In my years as a researcher, I’ve often wished someone was there to offer advice or simply share stories about their journey. So I pen down here my candid (very often jaded) thoughts on the experiences and milestones I have gone through. I hope that, whether it is wise sagely advice or simply laughing over shared experiences, it may help somebody along in their journey. Like my Ph.D. supervisor used to say …

I will send you my comments soon!

Re-Hired: Lecturer!

1 Jul 2021

Two years after starting my previous job, I now have a new one. I have joined the Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore as a Lecturer! I’m still working in the same building (and actually the same office although sitting at a different table), but doing something different now. Teaching has always been a big passion for me (even as a Research Fellow in Antonia’s lab, I kept looking for chances to guest lecture) and this is a huge opportunity. This is a real dream come true and I’m super excited!

To all of you who are considering their future – whether you are just graduating, just graduated, or already an RF for a few years – hang in there!  Keep your options open, take little steps at a time, and just keep choosing the best option along the way. You can do it!

Featured in the Straits Times – am I famous yet!?

20 Jun 2021

A HUGE HIGH in my academic career – our work was featured in an article in Singapore’s leading newspaper, the Straits Times! It really helps with the imposter syndrome thing (although it still doesn’t totally go away). But I think somewhere along the way, we just have to realise that we are who we are. We don’t know everything there is to know about our field, but we do know a fair bit. If the world wants to call us an “expert” because of that, that’s great! But deep inside, we know that we are just explorers on a never-ending journey to learn just a little bit more.

Huge shout out to all my co-authors: we could never have done this without every single one of us working together! CONGRATULATIONS!

Hired: Research Fellow!

1 April 2019

It’s not an April Fool’s joke – I have a job! I have joined Antonia Monteiro’s Evolutionary Development Lab at the National University of Singapore as a Research Fellow! The lab focuses mainly on the development of butterfly eyespots and colours using molecular tools such as CRISPR) and I will be looking forward to learning about these techniques, even as my main work will remain somewhat closer to my training.

It wasn’t an easy process, and so many questions went through my mind at different times… Academia? Industry (see this documentary by the Cheeky Scientist)? Stay in my lab? Move away from NUS? Am I really a scientist!? I want to encourage you… you can do it! Just Keep Your Chin Up!


December 2018

It’s done! It’s been a real pain in the bum, navigating all the formatting issues, the various forms to fill and timings to meet … but it’s finally done! Holding that thesis in my hands, fresh from the printers, I was (almost) as proud as when I first held Anzel (my firstborn son) in my hands.

In this post…

Thesis Submission Cheat Sheet

and advice on how to prepare for your Defence.

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Published! Am I a real scientist now!?

The first paper!

(or How to Survive Peer Review)

December 2018

After a ONE YEAR LONG review process, I finally published my first paper (from my PhD)! It was a pretty big part of my research and it really feels like my work has been validated (in no small part because it was a pretty good journal, even if I do say so myself, *ahem*).

But after a whole year of four reviewers, three submissions, two revisions (and a partridge in a pear tree), I think I’ve come out from it slightly wiser (and a lot more jaded) about the peer review process. So I’d like to share the lessons I’ve learnt in the hope that it’ll help you through publishing your first (or perhaps umpteenth) paper.

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The final year…

December 2017

This is when things get really tough. I’ve heard so many of my forebears talk about it and seen its effects first-hand in a few friends, but only now as I go through it do I realise how easy it is to become borderline depressed. This is a topic I have come to feel really strongly about, and that’s why I spoke about it at my opening address at the 22nd Biological Sciences Graduate Congress on 19 Dec 2017.

Depression amongst graduate students is an issue that we should be more aware of. It’s not something to be ashamed about and if you are experiencing it today, do reach out to your friends and family around you, or else, to the healthcare experts in your university.

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First big conference!

August 2016

The International Society for Behavioural Ecology had its 16th (biennial) congress (ISBE2016) in Exeter University and I attended (and presented a poster)! Exciting stuff!

It was pretty intimidating to be honest: first time at such a big conference (looked like at least 500 people) and interacting with so many big scientists, including Naomi Pierce (from Harvard University) and Roger Hanlon (of cuttlefish fame). Especially alone, it can be tempting to just keep to yourself, disappear after the conference and not talk to anyone. But that’s the last thing you should do!

If you’re attending your first conference soon, here are three things I wish someone had shared with me before I attended mine…

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QE: checked!

May 2016

Look out world! Ian Z.W. Chan is officially a Doctoral Candidate!

It was stressful, but you know, it turned out that it wasn’t as rough as I thought it would be. If you’re preparing to take your Qualifying Examination soon, here are a few things that may help …

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Things (not) to do in the first year of your PhD

August 2015

It’s been a year since the start of my PhD and it seems like I’ve checked of all the items on this list (well, almost). In the interest of having a laugh at myself, here’s a list of things I did in the first year of my PhD …

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Should I do a PhD?

August 2014

Should I do a PhD? What’s the point of studying for another 4 years? Will you be over-qualified for most jobs when you graduate?  At the end of my undergrad degree, I had a tough decision to make and I chose the PhD. Looking back, would I still do the same thing now? For those who may be in a similar position, here’s my take on the choice (with the advantage of hindsight).

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