When I was a child, people would ask, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "Scientist!" I would answer without a moment's hesitation. The world is a mystery to me: Why does the sun rise and set? Where does the rain come from? My childhood dream was to become a scientist and discover the beauty and truth in nature.
During the final year of my undergraduate study at School of Computing, NUS,
I was really facing the question, “What do you want to be?” However, this time I felt a hesitation to answer, because other exciting career paths also attracted me. To make a choice I will never regret, I began to apply for jobs in a variety of industries of interest. After several interviews and meeting a lot of people from different areas, I was able to hear the voice deep inside me and was gradually clear about my life-purpose, vision and mission. I realized that a research career was still the best choice for me, since it could satisfy my curiosity, whilst being free to choose what to work on, and hopefully make the world better.
Then I decided to join NGS and start pursuing a PhD.
My research area centers on computational systems biology that aims to understand how the cell works at the system-level. This area integrates many different disciplines such as biology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering. As a university-level graduate school for inter-disciplinary research, NGS is an ideal place for me:
First of all, to acquire the essential knowledge for my research, I have to take modules from different departments (such as Computer Science, Biological Sciences, Pharmacy, etc.). This will not be allowed for students of most graduate schools. However, a NGS student will have the opportunity to choose modules from any departments in NUS and A*STAR. As a computer scientist, I even had the chance to perform numerous wet-lab biological experiments for a course.
Secondly, as an integral part of my research, I need to collaborate with biologists. NGS brings together students from various areas. Hence it can provide us a fantastic platform to initiate inter-disciplinary collaborations. A good example is a successful joint effort with Prof Ding Jeak Ling’s group. Our collaboration was started by Jane (Prof Ding’s student) and me – two NGS students. Over meals, we casually discussed our research projects and out came an interesting idea of a collaborative project we could do. After getting support from our supervisors, the collaboration was officially launched. Two years later, this work led to important discoveries and our results have been published on a high-impact journal.
If you are unsure about which career path to choose, look into your own heart and find out who you are. "Any life, no matter how long and complex it may be, is made up of a single moment--the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is." -- Jorge Luis Borges