WIT’s first Vietnamese student, Dan Chau Nguyen arrived in Ireland as an undergraduate student and has since gone on to pursue a PhD. Here she tells what drew her to Waterford and into the world of research
I decided to study BSc (Hons) in Pharmaceutical Science abroad when I was 17. And WIT, Waterford city, Ireland was my choice, where I became the first Vietnamese student. I looked at many different universities in many countries around the world such as the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, etc. before deciding to choose Ireland and WIT.
Some of the main reasons I chose WIT are because I could see the great potential of Ireland, specifically Waterford for my future employment in pharmaceutical science/medical device (which is the area I have always been interested in), the reasonable cost of living and tuition fees in comparison to many other places (especially for an English-speaking country), and most importantly, because I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to live alone in a totally different place where there are not many Vietnamese students (although I didn’t expect to be the only one in that time) and it has been a great experience.
I was drawn to research because
I have always been passionate about exploring new things, whether they are new places or gaining new experiences, along with the discovery of knowledge through research. Being an academic/industrial researcher has always been the ultimate goal of my career. My PhD project has great potential as it could pioneer a new less invasive treatment for age-related macular degeneration and other eye diseases. I am wholly passionate to pursue my research, which will be driven by hard work, skill and determination.
The title of my PhD is: Development and characterisation of novel nanoparticle-loaded contact lenses for the treatment of posterior segment diseases of the eye.
Related research group/centre at WIT: Ocular Therapeutics Research Group (OTRG), Pharmaceutical & Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC)
Supervisors: Laurence Fitzhenry, Richie Ryan, Peter McLoughlin and Joseph Dowling
In layman's terms my PhD is about: My project aims to develop novel nanoparticle-loaded soft contact lenses for a more patient-friendly and minimally invasive treatment of ocular diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and dry eye diseases. My research presents a viable path forward to impacting the ocular drug delivery market, while addressing important patient need and greatly improving the quality of lives of patient.
My advice for anyone considering a PhD at the moment is
If you are considering whether to pursue your PhD research at the moment or not, I am sure that there are few if not many things that you need to consider. And after over 3 years of doing my PhD, here is my advice on this challenging but yet unforgettable journey: PhD is a big commitment and a long journey, and hence it is not an easy decision. Take your time to think and ask several people, from the PhDs in your third-level institution that you want to carry out your research to your lecturers or even your current employers, you will gain a much better idea before making a decision.
If you once heard about a PhD experience or story, you would probably hear that it is a very stressful and long journey. And yes it is, but in order to achieve the highest level of education, you can't expect it to be an easy journey right? However, besides that fact, doing a PhD will definitely a memory that you will never forget. I have learnt so much, gained lots of lovely memories and made many friends.
Passion for research and science
Pursuing this PhD journey has allowed me to fulfil my passion in research and science, while gaining new skills, expanding my knowledge and network. It also provides me a great skillset which enhances my employability. PhD has given me many opportunities to travel to many places and countries. In order to make the best of this journey, I believe the best thing I have done is to try to do as many things in my ability as possible, including teaching, present at conferences, applying for a research grants, publishing a paper, defending my work, presenting my research at public event (PubhD), and so much more.
Funding for PhDs
If you decide that you want to do a PhD, start looking for various funding sources by looking online on different third-level institutions for PhD funding or external funding sources like Irish Research Council, or you can also talk to your current lecturers for an advice too. My PhD was funded by Irish Research Council-Enterprise Partnership Scheme, which is an innovative initiative that enables me to gain more industrial knowledge besides the academic aspects, which will significantly enhance my future career.
One of the best parts while studying PhD is that you will get to know and be friends with so many people. So, keeping yourself busy with studying and gaining experiences, but never forget to enjoy your new journey with your friends and social life!
Although there are many challenges, my experience in Ireland makes me realize that, no matter where will be your destination, the most important thing is if it is your choice, be responsible for it and keep going on the path that you choose.
Life is not always fair, and it’s never easy to live away from home, however, I believe that for those who are full of enthusiasm, earnest, and dedicated to their lives, you will always be appreciated!
Why I would recommend studying in Waterford/WIT
Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) has been recognized for its distinctive and high-quality centres of research, and is continuously improving to become a research-led Institute. As a PhD scholar in an area of Pharmaceutical Science in the Department of Science at WIT, I become a member of WIT’s fast-growing and dynamic Ocular Therapeutics Research Group, and Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC).
PMBRC is involved in many collaborative projects with different regional and national pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, along with the strong links with national and international institutions and medical care institutions. Research PhD students at WIT/PMBRC have access to its state-of-the-art facilities, those that essentially support their PhD scholars in various research fields.
Training and supports
As a postgraduate student in the field of science, I’m carrying out my research on a specific project that requires multidisciplinary knowledge, from Chemistry, Biology to Engineering, etc.; together with numerous soft-skills such as networking, academic writing, reading, researching and presenting skills. I have been provided with various training sessions as a PhD student at WIT, from generic skills training to relevant disciplinary training.
Moreover, there are numerous supports in WIT: Research Support Unit, Technology Transfer Office, etc, all will assist and support me in the implementation and management of my projects.
WIT, specifically the PMBRC, has created an international and diverse environment with various exciting opportunities. As a member of the OTRG, PMBRC, I have greatly benefited from collective experience from other PhD students and other experts (lecturers, lab technicians and postdoctorals) in my own research fields, while expanding my understanding in various relevant scientific areas, allowing me access to both breadth and depth of the knowledge.
I have four supervisors, not only they are experts in my research areas who constantly provide me with all the knowledge and guide me through my study, but also are extremely supportive and always make their times for me whenever I need.
Community and environment
One of the things I love the most about WIT is the friendly and vibrant, yet professional researching environment. Although there are various research groups within the Department of Science, all the PhD students are working closely with each other and we are free to access various lab equipment in different labs.
Besides researching and different research activities on the campus, and benefiting from WIT’s global research network, we have plenty of opportunities to go to different research centres, and participate in various national and international networking events, workshops or conferences. Additionally, PhD students like me will also be provided the precious opportunity to supervise undergrads in their lab works. All of which will provide me with a great solid foundation for my future career in both academia and industry as a researcher.
Who says PhD life is boring and you won’t have time to have fun? My experience so far in WIT has proved the opposite fact. So, if you are finding and considering a place to carry out your research PhD in Science, WIT should definitely be on the top of your list.
First research publication
In August 2021 Dan’s first research publication as part of her PhD was published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye Journal. The review outlines advances in the use of pharmaceutical-loaded contact lenses and their relevant characterization methodologies as a potential ocular drug delivery system from 2010 to 2020, while summarizing current gaps and challenges in this field. See: Pharmaceutical-loaded contact lenses as an ocular drug delivery system: A review of critical lens characterization methodologies with reference to ISO standards.