I have known Ayesa for ~7 years since her start of her PhD with Prof Ooi Eng Eong. She was seated beside me during her PhD years and I have witnessed how she has matured scientifically over these years. Currently, she is a post-doc at ViREMiCs, and is involved in various aspects of virus sequencing and omics data analysis. Despite our differences in viewpoints on multiple topics, we generally have a good consensus on bioinformatics. She is one sincere friend who appreciates the value of bioinformatics and has given me support and the motivation to pursue my career in computational biology. I took the opportunity to interview Ayesa and find out about her PhD experience, and how she managed to transit into her current role in ViREMiCs.
1. What motivated you to do a PhD? Did your PhD fulfill what you intended to do?
Ayesa: My father was the greatest inspiration, as he led by example and had a PhD in social sciences. In addition, I was interested in science, particularly molecular biology when I was studying my undergraduate in Pharmacy. After my research experience as a research assistant in Duke-NUS, I decided that my next step for me to advance my passion in research was to take a PhD. However, when I was doing my PhD, I sometimes doubted whether this was the right path to take, as I thought my PhD was tough and overwhelming. I was glad I overcame all of these. At the end of my PhD, I felt it was a rewarding experience as I have learn a lot, beyond what any textbook can possibly teach.
2. What do you think are the most valuable lessons you learnt from your PhD? Has that helped you to transit into your current role?
Ayesa: Resilience and perseverance! Science is full of failed experiments and uncertainties. You kind of have to pick yourself up from the failures and move on. In addition, my research training has helped me tremendously in adapting to my new job role. Thus, PhD has trained me in both soft and hard skills which has helped in my transition to this current role.
3. Your current role involves a lot of bioinformatics which you did not learn during your PhD. What are the resources and attitudes do you think are most important to learn bioinformatics?
Ayesa: I enjoy working on new things, so learning new skills (including bioinformatics) has not been an issue for me. Besides learning these skills myself, I think the advice given from my PhD mentor, Prof Ooi Eng Eong is particularly useful: "If you want to learn something, always learn from the best person." Indeed, I am grateful that I can learn from experts in various fields (points at me, smiling), who are willing to teach and share with me the skills that I need for my current job.
4. How different is the life of a postdoc compared to student?
Ayesa: Very different! One of the main difference is that you are responsible for your own development and future career. You have to be disciplined and learn the skills required for the required job scope. This is unlike when you are a student where there is a clear objective of what to work on in your research.
5. How do you cope with the immense stress and pressure you faced in the workplace?
Ayesa: People tend to underestimate the importance of having a hobby. For me, walking my dog and painting has been my avenues and outlets for relieving my stress. Also, hanging out with my sincere friends and family support has helped me greatly in coping with the stress I faced at work.
Shared joy is double joy; Shared sorrow is half a sorrow. I am grateful to have met Ayesa whom I can share my happiness and sadness I faced in my scientific career. I wish her all the best in her career and hope to see her succeed!