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Ooi Ming Yi: My Enriching Experience Studying IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry Programme

12 Sep 2022

Ooi Ming Yi started her journey in IMU when she joined the University to study its Foundation in Science (FiS).  She then continued her studies in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the same University. We managed to catch up with Ming Yi for an interview on her experience studying at IMU.


Why did you choose to study Pharmaceutical Chemistry?


Since young, my ambition has always been to work in the healthcare industry. To achieve this and with determination and grit, I scored straight A+s in my 2016 SPM results.


Originating from a small fishing village of Kuala Perlis, achieving such results was deemed to be a matter of pride for the community. Most importantly of all, my parents felt proud, especially my mom. One day after I have received my results, she came home to relate to me what her friend had said “With such good result, your daughter should pursue a medical degree, otherwise it would be a waste of her results.”


Without much exposure to tertiary education, I was actually doubting my decision of wanting to do medicine as my inner voice was telling me that medicine is not for me. However, with high ego and without much time to really think about my direction, I accepted JPA’s education loan to study FiS at IMU.


I vividly remember, during one of the IMU FiS classes, Ms Sharon Chan (one of our lecturers) telling the class that FIS is actually a self-exploring journey, as she related some of our seniors who changed their mind on the undergraduate degree that they originally wanted to pursue and pursued their degree of interest after attending FIS. That sharing gave me an insight – I still had the opportunity to identify what I want to study for my undergraduate degree.


With the privilege as an IMU FIS student, I utilised the eLearning portal to browse the materials available on all the undergraduate programmes at IMU, and found the Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme to be appealing to me, as I don’t have to learn all the medicines and their pharmacology, hard facts which seem tasteless to me. Instead, this programme consists of many Chemistry modules, which are my strengths, in addition to Pharmaceutics, which are all about making drugs – this seems interesting to me. Therefore, Pharmaceutical Chemistry became my choice for my undergraduate studies.


How do you think IMU has helped in providing a basis for your career?


If I were to say how IMU has helped in providing a basis in my career, I would say that the Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme has really covered all the necessities for one to start a career in the pharmaceutical research and development industry.


While I was doing internship at the Formulation Department in Novugen Pharma (Malaysia) as part of the Pharmaceutical Chemistry degree, I was able to recognise all the drug making machines and analytical instruments, by relating all these to what I had learned in the programme.


Of course, picking up the professional skills and knowledge is one part of my undergraduate life. At the same time, I had also developed my character throughout my degree life. One of the ways is by learning to cope with the dullness and boredom of online learning which was implemented due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its continuous lockdowns.


While I was studying at IMU, I was involved in some of the clubs and societies, namely the Peer Support Club and Buddhist Society. My involvement in these two clubs has helped me to pick up active listening skills and shaped my personality. Although students are not obligated to join extracurricular activities, however, it was these activities that keep me occupied and provide opportunities for me to grow and be ready to face the society.


Please share with us some of your memorable moments at IMU


It feels nostalgic whenever I visit IMU and see many new faces, at the various locations where I spent my time learning and bonding with friends. The frivolous jokes we had cracked, nice friends who approached me and befriended me and the common issues we had shared all became my sweetest memories in University.


The dedicated lecturers who were always there to clear my doubts in their teachings were also part of the memories which I am super grateful for. It is a constant regret that we missed out on all the field visits to industries and research organisations owing to pandemic.


In addition, extracurricular activities were the main elements that added flavours to my university life and enriched my experience. I remembered learning mindfulness and meditation with some seniors from the medical programme in the classroom and the moments we organised events and activities together, for the sake of our interest, curiosity, gratitude and compassion. Moreover, we had the opportunity to make friends from other universities and organisations by being involved in these extracurricular activities.


Besides, after my Global Volunteer journey by Anyone Interested Experiencing Something Extra Cool (AIESEC) right before Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia, I saw many of the IMU students involving themselves in this community outreach work too, which was then transformed tentatively to online mode. I felt that the achievement I had unlocked during my involvement in this was bringing more resources and opportunities to the community.


Any challenges during internship and how you have overcome it?


Undeniably, human interaction is always the most challenging thing in this world.

During my internship in Novugen Pharma, I expected to encounter many people issues and I was not disappointed. Sometimes I did my tasks with some discrepancies due to improper conveyance of message and my nature. Learning from these mistakes, I would clarify with my supervisor or other scientists and technicians if I have any doubts before I executed any task. They were very willing to help me and even involved me in their community.

I learned to recognise everyone’s behaviour and personality and work together with them to make the working environment merrier.


There were also trying times when I was first exposed to the drug making machines, made some mistakes due to ignorance and had been shown temper by the lab technician. It was a little of a hard time for me but I used this experience as a stepping stone to do better and improve myself, with the assistance of Mr Kim, a very friendly and helpful formulation scientist who was always generous in sharing his industry knowledge.


What would be the most inspirational moment in your study that motivates you?


I think the most inspirational moment for me would be when I heard the few words said by Dr Keng Pei Sin (one of our lecturers) before we went for our internships – ‘‘Attitude is Professionalism’’. These three words served as my axis when facing problems during the internship.

Besides that, during research semester, I will never forget how patient Dr Louis Liew was with our carelessness, patiently guiding us through the project and answering all our queries and questions, besides caring about the progress of our presentation and giving us words of encouragement. These truly gave us the confidence and memories to treasure in future.  I would also not forget the lives I have touched, each and every one of them teaching me some lessons, whether good or bad, which made me who I am today.

Last but not least, I was involved in the International Postgraduate Conference of Pharmaceutical Sciences 2022 a.k.a. iPoPs, to present our research findings. It was an eye-opening experience to see and learn from researchers from other countries who are involved in cancer research besides brushing up our own confidence in presenting our findings.


What words of wisdom / advice would you give to aspiring students taking on this path??


 The education environment in our country had been prioritising academic achievement, resulting in some students studying really hard although they do not know what they want. However, emotional intelligence is an element that most people lack and I was one of them. Therefore, when I meet juniors facing the same problem, I would tell them ‘‘Be a Person First, Before Talking About Worldly Success’’, ‘‘Knowing Yourself, Knowing What You Want’’.


It is really not a favourable experience walking though a path which is determined by your society, therefore before you choose a suitable degree, explore the courses more and identify your strength, because your confidence is built up by making those small achievements.


My piece of advice for those wanting to explore the world of pharmaceutical chemistry/industry will be, always seek help from seniors, peers and lecturers when you do not understand any topic, always contemplate, be curious and active in class.  The pharmaceutical industry is an impactful industry worth thriving, although sometimes it can be very challenging.


What are your future plans?


My short-term goal is to land a job in the pharmaceutical research and development industry. My field of interest is in dosage forms formulation and analytical.


I am also concerned about the issues of global warming addressed by the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), as global warming is related to whether the whole world would still survive a global disaster by 2060, as projected by the United Nation. I am exploring more on what I can do using my chemistry knowledge to contribute to mediating the global issue.


We would like to thank Ming Yi for taking the time out of her busy schedule for this interview.

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