Imagine your immune system as your defence system with soldiers called white blood cells. Like soldiers, the white blood cells are always on alert to protect us from diseases.
Researchers want to learn everything about them, and the best teachers are us, both healthy individuals and patients who generously contribute their samples to research.
June understands that these samples contain valuable information that may be key to better understand diseases, and perhaps one day lead to the development of cures or treatments.
Hence, she advocates diligence with methodical and meticulous hands, coupled with a keen eye for details.
Read on to take a closer glance at June’s thoughts, and find out what makes her tick.
1. Tell me about yourself
I’ve been in the research industry for six years and was involved in Immunology research. During that time, I learned and mastered various laboratory techniques, using my skills and experience to work on projects, contribute to publications in addition to mentoring students.
My ability in attention to detail and being thorough in my work helped me to perform well in my job. I prided myself on being diligent and committed to do something and to get it done well.
Two years ago, I decided to further my studies and made the courage to switch to the healthcare industry.
It wasn’t a sudden decision. I have thought about it for a while and decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology.
Before that, I took on some short courses, went on symposiums and sat in workshops and observations.
It seemed like a career that I wanted to get into, so I applied and went for the interview and was accepted.
In the beginning, I had it all planned out. I was going to finish the course, practice for three to five years and eventually go into teaching or perhaps into research.
Research has always been something that I wanted to do, and it has always been at the back of my mind as being part of my long term goal. So, even when I decided to enter the healthcare industry, research was something I would want to pursue eventually.
However, after taking the course and going through the placements and the academic part, I realised it was not what I envisioned it to be.
I suppose you can say it was a mismatch of expectation.
So, I made the difficult decision to leave the course. But having said that I also learned a lot during the course. It was just not aligned with my long-term goals in my career.
When I left the course, I had to reevaluate my goals.
So what now? What do I do now? What do I want to do now?
Thinking about it, I realised my interest remains in science. I’m still interested in doing research and being part of a community where we work our parts to contribute to advances in technology and medicine and contribute to society.
2. What made you venture into biomedical science research?
I thought I could make a difference in society through research, medical and technological advances to serve our community by improving knowledge, finding out what’s going on in our society, our health and what medicine can do for us and how we could make medicine work better for us.
3. What are you currently looking out for?
I still have the desire to be in the science industry, be it research, pharmaceutical or even healthcare.
But I’m keeping my options open, like being in a research lab that looks into a topic that I find interesting, or being an application or technical support for products used in research or experiments or an administrative role that supports research.
4. What is your greatest professional achievement?
My biggest moment is when my name first appeared on the author list in a scientific journal publication.
And each time the recognition recurs, it reinforced the fact that I have contributed to the combined work that my colleague and I put in.
I’m driven by results, to complete something, to drive towards an endpoint, to get a product out. The published work makes me feel so proud.
5. What is the most significant challenge you overcame at work?
We had this product that we frequently use in the lab wherein the problem is that we tend to use it faster than it takes for the shipment of the product to come in.
So the supply cannot meet the demand.
When that happens, we have to scramble to borrow from other labs who use this product.
Because it is quite a particular product, not all lab will carry it. They may also have their supply and demand issue to deal with.
I understand that people in the heat of their work, they get busy and they just take what is needed then just go without telling anyone.
So, I decided to use a white board, I wrote down an inventory list and stuck it on the fridge.
I asked my colleagues to cross out the number and reflect the correct number on the board.
Every time they take one, they minus one product out. Regular weekly checks also ensured that we had sufficient products, we managed to reduce the problem to a rare occasion.
Sometimes it still happens, but it became less frequent.
So, it makes for less anxiety, and when things run low, I still have time to purchase the new product, and it comes just on time or in the nick of time sometimes.
Another significant challenge was when my boss asked me to take a look at a students’ work and to rectify his workflow or simply to see what was happening with his project.
He was having problems with this particular experiment, and he uses a technique that I have a mastery of.
So he worked through his workflow with me, and I realised he has been skipping steps instead of keeping them separate which is distinct for a good reason.
Because he heard from another colleague that “it’s ok, it can be done, you can add up all these things together, and you can save so much time”.
And he took it for the fact that it can be used for all circumstances.
So when I told him you have to keep those steps separate though, it significantly increases the amount of time he needs to put in.
Initially, he was unwilling to do it that way and refuse to budge.
Much as I try not to use the assertive route, I had to with him because what he’s doing is not right.
He is jeopardising his experiment and is costing him more time, and this kind of ingredients and products cost money.
If he keeps doing it his way and not getting the results he wants, he’ll just continue wasting his time and valuable resources.
So I had to tell him that to just do it my way this time and we can then make a comparison between the two methods and review which is better.
We went through the whole process, and apparently, my approach shows better results.
This whole episode taught me to be firm in your beliefs so you can do what is right for the department and organisation.
6. What is one philosophy you bring to work?
I believe we should do our best and be the best version of ourselves.
There’s no point in comparing yourself to other people because people are going to do it anyway just that you wouldn’t know about it.
So there’s no point that you add that kind of stress to yourself.
It’s tough to do your work if you’re always worried that someone else is doing a better job than you.
And it makes you do a worse job than you would have done.
So, just do your best.
7. Who influenced you the most in your career?
This question is not as straightforward as I thought it would be because there’s a lot of people in my life who influenced the way I do things; the way I think.
There are my parents who support me and my choices, and there are people who I met along the way like my teachers, my supervisors that I encountered during poly, university and during my internships, including at work — my supervisor, colleagues, and friends that I met along the way.
So you do learn things from people that we meet.
So I say I have a lot of influences around and I’ll say the best will shape the way you think and the way you act.