Moment of near-failure spurred him to succeed

Mr Ridhwan (right) and his siblings (from left) Abdul Rashid, Siti Rawaidah and Zulfadhly have either pursued or are pursuing the biological sciences course at NTU. Mr Ridhwan says he is especially grateful to his parents (both seated) Mohammad Muzak
Mr Ridhwan (right) and his siblings (from left) Abdul Rashid, Siti Rawaidah and Zulfadhly have either pursued or are pursuing the biological sciences course at NTU. Mr Ridhwan says he is especially grateful to his parents (both seated) Mohammad Muzaki and Rosiah Osman for their support. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) convocation ceremony on Aug 1 will be a special occasion for Mr Ridhwan Muzaki and his family.

Not only will the 27-year-old be the family's third graduate, but he will also celebrate the milestone with his brother, Mr Abdul Rashid, 32, who will be receiving his doctorate in biological sciences the same day.

Mr Ridhwan, who will receive his biological sciences honours degree, is a three-time Dean's lister and scholarship recipient.

His academic success belies an unusual background.

Like his older brother, he was from the Normal (Academic) stream in secondary school. Many of his classmates smoked, others dropped out, and he was not motivated to do well.

But something changed when he was in Secondary 4. A teacher who never stopped believing in him encouraged him not to drop the subject, Principles of Accounts, when he was on the verge of giving up.

"She was like a mother-figure to me... I did some reflection and thought to myself, if I don't work hard now, my future will never be bright," he recalled.

So he studied hard, becoming the top N-level Malay student in 2005 and went on to study biomedical sciences at Singapore Polytechnic.

In 2010, his application to NTU's School of Biological Sciences was rejected, but he did not give up.

He applied again the following year and got in.

He was so determined to get a head start that he borrowed his elder brother's notes and studied them a year before he was due to start his university course.

During weekends, he would spend 10-11 hours each time poring over his notes.

"Ridhwan had a timetable which he would stick to strictly," said his mother Rosiah Osman, 54. "He has always been quite an average student, but he studies very hard."

The third of four siblings in his family, Mr Ridhwan has an older sister, Ms Siti Rawaidah, 31, who works as a project officer, and a younger brother, Mr Zulfadhly Muzaki, an NTU undergraduate.

All four siblings have either pursued or are pursuing the biological sciences course at NTU.

Mr Ridhwan says he hopes to be a researcher. He received a scholarship from NTU in April to do postgraduate studies.

He has a special interest in RNA - ribonucleic acid - a messenger in the body, transferring instructions from DNA to make proteins.

Mr Ridhwan says he is especially grateful to his parents for their support. His father, Mr Mohammad Muzaki, 57, works as a senior technician in a drinks packaging company.

Said Mr Muzaki: "It is every parent's wish to see their children go further than they have. Being able to see my children come this far makes me proud."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Moment of near-failure spurred him to succeed'. Print Edition | Subscribe