A New Step Forward: Industrial Chemistry
From Singapore to United States and back to Singapore again, Tai Jien Nee shares more on her eventful Industrial Chemistry academic journey and internship experiences at various companies as she pursues her passion for the pharmaceuticals.
Hi Jien Nee, can you give our readers a short introduction about yourself?
Jien Nee: Hello! I grew up in Singapore but moved to the U.S. when I was 17 for high school and university, before moving back to Singapore six years later. Growing up, I had always been interested in science and chemistry in particular. I therefore chose to study chemistry at Purdue University in Indiana, U.S. Through the years, I realised that I wanted to contribute my knowledge to improve people’s lives through medicine, and made it my goal to work in the pharmaceutical industry in the future. After graduating with my Bachelor of Science in 2016, I chose to immediately pursue my Master’s degree with TUM Asia. Currently, I have just started my first job as a Research Assistant with Chugai Pharmabody Research (CPR) in Biopolis.
What made you decide to pursue a Master’s degree in the field of Chemistry?
Jien Nee: During my undergraduate studies, I completed an internship with Eli Lilly, a multinational pharmaceutical company. I realized then that to effectively contribute my skills to the pharmaceutical industry, I needed to gain more in-depth knowledge, particularly in the fields of analytical chemistry and biochemistry. Some of my mentors suggested that I join a PhD programme, but I felt that a Master’s degree was the best choice for me to learn directly applicable skills and knowledge for the industry. I was particularly drawn to the TUM Asia programme because it gave me the chance to move back home to be with my family and friends.
“LOOKING BACK, IT WAS SUCH A PRIVILEGE TO HAVE BEEN ABLE TO INTERACT WITH PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT COUNTRIES AND BACKGROUNDS, AND IT’S DEFINITELY AN ESSENTIAL SKILL TO HAVE IN ANY CAREER PATH GOING FORWARD.“
In retrospect, what do you think were some of the highlights of your educational journey in TUM Asia?
Jien Nee: The main reason why I chose to do my Master’s degree with TUM Asia was because of the industrial exposure during the 9-month internship and thesis period, and that was definitely the most memorable part of my educational journey here. While it was definitely a very stressful time, I have learnt so much, not only in terms of technical skills, but in writing and people skills as well.
Another thing that I think many of us took for granted was the diversity of the students at TUM Asia. Looking back, it was such a privilege to have been able to interact with people from different countries and backgrounds, and it’s definitely an essential skill to have in any career path going forward.
How did you end up choosing to do your internship with A*Star and how was the experience?
Jien Nee: It took me a while to find a suitable internship position before I was offered a position with the Analytics group at the Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI). I completed both my internship and Master’s thesis at BTI, where I worked on N-glycan analysis using ultra performance liquid chromatographymass spectrometry (UPLC-MS). I am thankful for my mentors who were very patient and supportive. I am glad I took the time to find a lab that fit my interests, because the knowledge I gained from the experience definitely helped me land my current job at CPR.
You have just recently graduated. How has it been like being out in the workforce?
Jien Nee: It is still hard to believe that I am now a working adult and no longer a student. I have only been in the workforce for a few weeks, but I am really enjoying it so far. My new job is fast-paced, challenging, and exciting. I love that I still get to learn something new every day. I am currently still in training, but I am looking forward to getting into the swing of things once I am fully trained. Since my job is lab-based, I can’t bring any work home, for which I am super grateful!
What would you say to someone who is considering pursuing a Master’s degree in TUM Asia?
Jien Nee: Go for it! The TUM Asia programme will help you grow both technically and personally, allow you to meet people from different parts of the globe, and challenge you in ways you did not expect. It is a tough journey, but it is all made worth it on graduation day!
Tai Jien Nee is a graduate in the joint TUM-NUS Master of Science in Industrial Chemistry programme. More information about the programme here >>
This interview was published in the DIGEST Sept – Dec 2018 issue >>
Interested students may apply for the Master of Science programmes from October 15 each year. Start Your Application Now>>