My Vibrant Ph.D journey with NTU

Graduated with the bachelor’s degree from the Division of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry, NTU, I was offered a chance to embark on a post-graduate study journey in the same division. Little did I know that this decision was the best choice in my life.

This is a short story of how NTU’s 4-year post-graduate programme shapes the future for a young man, in all ways possible, offering the best one could ask for in his adulting stage. I was lost, but I found myself through these 4 years.

Many have the impression that a PhD only makes you nerdier and older, I experienced it otherwise.

Academically, NTU offers a highly dynamic and fast-paced research environment to conduct research with little worries about funding or shortage of equipment. I have the amazing nanotechnology research environment in Assoc. Prof. Ling Xing Yi’s lab – fully equipped with cutting-edge instruments for us to push the frontiers of the field of surface-enhanced Raman scattering research. I was lucky enough to be guided by Prof Ling to publish decent papers, and given opportunities to represent NTU in 4 international conferences, and eventually graduated with the Gold Award for the best PhD Thesis in 2019 (Singapore’s National Institute of Chemistry – Prof Lee Soo Ying’s Young Chemist Award). My work with Prof Ling was also featured by Channel News Asia, and TODAYonline. I also had the chance to qualify for the finals of the 3-Minute-Thesis competition held in NTU, forcing myself to step out of my comfort zone to present my entire 4-year research in 1 slide within 3 minutes. This event grooms my skills of public scientific communications – which I believe to be highly important for any modern-day scientists.

But hold on, people might have read enough research-related news from NTU and this is ‘just-another-story’ of scientists from our university – the best young university and 13th-rank research institute in the world.

What NTU offered me, however, was beyond just academic training.

In 2016, NTU launched the Residential Education Programme (RE@NTU) to introduce unique after-class activities to NTU residents, recruiting post-graduate students as mentors to develop programmes for the halls. This was a blessing for me as I had been (and still am) passionate about arts ( I was a street dancer/graffiti artist way before I pursued an tertiary education). I joined Hall 8 as a Residential Mentor to found the AR+BACK programme (ART + give BACK), in which local artists are invited to give art workshops (photography, videography, spray painting, dance) to hall residents. The residents will subsequently use the art skills they learnt to teach the under-privileged children in beneficiaries – embarking the idea of using art to give back to community. This had long been my life ambition as I was introduced to art to practice and develop a passion in my youth-at-risk days. Art gave me a direction in life, and thus I always wanted to do the same for the unfortunate youths. Thankfully, RE@NTU made it happen.

Fast forward to my 3rd year in RE programme and final year of PhD, we set up the first-ever on-campus spray painting (graffiti) site by renovating the Hall 8 Smoking Point area. I was more than happy to see hall residents learn the arts that they would never have the chance to learn in schools, and see them share the joy when they reach out to the kids at beneficiaries. All of these moments were made true by NTU.

And that is not all. NTU campus life is beyond what you can imagine. NTU’s Cultural Activities Clubs (CAC) offer an amazing range of recreational activities even for nerdy Post-graduates like us to take part in high-level and well-organized dance concerts. As I thought I was never going to dance again once I started my PhD, I was proven wrong. The Joint Dance Concert organized by CAC inspired me to squeeze out a couple of hours of my week to join my friends to put up a bboy (breakdance) item. I also got a chance to participate and win the annual breakdance competition for schooling dancers, in which I represented the NTU Breakdance club (NTU Breakers).

This relived my youth, and kept my passion burning (and my fat burning, too).

After 4 years, I gained more than just a piece of paper.

I was trained to perform world-class research.

I reshaped my career choices, balancing work and hobbies. I am now a scientist-technopreneur, a start-up founder, and also a digital sketch artist (and occasional dancer). I confidently say that NTU offers a perfect blend of environments for anyone to grow in every aspects. NTU is a playground for anyone to find themselves.

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