Over the course of my childhood up till now, I’ve often faced this question, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” or in grown-up terms, “What are your career aspirations?”. Back then, answering this question was easy, my options often revolved around being either a policeman, principal of a school, or even a mad scientist! But as time passed, this question became less of a casual conversation topic for family gatherings, but became a major life-decision. The time came for me to pick my degree of choice, which was no easy task. I had vastly different career choices in mind at that time, but I ultimately chose to tap into my interest in biology and my curiosity for discovery. I was fascinated by novel medical technological breakthroughs and how it could be used for the benefit of mankind. I remember pinging ideas for all sorts of possible scientific discoveries with my friends, constantly asking ourselves “why not?”, and “what if?”. I found myself going through scientific papers online, thinking if any of our ideas would ever work. I would find papers about creative new ways of treating certain diseases, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of this. With that, it became clear to me that my path with biotechnology as a career was clear. Which brought me to the next question, which university should I pick? To help make my decision and to gain some fresh perspective, my parents encouraged me to attend one of the many Education Fairs, where we were able to talk to representatives from universities all across Malaysia. Perhaps it was by sheer coincidence or dare I say, fate, that my parents and I bumped into Prof Chin Beek Yoke, our present Associate Dean of the School of Health Sciences at IMU. Our talks with Prof Chin really harmonised with my interests. Her knowledge and experience in the field really gave my parents and me confidence in the IMU medical biotechnology programme. Within the next two weeks, after having a chat with the programme’s lecturers on campus, I decided to begin my journey to obtain my degree in medical biotechnology. I am extremely grateful to have been awarded the IMU scholarship, which covered my full tuition fees. This had allowed me to pursue my studies with a peace of mind, knowing that I was not financially burdening my family during my time in IMU. As part of the IMU scholars, I had the chance to meet brilliant minds from different programmes across the university! Everyone had their own experiences and aspirations to share, and it is amazing that we all share a common goal: to use our burning passion and sense of innovation in hopes of contributing to the betterment of healthcare.
During my studies as a medical biotechnology undergraduate, I really liked how the programme was structured in a way that allowed us students to truly explore our interests in the field. We had the chance to explore if we wanted a research-oriented career, or perhaps tap into our entrepreneurial spirit, even the option of being a forensic scientist! Rather than telling us what we SHOULD be, IMU took us through a path of self-discovery and taught us what we CAN be.
The highlight of my IMU journey would have to be my time spent in the Student Ambassadors programme. To me, it was an escape of sorts from the routine of rushing for assignments and hectic studies. In the programme, I had the opportunity to join and organise both meaningful and fun events along with a team of equally enthusiastic people. From helping the university in its marketing activities to being a part of organising committees of pioneering events like TEDxIMU 2018 and Aurora MasterChef, these have all been invaluable experiences for me. This allowed me to pick up useful skills along the way and has taught me the true meaning behind teamwork. It is a definite pleasure of mine to meet such a good bunch of friends, they have never failed to be my support system. I’m grateful to IMU for providing the means for its students to not only pursue academic excellence, but to pick up or enhance their interests in co-curriculars as well. For me, it has been a wonderful experience to practice my craft in photography as part of the IMU Photography Club, and to serve as its president later on. This, along with other leadership roles I’ve committed to in my journey as a Student Ambassador has allowed me to grow to be a better leader. It has been a joy to have worked with many inspiring people here in IMU, and a privilege to have had the chance of learning from them. I have grown and achieved much throughout my journey in IMU, and I would not have been able to do so without the help of the amazing people around me. My first thank you would definitely have to go to my lecturers and mentors. Their guidance and support for me extended past the end of each lecture hour. I was very lucky to be able to freely approach them for anything, from clarification on the appropriate way of holding a pipette to directional guidance career-wise. They have been ever so generous with their knowledge and experience. As for the friends that I have made and will continue to cherish, my thanks for them will be for the good times that we have had, and how we have guided and supported each other in our journey here in IMU. My lecturers, my mentors, and my friends. Without their support and guidance, I honestly would not have been able to tell Lecture Theatre 2 and Lecture Theatre 3 apart (I still don’t)! All jokes aside, I truly am grateful for their support and guidance, which has inspired me to pave my path towards where I am today.
As graduation approached, I felt excited for my plans ahead and the many possibilities that I could explore! But whenever I take a moment to look back at what I will miss, from the wonderful people I won’t get to spend my daily routines with anymore, to the strolls along IMU’s corridors heading towards lecture halls and laboratories, it felt bittersweet for me. I am honoured to be a recipient of the IMU Tun Zahir Merit Award, it has brought my family and me much joy! It serves as a form of encouragement for me to continue the hard work that I’ve been doing, and to strive to achieve greater heights!
My hope is to one day contribute to the growth in the Malaysian biotechnological sector. My immediate plans are to further my postgraduate studies in one of the few other countries that are more biotechnologically advanced and, who knows where my path may lead me. Malaysia is my home, and hopefully, I can help make it a better one. Wish me luck!
If there is one advice that I would share to anyone, I would encourage them to keep being curious, to always ask “Why?”, to have the courage to wonder and explore. It may annoy some people around you (believe me, I did), but do not ever stop. Without curiosity, innovation will cease to exist, and scientific progress will come to a halt. Keep exploring, and perhaps one day your ideas may change the world! Written by Pichien Mongkolthanit. Pichien graduated with a First Class Honours from the Bachelor of Science (Hons) Medical Biotechnology programme on 3 November 2018 and is the recipient of the Tun Zahir Merit Award, an award given to a graduating student who has shown outstanding academic excellence.
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