Great Employer, Enlightening Experience. What’s more to ask for?

As an undergraduate, completing our last industrial training can be really nerve-racking as we might have doubts about our choices, and also, we have to say goodbye to our carefree days after entering the working world. However, this will not be the case if you were to set foot upon a company that provides a challenging but rewarding internship experience along with supportive and friendly colleagues, and sure enough, I have hit the jackpot!

What intrigued me the most was how great of a scientist my employer was. During an interview with my employer, “Can you be a good scientist and also believe in God?” “Do you believe that evolution ever happened?” were thrown at me. Truth be told, I was very much taken aback by his questions as I have never encountered these questions ever before in an interview and I have never thought of the first question ever in my life. My employer has definitely helped me in expanding my horizon and he was a good example of someone who holds his religion so dearly by his heart and also, a strong believer in science.

Other than that, this company which I had worked in is a start-up algal biotechnology company which is in collaboration with other local private universities and also, international universities, such as in Germany. This company had a great and world-changing mission that is to mitigate the viral shrimp outbreak using antiviral proteins and recombinant technology. On my first day, the tasks that were assigned to me were not very challenging. For an instance, up-scaling the algal cultures in the photobioreactors in a small laboratory, viewing of algal cells through an inverted microscope, and carrying our water quality test analysis on the rearing water of the shrimp tanks. The most challenging task that was ever assigned to me was the preparation of Standard Operating Procedures for our upcoming Biosafety Level 1 laboratory to be reviewed by the board of auditors from Jabatan Biokeselamatan, in short, JBK.

The preparation of the official documents was hellish for me and my colleagues, but it had greatly improved my scientific writing skills after receiving a few good lectures from my employer. This was a whole new experience for me as I was not taught how to prepare actual SOPs for a scientific laboratory, especially when it is for the biosafety level 1 laboratory as the company will be handling a genetically modified organism (GMO) in the laboratory and thus, SOPs are mandatory before the company is given the authorization from the authorities to start the project. GMOs are not taken or seen very lightly by the authorities as potential exposure of GMOs to the environment will pose potential harm to the environment and humans and therefore, proper handling of GMOs should be practiced in accordance with the SOPs prepared.

My employer was very patient with us during the preparation as he had guided me well on the writing by giving very well elaborated advice and guidance for at least around 3 months. In the last month of my internship, my employer had relocated me and two of my other colleagues to Sunway University – in collaboration with the upcoming project –  for helping out in the recombinant work. I would say that I was very grateful for the opportunity that was given to me to carry out molecular work as it has always been my passion. My experience at Sunway University was once again, eye-opening and challenging although it was very brief.

Operation of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine with algal samples.

I have to be honest about my overall industrial training experience, that is, these four months were nonetheless the best compared to the first industrial training. Of course, every industrial training offers different experiences and skills but this particular one did not only offer experiences but an emotional attachment as we are all almost like a family. This company had given me a myriad of experiences that had sharpened my skills and made me into a better and more knowledgeable biotechnologist with so much patience by constantly giving me professional guidance and advice. Throughout my four months in this company, my colleagues and I had established such a strong bond that it was hard to bid farewell to one another whenever someone leaves upon their completion of the internship.

And if there is only a word to describe my overall industrial training in this company, SERENDIPITY it is.