Some might say that most scientists have an inspirational or motivational quotes that they are driven by, for James Chan: “It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela.
When I asked Mr. Chan, what led him to study and work in science, he mentioned that his parents decided for him. It didn’t surprise me because I know and have heard of stories before when some parents influenced their children to study in a particular field to become someone in a specific profession.
“My mom insisted that I should study science, so I did, and I grew up to love it.” He believes that science benefits humans by improving the quality of their life, environment, health and much more.
Such tradition might happen because parents want what they think is best for their children, and for the children it might turn out to be the road to success or their worst nightmare.
I now know from mingling around scientists, they all seem to share a curious nature and a passion for understanding and improving human wellbeing. They pursue and become the unstoppable scientists or innovators who are always looking for discoveries – for me; it’s not just a job.
As he was looking into developing in his field a few years back, Mr. Chan traveled from Malaysia to start his Ph.D. in Australia in 2015 at the University of South Australia, focusing on Analytical Chemistry.
One of the great opportunities that The University of South Australia (UniSA) offers some of its science higher degree research candidates is the partnership with industry, just like the one it has with Trajan Scientific and Medical – the ASTech program.
An objective of the program is to expose the candidates to industry research in developing technologies that can lead to portable analytical separation systems. Such systems will enable point-of-sample analysis for complex samples in food, environmental, and clinical applications.
Under the supervision of one the world’s porous polymer monolith experts, Professor Emily Hilder, Mr. Chan has now been one of the contributors to the ASTech program specializing in synthesizing and using controlled pore size macroporous polymer monoliths for biomedical applications. “I am forever indebted and grateful to her for this wonderful opportunity,” he said. Not far away now, he is expecting to graduate in October this year.
Mr. Chan believes that his experience with the program, having gained these skills, can facilitate his transition into the Australian and global job market.
He said that this academia-Industry collaboration between Trajan and UniSA allowed him to understand what the market needs are and how he can use the material that he is working on to develop technologies to serve these needs.
“Academia allows me access to cutting edge technologies, instruments, knowledge and expertise that would otherwise be hard to gain access to in an industry setting. I would say it’s the best of both worlds.” Mr. Chan explained.
International students in Australia usually have to spend thousands of dollars on studying, living and sometimes getting the work experience needed, which might be a big challenge for their peace of mind. Mr. Chan said that “the ASTech program gave me the education I always wanted to have without having to worry about the financial burden associated with it,” although he is an international student.
As he faces many challenges in his journey, like managing and resolving academia and industry objectives that might seem opposing at times, he feels like he has what he needs to overcome them as part of the ASTech program. “I received a lot of support and guidance from my supervisors, colleagues, and friends. There are many people at the ASTech program who are ready to extend a helping hand. Having a good support system is vital,” said Mr. Chan.
After graduating, he is hoping to find a job in his field and settle in Australia. “I like it here very much, it is such a wonderful place to be,” he added.
Although he likes living a simple life and doesn’t consider himself overly ambitious, he hopes to establish himself as a valued contributor to the field of analytical chemistry.