Ng Wei Lun, from Malaysia, is completing a PhD in population genetics at Japan’s Kyushu University. He explains how he chose his field of research, what attracted him to Japan, and how he’s adapted to life in Fukuoka.
I first came to Kyushu University in April 2008 after completing my bachelor’s degree and working for a year in Malaysia. I started as a Japanese language student, then completed the two-year master’s course, and am now in the second year of my PhD.
Japan has been, and still is, at the forefront of research in the area of biological sciences, especially population genetics. Several of the current top ‘gurus’ in the field started off, or still are, at Kyushu University – so it was an obvious choice for me.
Of course, grants are also very important in research. Throughout the years I’ve been here, I’ve realized that the Japanese government has been generous in providing funding for biological science research – even in areas that do not generate income for the institution or country.
I’ve been interested in biological sciences and curious about nature ever since I was little. Going through high school and then my bachelor’s degree in biotechnology, I developed an interest in genetics.
Combine curiosity about the organisms living around us with the possible application of genetics to understand them more and – voilà – you’ve got population genetics. The subject can be further applied in fields such as evolution and conservation studies.
Other than my home city, Kuala Lumpur (KL), Fukuoka is the only place I’ve lived for a long period of time. Every day, even now, I’ve found there’s something new waiting to be discovered – whether it’s picking up a new Japanese phrase, or learning a little more about Japanese culture and customs.
There are lots of differences between Fukuoka and KL. For example, the latter is generally more multicultural, while the weather in Fukuoka is more subject to seasonal variation. Each place has its good and not-so-good points, and I’ve learned to adapt!
The biggest challenge has been the language. Aside from some occasional exceptions within the campus, it’s pretty much essential to speak Japanese if you wish to live here comfortably. Shopping, contracts, services and so on are all mainly carried out in Japanese.
For a foreigner who doesn’t understand the systems well, it can be frustrating at times. But looking at the bright side, studying abroad is all about learning to live in a foreign culture, no matter where you go – right?
Once you’ve crossed that language barrier, you’ll find Japan has a lot to offer. In my experience, the university has been very enthusiastic in inviting international students and researchers to study and work here. Many attractive programs are being developed and improved year after year to attract more foreigners, which means future international students can expect to have an even more comfortable life.
After studying for so many years, I’m looking forward to taking a short break after I graduate, to travel around the world. After that, I’ll probably take up a post-doctoral research position in Malaysia or another country, and ultimately work as a researcher in Malaysia.