A Day in My Master (M.Sc) Life | Master Journey #22

September 23, 2020



There were no dull moments doing full-time research as a Master student. People says Postgraduate student has no life and doing Master or PhD is very hard. I say it is excitingly challenging, non-monotonous and very flexible. 

How is it like "working" as a postgraduate student? was it hard? If you are interested in that, just click HERE where I already discussed thoroughly on the challenges living as Postgraduate student. 

First and foremost. I enrolled in the Master of Science (Food Science) doing full-time research. For 2 semesters, my life centre on experimental works. On semester 3 and the rest, I focused on thesis writing and rarely walking on the campus ground.

Today, I will take you with me to reminisce my day as a Postgraduate student.

7:45 am


I do not live on campus. My breakfast is light, satisfied with pieces of bread and a cup of Milo. Depends on traffic and weather but blessed with toll—free route, it took 30 minutes to drive to the University. 

As a University-half-sponsored student, I needed to record my attendance. According to the contract, I had to be on campus for 8 hours a day. The Institute I stayed and worked at uses biometric thumbprint machine for taking attendance. Modern. I have heard 100 ways to cheat a punch card machine, but not on a biometric machine.

8:00 am to 1:00 pm

At this time, I have different activities. It depends on the day, workload and semester. A daily routine of a full-time research student is not fixed.

Every morning I dragged my feet to the highest floor, towards a room furthest back - “Postgraduate Room”. Spacious room with high ceiling windows and tables neatly arranged like Tetris. There is no privacy between tables.

My work station faced the dense green forest, with a price of blinding lights shooting on my face every morning. Besides me was another female student under the same supervisor. In fact, we were her only Postgraduate students for two years. 

I remembered her as an eye-level girl, wearing square glasses with a friendly vibe. She was my partner, gossip buddy and place to vent frustration towards incomprehensible homo sapiens

Postgraduate room

My desk. Place where I eat, writing, reading or gossiping. Quite mess here. This was taken before I properly registered as a student.

Lᴀʙᴏʀᴀᴛᴏʀʏ ᴡᴏʀᴋ

I worked in a small newly setup Microbiology lab. It used to be a chemical waste storage room. It was a blessing to have a personal lab because, for those who know microbiology work, it is a hunger game. Siapa cepat dia dapat.

Laminar flow cabinet. Always sit here. It has not been used for years..until we came

Small and compact lab

Racing to use the pipette, the laminar flow cabinet, book a PCR machine, heat block machine, centrifuge machine etc. A race between Postgraduate and Final Year Degree students.

I had an early morning if I worked on a day-long experiment. I also came early to inspect my yesterday work. For example, checking my bacterial growth or do bacterial plate counting.

Bacteria streak isolated from my pollen sample

If I had to start on a new experiment, I reread my experimental procedure.  Understand the intricate method and make confusing calculations. All scribbled in a black hard-cover log book.

This reminds me of Advanced Potion Making textbook..... Don't ask me what is that book Muggles

Then I proceed to check all of the consumables, glassware and chemicals needed, sterilized the benchwork especially the laminar flow cabinet if I needed to use it. 

Every Tuesday or Friday, I threw out (sterilized) biological or chemical waste at the waste collection centre.

The institute is 1 km outside, away from the university main gate. Because of the poor-equipped laboratory, I used some machines from other Faculty inside the University. It was a back and forth driving. Clutching an ice-box with bacterial samples while trying to blend in without obviously looking like an outsider. 

Once I finished an experiment, I organized and analyzed the data using software such as Microsoft Excel and SPSS/Minitab. If there were any errors such as inconsistent data or negative results, I made preparation to repeat the experiment as soon as possible.

My research of interest partly involved in bacteria. In a week, I could dedicate my self only to identify bacteria. For example, I grow bacteria overnight on Monday. Extract bacterial DNA on Tuesday. Amplify and visualized DNA on Wednesday. Send DNA sample to a company for DNA sequencing on Thursday. Complete. This is only happening in sheer luck. 

Calamity did bestow upon me. A miscalculation in the chemical mix, stubborn bacteria, complicated and false interpretation or poor outcomes. These kinds of speed-bump gave set back to our experimental works and drag our organized schedules to a chaotic mess.

Struggling to align the camera lens on the microscope eyepiece

I like living in that small lab. It was my private sanctuary.

Cᴏɴᴛᴀᴄᴛɪɴɢ sᴜᴘᴘʟɪᴇʀ

Doing research requires good resources and a handful of suppliers. If I needed chemicals, apparatus, consumables or glassware, I shortly emailed or message a few suppliers for quotations and makes comparisons for quality and price.

After confirming and approval from the supervisor, then I handed the documents to the financial office..which took 3 weeks to process and then probably waited another 3-4 weeks for item arrival. Pre-order item took more than 1 month. If I am in urgency, I just borrowed from the other PG students.

Wʀɪᴛɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴇsɪs ᴏʀ ʀᴇᴠɪᴇᴡɪɴɢ ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇs

If there was no lab work in a day, I am glued to my laptop. I searched for scientific articles. Reading, reviewing and managing articles related to my research. Simple work, but require a strong mentality.  In between reading, I probably slack off a bit for eye-rest.

Aᴛᴛᴇɴᴅɪɴɢ Cʟᴀss

Class? Yes, research student has class. There are 2 types of class for research students. One is a compulsory course and another is elective. For my university, the compulsory class is  "Research Methodology and Statistic". 

For elective courses, students can choose any subject they want to enrol in, related to their research. For example for me, I can register for the "Food Safety and Quality" course under my own free will or lecturer's demand.

Class starts at 9 am-12 pm. There is a lecture, quiz, tutorial, presentation and exams. In-class learning, lecturers tried to link our research to the learning module instead of creating pseudo research for student understanding. It helps to facilitate our research better.

Pᴏsᴛɢʀᴀᴅᴜᴀᴛᴇ ᴍᴇᴇᴛɪɴɢ ᴏʀ Cᴏɴsᴜʟᴛᴀᴛɪᴏɴ

Once a month, I attended a meeting with my supervisor and her other PG students. We gave updates on our progress, presented our findings, we commented or gave feedback on each other research. It always ends with Pizza Hut's Party.

Besides, I scheduled a consultation with my SV committees around noon in their office if I had troubles or want to discuss raw experimental results privately. Sometimes, they are occupied with meetings or class. I usually just Whats' app or email. But I prefer face to face meeting to sort out problems.


1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Bʀᴇᴀᴋ, ʟᴜɴᴄʜ ᴀɴᴅ ᴘʀᴀʏᴇʀ

There is no exact time for "break". I usually took lunch at around 1 pm. Sadly, the Institute does not have a cafeteria. So, I grabbed lunch anywhere on the campus lot. Sometimes I drove to the nearby mall to eat before I go shopping for necessities. I am introvert, so I love doing these activities alone.  Unless my very closest friends asked me out at lunch.

2:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Lᴀʙᴏʀᴀᴛᴏʀʏ ᴡᴏʀᴋ

There were experiments which required continuous monitoring or prolongs work. I took a break at around 3 pm. 

There will be the time I had to start an experiment around 4 pm, especially for culturing bacteria. The longest time I ever been in the lab was until 7 pm. Alhamdulillah, I never sleep overnight in a lab because my work did not require me to do so.

Evening is usually more leisure.

Lᴀʙ ᴛᴇᴀᴄʜɪɴɢ sᴇssɪᴏɴ

Once a week, I assisted a lecturer on his/her laboratory session as lab moderator.  What I did was helping the students conducting the experiment and grading laboratory reports.  

In a lab session, there were 2-3 moderators. We divided among ourselves which week we will be monitoring. It is helpful especially when you have to mark 80 individual reports. 

There was time I enjoyed crossing out a report bluntly plagiarizing Wikipedia page. But, never felt more satisfying than reading a short but concise lab report. 


At home, I will rest. I avoided doing anything research-related as much as I could. But, when you have a workload of experiments to do, night time could be time to rest or time to do extra study. 

Other activities if I am not on campus


My sampling site is the local bee farms. Luckily, I have my nameless car to travel to different locations. Some were close such as UPM farm, some as far as Johor. 

This bee house is the most stylish I ever saw.

Running around in the farm, trying to photograph a bee with Samsung J7 2015

Aᴛᴛᴇɴᴅɪɴɢ sᴇᴍɪɴᴀʀ ᴏʀ ᴄᴏɴꜰᴇʀᴇɴᴄᴇ

There always a seminar or talk every Friday for postgraduate. I will attend if it is interesting or related to my research. For the conference, you can attend as many as you want - if you have enough budget. I went once per year to present my poster.

International Food Conference at Putrajaya in 2019

Poster session at the conference


So, that is a brief overview of how I spent my days as a Postgraduate student as a research student. There were lots of variables, but definitely more flexible schedules. The students have to be independent, try to arrange their schedule to create a productive timetable and to Graduate on Time (GoT).

The best day in Postgraduate life is not just when you succeed in an experiment, but when life is productive.

our tomorrow may be dark, difficult. We might stumble or fall down. But the stars shine brightest when the night is darkest. And If the stars are hidden, we'll let moonlight guide us


Saya komen

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