24 Jan 2019 IMU Pharmaceutical Chemistry Alumnus Shares Memorable Moments at University
I’ve always viewed life similar to that of spinning a Wheel of Fortune. The unexpected situations, the twists of fates, the never-ending uncertainties, all of which are things that we cannot control, however, we need to eventually face, be it good or bad.
To be honest, Pharmaceutical Chemistry was not my first choice. Till this very day, I still have flashbacks back to when I was told I could no longer pursue Dentistry due to unforeseen circumstances in 2015. Despite the devastation from it all, I was given three choices, if I chose to continue my journey in IMU. If I could put it in better words, this was me spinning the Wheel of Fortune for my future. After much contemplation and discussion with the respective Programme Directors, while factoring in all my interests, I decided on Pharmaceutical Chemistry. I was totally grateful to all the staff in the Admissions Department, especially Lily Wong, whose patience, advice and support played a significant role in the process of me getting into a new course altogether. I have to say, I was still in a rather difficult situation, as it was something that I had no plans of whatsoever, prior to this.
Without any expectations, I began my three-year journey in IMU. In the beginning, I still found myself adapting rather slowly into this course, which was understandable. I studied without anything set in mind and that got me worried for myself and my future, specifically my career path. Then, I found my interest in the Research and Development field growing tremendously when I joined several workshops and events organised by the School of Pharmacy. The lecturers of the Pharmaceutical Chemistry Department really caught my attention through their dedication in showing us different doors for our future into the pharmaceutical world. There were never-ending pathways and we were told never to stop exploring our options. For me, they were just like my peers, people who I could talk to and discuss as though we were friends.
Throughout my learning journey, I truly enjoyed our field visits. We would go on at least two field visits a semester to companies of various fields in the chemical industry, like, Malaysia Nuclear Agency, Wangsa Maju Water Treatment Plant, Xepa-Soul Pattinson Sdn Bhd., Malaysia Palm Oil Board (MPOB), Heineken Malaysia Bhd., and etcetera. I was rather surprised when I was able to understand and apply the knowledge I obtained during classes into these field visits even though their career backgrounds differ from one and another.
The thing I appreciated the most during my time at IMU would probably be the availability of numerous platforms for us to acquire the necessary soft skills which goes in line with their belief in independent learning. Prior to this, I was usually the one in the back who holds back my opinions even when I had to speak up. However, now, I have gained confidence in stepping up and also take initiatives in voicing out my opinions when I have to. This was possibly due to the curriculum in IMU which works in a way that incorporates group assignments, workshops and problem-based learning (PBL) into their learning system and enables students to actively involve themselves in their learning process. I took these opportunities seriously to practice on my communication and leadership skills as I believed these skills would be beneficial in the future.
To prove that I truly gained confidence throughout my time at IMU, it would have been the time that I took that step into participating in IMU Cup and also getting involved in IMU Student Ambassadors. I was never really one to focus only in studies as I would get stressed up if I did. So, I picked up a few sports like cheerleading, Frisbee and running. The time spent in these sports were rather enjoyable and memorable. The people I met, the sense of camaraderie we had while training and competing, the sense of victory as a fruit of our hard work, I must say, it was rather fulfilling for me.
Student Ambassadors Programme was another effort of mine in improving and getting myself out of my little bubble. The experience in this programme taught me a great deal and showed me people who would go out of their way to help others in times of need. We were able to plan events and execute them accordingly. Even though there were several bumps in the road, we were able to accomplish it successfully as it was a combined effort than an individual one, which made it more meaningful.
I was blessed to have been given the opportunity to undergo my industrial training at Oncogen Pharma (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, a company which ventured into the areas of Oncology, for about four months. I was assigned to the Formulation Analytical R&D Department where most of the analytical methods for the initial formulated products were developed. It was rather satisfying that most of the modules covered by the Pharmaceutical Chemistry programme throughout my six semesters could be used and applied here especially the Pharmaceutical Analysis module. Even though I had the knowledge prior to the course, it helped me understand better on how a drug is being properly formulated, tested, analysed, and filed before scaling up and being sent out to the market.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine of being offered a formal position in this relatively new and upcoming company because I was under the impression they would have preferred someone of more experience and credibility. Nevertheless, I was glad that my performance was up to my supervisor’s expectations and they offered me a position right after the completion of my internship period.
Currently, I am based in the Advanced Analytical Technology Laboratory focusing on solid state/polymorph screening. My main role is to analyse and characterise different polymorphisms of active pharmaceutical ingredients using a few techniques, such as, powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD), differential scanning calorimetry, thermogravimetric analysis, particle size distribution analysis, dynamic vapour sorption, infrared spectroscopy, solubility and others. Solid state/polymorph screening is still relatively new within Malaysia’s pharmaceutical fields, as analytical techniques require a rather more advanced and costly set of instruments for characterisation especially PXRD. I am absolutely grateful to have this opportunity to explore further in using all these advanced instruments and hope to master the knowledge in solid state/polymorph screening for the future of the pharmaceutical industry.
Truthfully, I still cannot believe that my three years just passed by in a blink of an eye and I have graduated from IMU. The most memorable yet inspirational moment would have to be being awarded with the Tun Zahir Merit Award as it was not just a recognition of my hard work, instead it was also a strong motivation for me to work harder in the future. It was also something that I will reminisce to on how far I have come.
I was genuinely shocked and excited when I was nominated to be one of the recipients of IKM Chemistry Medal Award from Malaysia Institute of Chemistry by my lecturers. All of these awards would not have been possible without the guidance from my dedicated lecturers. I would like to convey my gratitude to my parents, course mates, and my friends who have walked through this long and hard journey with me.
I would have to say studying Pharmaceutical Chemistry in IMU was never a regret for me. It opened my eyes to the vast world of never-ending possibilities. My choice did diverge my path slightly away from being involved with healthcare professionals yet it showed me how the health sciences and healthcare professionals are not different after all instead they all play an important role in impacting this ever-changing and advancing world.
I think we can all agree that adulting can be a fear when we step into the real world after graduating. However, it is something we have to and must face eventually. We cannot always have that shield of protection and sense of comfort. We should always progress in advancing ourselves for the better and also take every step as a learning opportunity. Hence, I have made a motto for myself: “Push through the limits and challenge always.”
Basically what I want to really say is do not be afraid of change and always take the initiative to try something new. It might surprise you. It does take time to truly discover yourself completely. I am still finding myself to this very day. However, I am enjoying finding every flaw, every strength and every quirk that makes me who I am today. I have mentioned this before, life is like a Wheel of Fortune. It what you make out of it at the end of the day. Have faith and persevere until you get what you truly desire.
Written by IMU Alumnus and JPA Scholar from Sarawak, Eddy Yii Chung Ann