He experienced different stages of life. He was involved as a Student Ambassador, organised programmes, proud Co-founder of Humans of IMU (which is still thriving). He was also the Griffin Sports Captain for the squash and volleyball teams (he misses it a lot). He learned how to persevere through adversity on his road to success. Nothing in life comes easy and easy things never remain long enough with us. For all of you who are wondering, Shazeli manage to gain some skills and experience with his four-month stay in South Korea. He is back in Malaysia now completing his PhD.

Shazeli’s one tip to all of you would be inquisitive, explorative, and innovative. Do not be afraid to try new things. Get out of your comfort zone and the sky is the limit. Be ambitious and most importantly give back to the community.

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published.