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IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry Degree: A Stepping Stone Towards a PhD

17 Oct 2022

I am Tey Hui Yin and here is my journey after I completed my degree at IMU. After completing my studies in pharmaceutical chemistry at IMU, I thankfully got my job offer from Biocon Sdn Bhd before the convocation. Without much consideration, I joined the largest insulin manufacturing plant in Asia as Quality Control (QC) analyst in November 2016 (within one month after the convocation). In the blink of an eye, I have already spent two years in the biopharmaceutical industry. I appreciated all the opportunities given and the experience I have gained in the workplace. Nevertheless, all these fruitful experiences have never stopped me from pursuing my postgraduate study.


The decision to join the pharmaceutical industry before pursuing my postgraduate study was inspired by Dr Nagashekhara Molugulu in Business Administration module (renamed as Entrepreneurship since 2017 curriculum). The industry experience that he shared during his lectures were interesting, and I know this working experience will benefit me and my future students if I am to join academia. Also, thanks to the motivation from IMU lecturers, especially my mentor, Dr Raghavendra Sakirolla, I decided to pursue my PhD after gaining industry working experience during my final year of my first degree in IMU.


Working life with stable income and comfortable lifestyle was indeed attractive. There are tons of advice from my friends, my colleagues and my superior when they came to know that I was resigning from the position and decided to pursue my PhD. I understood the importance of working experience in the industry as well as the hardship of undertaking research. However, with my determination, persistence, and perseverance, I am still keen on my plan and my dream which is to gain working experience in the industry and to pursue PhD. Hence, I began looking for opportunities to continue with my postgraduate study in 2018.


With the interest in pharmaceutical research field, I have obtained offers from USM (drug interaction research) and opportunity from UTM (analytical chemistry research). My working experience and knowledge gained in IMU make me successfully passed the interviews for both positions as fast-track PhD candidate. After many considerations, I have decided to accept the offer from UTM and started my research in the area analytical chemistry.


Besides being a postgraduate student, I was also the graduate research assistant working under my PhD supervisor, A/Prof Dr See Hong Heng. Three years of undergraduate study in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at IMU and two years’ working experience in industry have given me an extra edge to my research and my role as graduate research assistant.


The theory that I have learned in Pharmaceutical Analysis module gave me better insight in the method development and method validation. In the module, I have also learnt the basic theory on the separation science, including the high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and gas chromatography (GC) systems – I would say that my undergraduate study has provided a strong fundamental knowledge in analytical chemistry, while working in the QC analytical department was a great platform for me to be familiar with the HPLC, GC and other analytical instruments.

I always remembered the advice from Dr Keng Pei Sin (in the photo on the right), one of my lecturers at IMU “if you decided to take fast-track to PhD, you need to be extra diligent and hardworking.” Indeed, you will never know the difficulties unless you have tried. The entire study life is not as what I have expected.

One of the major challenges was when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Malaysia, there was unexpected lab shut down and interruption to all the planned lab work in my second year. Experiencing similar situation as other postgraduate students all around the world, we were prohibited from accessing the laboratory and facilities in university due to the movement control order (MCO). All meetings, assessments and conferences had to be conducted on virtual platforms. Though it was convenient, but it could be also challenging at times.


In my second year of my PhD study, I was given an opportunity to join a winter research internship programme to work under Prof Dr Fabio Cicoira’s research group in Polytechnique Montreal, Canada. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic outbreak, it was converted to virtual, and we have to restructure and discuss the research project through weekly meetings instead. Though I may not be able to join them physically, I am very grateful with all the guidance and the opportunities to work under Prof Fabio’s research group.


As I am edging towards the end of my PhD journey, most of the countries have finally reopened their borders. We are allowed to travel and attend physical events! I am thankful as Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has sponsored my overseas conference at Liège, Belgium.

It was an unforgettable experience, and I was grateful to have the distinct opportunity to be one of the oral presenters to share my research project in the conference. I met experts and other young scientists in the field during the conference.

The social events organised by the conference committee expanded my network during the conference. I enjoyed a lot in sharing and listening to others’ research work. I am definitely contented with this enjoyable trip.

Throughout my three and a half years PhD journey, the most common questions that I have received are:
“Why and what made you want to pursue PhD and give up your stable job, decent salary and comfortable life?”
“Why didn’t you continue your study right after your graduation?”
“Why you choose to work in the pharmaceutical industry first before enrolling to your PhD programme?”
“Did you regret in taking PhD study?”

Many thanks to all these questions as they have reminded me of my intention, my dream and my goal. The curiosity and the doubts were the motivation that have encouraged me and directed me to the right path, especially when I felt lost.


The last three and a half years as a postgraduate student was filled with tears and laughter. I will always remember the advice and encouragement from all my beloved lecturers in IMU, and I will continue my journey with diligence and determination. I am glad to be able to apply my knowledge and experience that I have gained from both IMU and my workplace into my research project. Even though the postgraduate journey has not been an easy one, I am grateful to have the opportunity to undertake it, and all the knowledge I obtained throughout the journey have indeed complemented my life experience.

Group gathering with my PhD supervisor and my juniors


Currently, I have passed my viva voce and finally completed my PhD study. Though the journey is ending, however, the end of a journey is just the beginning of a new one. I believed that “Rome was not built in a day”, never give up on your dreams, do what you can, with what you have, where you are and what you dream!

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