14 Apr 2022 Face-to-face Learning in IMU MSc in Molecular Medicine Provides Valuable Lessons for its Alumnus

My name is Ashraf Hakim Dzulkarnain Bin Azman, and I am from Ampang, Selangor. I graduated from Monash University Malaysia with a Bachelor of Science (Medical Bioscience) in November 2013, before joining Pantai Premier Pathology (PPP) as a Medical Lab Scientist in December of the same year. At that time, PPP had just started the molecular laboratory setup and I had the chance to be part of the pioneer team. I always thought about getting a Master’s degree after graduation, however the working and learning experiences that I gained from my workplace fascinated me so much that I decided to postpone the intention.

Fortunately, after five years of serving the company I was granted the opportunity to further my studies in Master of Science in Molecular Medicine programme at International Medical University (IMU), fully sponsored by PPP. Getting the scholarship from the company was truly the “icing on the cake”. Honestly, it felt like a dream come true to be able to pursue my Master’s degree without having to leave my job.

I really appreciate the fact that the University is also offering part-time mode of study for such a course. In addition, the content of the course is related to my current job and that further intrigued me. Besides the immense knowledge, having a Master’s degree especially in this job-related field will definitely give a boost to my career advancement, considering my years of experience and training with PPP.

I managed to attend weekend classes and complete the coursework module before the Covid-19 pandemic began. To me, attending physical classes allows for better interaction, not only between the students and the lecturer, but also between the students as well. Some of the exercises in the coursework require group discussion and presentation, and to me the session will be more effective if the students and lecturers can actually see each other face to face, exchanging genuine thoughts and feedback related to the learning outcomes.

I understand that virtual classes are inevitable during the pandemic for everyone’s safety. But due to the limitations and restrictions that virtual classes exhibit, such as social isolation, it requires high self-motivation and disciplinary skills, and I really hope physical classes can be fully conducted soon. Face-to-face classes (also called conventional classes) help build up my confidence so that it is easier to share my thoughts in front of people.

 My Research Project
One of the advantage of the programme is that students can perform their research activities at the convenience of their workplace. As a working adult, I find this very convenient and thoughtful. It is very challenging for a working adult to travel, which can be very time-consuming and costly. Being able to conduct the research project modules at work is like killing two birds with one stone; we get to complete our day-to-day job while keeping track the progression of the project. Besides that, I was also able to translate the knowledge acquired from the research project module to practical at my workplace, which is very interesting and new for me.

I will never forget the overwhelming experience when I was about to start my research project module. I was hospitalized for one month due to dengue fever, and had my second bundle of joy on the following month. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic started in early 2020. My laboratory was suddenly flooded with Covid-19 specimens. My project was left unattended for so many months that I had to apply for extensions due to work commitment. I am lucky enough to have a very understanding supervisor and Programme Director in IMU that always reach out to me and support me during the tough times.

Despite the busyness of having to juggle between family, work and study, I managed to pull through by sorting my priorities. I cannot afford to give any excuses. I made sure proper communication are established between me and my family, my colleagues, and my IMU lecturers so that I can complete my tasks and responsibilities properly and timely. Mutual understanding between the people around us are important, and I am forever grateful for their cooperation and tolerance in considering my situation.

Pursuing the degree not only taught me more about molecular science, but also about valuable life lessons in managing my responsibilities as the head of my family, a lead scientist at my workplace, and a Master student at IMU. One of the most notable lesson that I will always remember is, we will never find time for anything. If we want time, we must make it.

I would like to thank all the people that made this journey possible. Without them, this dream may not be a reality today.

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