STEM Series Part 3: An Interview with our Graduate Students

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Most, if not all, research scientists begin their career after spending an average of five years in graduate school completing their PhD, which opens the doors to a career as a post-doctoral researcher. When a PhD requires so much time and effort, why do people chose to do it? What happens after a PhD?

[From Student to Scientist]

In Part III of the STEM Series, we hear from two of our very own freshly-minted research scientists, who have recently completed their PhD in Cancer Biology, to find out their thoughts on a graduate degree, their struggles and career aspirations.

Desmond and Lavina recently graduated from the CSI Graduate Program in Cancer Biology, and are now pursuing their research careers as Research Fellows. Desmond, who recently moved to the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, completed his Diploma in Biotechnology and Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences in Singapore. Lavina completed her Bachelor’s Degree at an Australian University and now works as a Research Fellow in CSI Singapore after the completion of the PhD.

[Challenges for a scientist]

As a child, neither Desmond nor Lavina had aspirations to be a scientist. However, exposure to experiences related to science, such as opportunities to carry out independent research work, sparked their interest in a career in science. For Desmond, growing up in a single-parent family and having to take on a multiple part-time jobs to supplement the family income made the title of ‘scientist’ a daunting aspiration in his youth.

From PhD Student to Research Scientist, the challenges of working in research faces everyone. There are frustrations when experiments do not yield fruitful results, and also greater challenges such as the availability of funding and the need to publish.

[The best parts of it all]

Even so, Desmond and Lavina have proven their mettle by not only completing their PhDs, but also being outstanding students. Desmond has won multiple awards for his research work and Lavina served as the President of the Graduate Student’s Society in CSI Singapore.

Despite the challenges, they find a huge sense of achievement when they are able to “accumulate well-executed experiments that allow me to make an irrefutable conclusion”. And often, “disappointments are forgotten when the hypothesis is met with a positive result” and the satisfaction from these small eureka moments keep them persevering in their work.

[Want to be a researcher?]

For aspiring scientists, both encourage younger students to take on internships to have a taste of a scientific career in research. However, one should always let their passions lead their interest, and in that way “one bad experience will not shut the door to a scientific career”.

Echoed Lavina, “There are many different types of scientific careers and the different science courses can be confusing. Hence, speaking to people who are in different types of scientific careers can also be helpful to explore the options of where a science education can lead.”

Curious about graduate studies?
Email us or visit our graduate studies page here.