Students studying the Bachelor of Pharmacy at the International Medical University (IMU) will have an entire Semester 7 devoted to research. These students can opt to go overseas to do this research project. One of these students is Hew Hui Mum (Shereen) who took this opportunity to conduct her research at University of Strathclyde in UK. Here, she relates her experience at the University. “It has been an amazing learning experience having my Semester 7 research conducted in University of Strathclyde. I was hesitating in taking up this research project initially because research is definitely something new to an undergraduate student, it will be conducted in a place that is thousand miles away from Malaysia which I had never been, and most importantly I will be supervised by a lecturer that I have never met. However, I was excited to discover another part of the world. It always requires courage to get out of the comfort zone and now looking back, I certainly have no regrets in taking up this project. From having to find accommodation on my own, buying air tickets and preparing the necessary documents till my research is completed, every step that I took have left impeccable memory in my life.
My research topic is related to pathophysiology of cardiovascular diseases and the protective effects of selected antioxidants against the diseases. It was an honour to have been able to work under the guidance of Dr Susan Currie who is an expert in cardiovascular research, and her PhD students, Claire MC and Hanif M. I am truly thrilled to do my research at the wonderful research facilities that they have in Strathclyde Institute of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy and of course the passions that all the researchers have.
Not only were the atmosphere and working environment different, the working attitude of the researchers at University of Strathclyde was equally impressive. They have a relaxed lifestyle with a high quality of life yet they are very efficient in getting their work done. They uphold the principal of ‘’work hard, play hard’’ and they do not overwork themselves. Also, they emphasise on learning experience and knowledge rather than blindly pursuing good grades. In order to learn, students need to be pro-active. I was lucky and privileged to be given the opportunity to participate in a few of their cell-signalling meetings, a weekly casual meeting for all the researchers including the PhD students as well as the supervisors whereby someone would be presenting a paper or reporting their research progress. At one of these meetings, my research partner and I had the opportunity to present on our research project background and progress. It was nerve-wracking to present in front of so many great minds but it was another wholesome experience.
In science (specifically in a lab-based research), anything can happen and many times unforeseen circumstances could take place. The journey could be very frustrating and demotivating because things do not work as you wish. Good stress management, organisational skills and flexibility are all needed in overcoming all these obstacles. My research did not go as smoothly as it was expected to be but thankfully all the researchers and lab technicians that I worked with were very encouraging and supportive. From them, I learnt true optimism and persistency, the spirit of science.
Aside from research, I am thankful that I was there at the right time in Glasgow. Upon my arrival, it was Commonwealth Games and the city was so happening; on 18 September, Scotland referendum took place and I was there to witness this historical moment. My research partner and I did not plan to travel out of UK during our stay because we had no idea how our research work was going to be. It took me by surprise when Dr Susan actually encouraged us to travel around as much as we can during our stay. She wanted us to maximise our time while we were there but of course we need to ensure our work is completed before we set off. We only took a few weeks to plan for our mini-Europe adventures and we were off to Northern Ireland, Ireland, C’zech Republic and Hungary. Travelling is always amazing as it is not just a journey to discover a new place, but also a self-discovery journey. On our way to Budapest, Hungary we met a few Americans who were about our age and a family from India. The parents were so impressed with our courage of travelling on our own to a country that is not an English-speaking country.
Although it was only three months, the incidents and experiences I gained made it feels like as if it was one-year long. I am thankful to have this opportunity that IMU has provided to broaden my horizon as a student, and also the support my family and friends have given. That was by far the most incredible experience I have.”