Two weeks ago, final-year Biomedical Science student, Siti Farah Fadhlullah, presented her project SIP/MP to an auditorium full of industry people and students from all five polytechnics.Her project involved in the development of a microsieve cartridge to isolate circulating tumour cells in the bloodstream of cancer patients. For her research work, Farah received the Polytechnic Student Research Programme Award alongside other students from the five polys.
Siti worked at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) with research scientists to detect cancer cells within an hour via a blood test, a processmuch faster and less painful than a biopsy.
“I’ve always wanted to do research. Since Yr 1 in poly, I’ve always thought that it was cool to be in a lab coat, pipetting small volumes of liquid and working in a real research lab,” said Farah.
“After my SIP/MP experience with IBN, I really understood the world of scientific research. It wasn’t as simple as donning a lab coat and holding a pipette in my hand. The experience was totally different from the practical lessons we had during our curriculum time. In IBN, a lot of autonomy and independence is given to students on attachment. We plan, design and execute our own experiments. We had to find our own protocols and modify them according to our experimental objectives. We were expected to learn the principles and steps of carrying out a particular lab technique or equipment, unlike in school where we are given a readied protocol and all we had to do was to follow instructions and perform the experiments.”
Farah’s advice to juniors who are interested in pursuing a career in research is: “Pay attention during practical lessons and train your pipetting techniques as well as other lab skills as you’ll have to rely heavily on them during your attachment”. According to her, good lab techniques will contribute to the quality of results one produces and this in turn will result in others having confidence and trust in your data/results. “This will definitely have a positive impact on your work standards… you’ll produce a good MP report and leave behind a reputable profile with your host organisation. So next time when you’re seeking employment, your attachment company will welcome you back with open arms!”
Having spent nearly six months in IBN, Farah says she has learnt a great deal about life values. Research isn’t a field for everyone who does science. It takes a lot of mental strength, tolerance, discipline, time, sacrifice and most importantly, one must have the passion for research. Long working hours and difficult experiments are part and parcel of the world of research so she advises that one think very thoroughly and be very sure before deciding on a career in research. As she so aptly sums it up…”If you love what you’re doing, you wouldn’t mind spending the whole day alone with cells in a lab because you strongly believe that in the end, it is great work that you’re doing!”
Farah has already secured a place at NTU (Biological Sciences) and is now waiting for NUS to release their application results before deciding on which university to go to. After her undergraduate studies, she plans to either continue doing research or work in the science-healthcare industry before pursuing her PhD.