PhD: An unexpected journey

It is finally time to brush away the cobwebs and to start anew. 🙂

Hello! If you have been here previously, apologies for the stagnation and abandonment. Much has happened which lead to several life-changing moments. In mid-2015, I had enough of job applications that were leading nowhere, so I thought I could try applying for a PhD position. If I get it, great! If not, I would have just chalked it up to another episode of life’s disappointments and continued with the job hunt. I also desperately needed to do something because I could feel my skills growing rusty from lack of use. Looking through the references I cited in my MSc thesis, I noted down the people and research I liked a lot and sent a few emails off.

The days that followed were a mixture of elation and depression. You know how professional rejections can be?

“Thank you for the email. Your CV looks good and you seem to be a potentially good addition to my lab…but,”

I also got passed around quite a bit by people who thought I was worthy to be a PhD student but lacked the funds to support one. However, there was one with positive replies that progressed quite a bit into project negotiations. It was decided that I would try to apply for a scholarship and if I got it, I would be welcome into the group. That supervisor also went one step further and helped flesh out the preliminary proposal that was needed for scholarship applications – something that I will forever be grateful for, and also a good sign that they were serious about wanting me to come over.

Fast forward three months later, I got an offer by the university, but no news about funds.

Two weeks later, I was informed that I am being awarded with the James Cook University’s Postgraduate Research Scholarship (JCUPRS) which covers tuition and a monthly stipend – basically a full ride! The most amazing thing? I did not really apply for that one. Yeap, I applied for a different scholarship (which I eventually did not get) but in my application, there were several other options for funding and I happened to check the JCUPRS option. I did not, however, send the appropriate documentation for that particular scholarship so to this day, I wonder how that application went through. Maybe they just shared the documentation from the other scholarship since it is within the same institution? I remember waking up to the offer in my email and wondering if it was a scam, hahaha.

Getting the JCUPRS was a surprise to my group of supervisors (which I eventually acquired) as they did not know about it. One of the conditions for accepting the scholarship was to start within the year (2015). It was a mad rush of trying to get my things in order, apply for visa, buying plane tickets, saying goodbyes, etc.. It was also a terrible time to travel as Malaysia was going through a recession and our currency was on a rapid downward spiral. It was at this point that I took a step back from it all and thought, wow, when God wants you to go, the stars align, and the universe gets to work making everything happen.

I am now in Australia, pursuing a PhD in Marine Science at James Cook University (JCU) and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). I will continue where I left off during my MSc studies and work with coral-associated bacteria and the climatically-relevant gas, dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP). I hope I will be updating this blog more often with research shenanigans and the international student experience.