Ziqi Chen (Department of Life Sciences), NUS Summer 2016
In the summer of 2016, I had the privilege of carrying out an 8-week research project with the Reef Ecology Laboratory, the National University of Singapore as an exchange student. The exchange rewarded me not only invaluable independent research experience but also a chance to explore Singapore, a reason to stay organised over the summer, new inputs on postgraduate studies that I was about to pursue, and friendship that extends to every corner of Asia. I cannot emphasis enough how much I enjoyed my stay in Singapore, and I would recommend NUS to anyone who wishes to do an IROP.
Having hosted many undergraduate research opportunities, my supervisor was not short in experience to make my 2-month research a busy and rich learning experience, and was kind enough to let me choose my own research focus. The research experience was the first time I had to plan a project of such complexity. From the very beginning, it was difficult enough to come up with my own topic – I was stuck there for almost two weeks. Then the intensity of lab, usually 8 hours-a-day but could be made much longer due to failures that were not at all infrequent, put a real trial to my patience and willpower. The ordeals aside, I learned a lot from the experience and was able to consider in more depth whether to pursue a research career in the future. The writing up after the programme also turned out to be a rich learning experience. My supervisor put in considerable time and effort to make sure that I was familiar with the conventions of writing in the field, understood the meanings of everything behind my analysis and showed me how to present my research in an essay.
Outside the lab, I also had a great experience in NUS and Singapore. Throughout my research, I found time to explore the wild side of Singapore by visiting national parks and reserves, where the great availability of educational information and the painstakingly designed facilities evidence to the country’s effort to cherish its biodiversity heritage. I was also able to attend several biology lectures and a PhD defence at NUS with my supervisor, and spent some quality time in the NUS libraries and well-equipped computer facility. After a long week’s work, I often went out with fellow exchange students, local friends from Imperial, or friends I met in Singapore to experience the local culture. Although I did not travel outside Singapore, I laid my feet to nearly every corner of the city state, visited many attractions, museums, food courts. Overall, I immensely enjoyed the stay in Singapore, both academically and culturally, and even the absence of the air-conditioner in the dormitory of a tropical country could not kill my fondness of the lovely city.
"In addition, I was able to review and use many pieces of knowledge I learnt from all my courses at Imperial, and learned more interesting biology facts, skills and anecdotes from my colleagues in the lab as I carried out my research"