Pei Qin (Sabrina) Ng

The Role of RNA modifications in RNA processing in Arabidopsis thaliana
The University of Adelaide
Tell us a bit about yourself – what stage of your PhD are you in and what’s your project about?

I’m currently in my third year of my PhD. I just upgraded from Master of Philosophy to PhD early March last year – a rather unique PhD path indeed. My research combines molecular techniques, data analysis, and next generation sequencing to investigate modifications on RNAs in plants. RNA modifications are like punctuations on messages, which facilitate plant molecular responses to their environments. My task is to decipher the plant’s RNA messages and the function of these modifications, such as methylation.

What does a typical day or week look like for you?

I start off my day in the lab with a cup of coffee. Then proceed to plan my to-do list for the day and overall plans for week. I am either sitting in front of the computer coding with my headphones on, or running around the lab trying to locate where all the reagents are.

What’s one thing that you’ve enjoyed the most during your PhD?
Conferences! I love meeting other fellow scientists of all career stages and see what cool researches they are up to. Besides mind-blowing science and ground-breaking research, I enjoy making new friends and explore new places when travelling for conferences.

What’s been the most challenging part of it?
Everything! From work life balance, learning new skills, troubleshooting experiments, navigating the peer review system for publishing, working independently, collaborations, imposter syndromes and lots of failing. Nevertheless, these challenges made me stronger, more resilient and confident as a whole. The hardships were the best teachers in my PhD, apart from my awesome supervisors and team.

Where do you see yourself 5 years after completing your PhD?
I hope to be continuing my research as a post-doc. I am definitely excited for what the research world has to offer while being aware how challenging this career path will be.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer students that are thinking of doing a PhD?
Follow your passion and try to understand the people in the lab before starting your PhD. Passion keeps you going during hard times. Working with people with good personalities is far more important than just having excellent publishing track records.Their positive attributes will keep you motivated and grounded, without losing yourself in the world of ‘publish or perish’.

What makes your university a good place to study?

We do have a very supportive community here. We have facilities and support system for graduate students to make sure they are taken care of while embarking on this challenging research journey. My supervisory panel and my lab mates were kind, supportive throughout my PhD ups and downs – not to mention some of them are really good in cooking and baking!

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy cafe hopping as I am a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur. I love travelling, singing, hiking, ice skating, and bouldering when I am not in the lab.

Thanks Sabrina! How can our readers learn more and get in touch with you?

I run my personal science communication blog¬†where I share my thoughts and experiences in my research journey. And my first author paper was just released end of last year on a ‘time stone’ methylase which slows down time in plants. The link to the paper can be found here.

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