Exploring new frontiers with postgraduate scientific study
Postgraduate science courses are opening up new frontiers in the realm of science. Dr Asgar Ali of the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus elaborates on the role of postgraduate science courses in a thriving scientific community.
What is the state of science today? Look around you and you see the answers. High-tech gadgets dominate the market, while the world news is dominated by ‘global food security’ crisis.
Since the dawn of civilisation societies have been plagued with many colours of pests, diseases and harsh environmental conditions that result in massive postharvest losses which lead to famine and starvation.
Every generation has dealt with this problem and come up with their own solutions, be it inventions of new chemicals such as pesticides or new concepts such as the green revolution. Science has always played a role in finding solutions and always will, and nowadays the fields of postharvest studies as well as plant breeding and genetics are the latest trends in tackling this issue. Knowledge of classical genetics and plant biology is of paramount importance, and so are personal traits such as innovation, creativity and perseverance.
Competitiveness is marking every angle in the labour market these days. Even the biggest of companies, in whatever field, have to have a cutting-edge research and development team, and they are willing to spend a lot on innovative ideas.
This is where industry and science meet, and this is where they both bring the best they have to offer. Companies are willing to invest on their staff’s professional advancement, but at the same time they generally recruit the cream of the crop. Thus, in a world where postgraduate courses are becoming increasingly popular, it is never too late to advance your professional career while rewarding yourself through intellectual development.
Choosing a postgraduate science course is a very delicate matter that has to be regarded with utmost care. Besides choosing the field that you want to specialise in, the type of postgraduate course − research or taught, full-time or part-time − is also another issue of concern.
Work experience is beneficial to some people as it helps making such choices a lot easier, since knowledge of the labour market and its demands will be of assistance. However, it is not essential. Choosing to pursue a postgraduate science course immediately after completing your first degree can also work, as long as you know what is it that you want and what your expectations are grounded in.
The right environment is very important to ensure that you gain the most out of your postgraduate degree course, along with maximising every opportunity that you find.
Science is everywhere, and it is moving at a remarkable pace. The most interesting phenomenon is how the variable and numerous fields of science are all increasing becoming interlinked. For example, psychology needs pharmacy in the same way that pharmacy relies on plant biotechnology, and the links are continuously intertwining.
This has made it easier for people of different disciplines to navigate into fields that may be very different from their initial undergraduate courses, and you can do the same. Only you can decide what the right postgraduate course for you is, and this is not predetermined by your previous studies or work experience.
Granted, some form of work experience may be an advantage for you by exposing you to the demands and opportunities of the world labour market, but it is not critical. The most important thing is to evaluate your abilities, determine your goals and set out to achieve them. Postgraduate courses may be the stepping stone, but you are the one climbing up that ladder.
Dr Asgar Ali Warsi is an Associate professor and Director for postgraduate research of the school of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus.
This article first appeared in postgradasia 2011, Issue 1.