A pilgrim towards phD – Reflection and Recap of the journey so far

Often we thought our efforts are insignificant, yet each small milestone marks the courage that we persevered despite of all hardships and challenges.

It’s the end of the year again, which I thought there is no better time for a self-reflection on my Master of Philosophy (MPhil) research candidature so far. Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is a postgraduate study pathway offered in several universities in Australia and the UK up to two years, with the option to upgrade to a PhD at the 18th month mark.  January 2019 marks that time when I have to decide to graduate as an MPhil or continue my quest as a pilgrim towards phD. And so I thought, “A reflection blog post might help.”

My mid-2017/2018 milestones:

✅ Finally working in a lab!

✅ Completed the 6th month and 12th month major review of my MPhil candidature

✅ Presented three academic posters and a talk at three national conferences

✅ Bucket list ticked-off: Attended Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of Queensland

✅ Attended my first interstate conference in Sydney (which i have documented my whole experience in the previous blog post )

✅ Won two poster prizes and one travel Awards

✅ Completed one project analysis (1️⃣ out of 3️⃣ aims cleared)

✅ Written up my first paper and it is now out as preprint on bioRxiv

✅ Had my first manuscript rejection from Reviewers

(Ouch! but that means I am part of the academia now right?)

✅ Two semesters as third year genetics plant practical demonstrator

✅ Started getting involved in science communication by setting up my blog and a science twitter account

Why Genetics Research?

It has always been my dream to be part of the scientific community, to finally be able to actually dive into the world of scientific research. Ever since the first time I was introduced to Genetics back in my high school biology lesson, I have always found the code of life embedded within the double helix structure fascinating. That passion and curiosity has led me to embark on a dream-chasing journey to pursue my research dream, which then led me to my undergraduate degree in Adelaide. The great mentors whom I have met during my undergraduate days further cultivated my immense interest towards genetics and biochemistry. During my three-year undergraduate, I have also volunteered in a lab and did a few research placements across the summer holidays. These experiences enhanced my confidence to pursue postgraduate studies immediately after undergraduate. I have chosen MPhil over honours as I am sure about committing to scientific research for a longer period.

Struggles and Challenges

The journey has not always been smooth sailing. Throughout this period, I have experienced extreme stress, battled imposter syndrome, had multiple failures of getting my experiment started, and had difficulties trying to understand computational analysis and advance coding (as I sort of “hack-learned” my bioinformatics apart from my previous placement at the UOFA bioinformatics hub). Other challenges include being away from home, juggling family commitments while I am so far away, maintaining a work-life balance while trying to perform under stress and tight due-dates (sometimes).

I have also learnt that there is more to research than just the science itself. I have learnt more about the competition in grant funding applications and the importance of preprints in disseminating scientific findings while going through the lengthy peer review process. Besides, I have also experienced my first rejections, but with the guidance of my supervisor, I have learnt to take this experience positively as a stepping stone to improve and learn.  Participating in the writing process itself has made me appreciate each research article that I have been reading as humongous efforts are involved to generate a good scientific manuscript.

There will be more challenges to come in my pilgrim towards phD for sure. However, I believe these hardships and challenges will foster learning , increase my endurance, and boost my self-confidence by rising from failures and conquering my doubts.

What’s next? I’ll apply for a phD upgrade in late January/early February, which will bring me one step closer to where I wanted to be.

reflection

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