A fishy tale

JCU Singapore enabled Mr Chew Xian Zhe to pursue his interests in marine biology

Mr Chew finds the graduate diploma he is pursuing at JCU Singapore unique, flexible and exciting. PHOTO: CHEW XIAN ZHE

Mr Chew Xian Zhe, 26, is very interested in all things related to marine life. From 2012 to 2015, he studied for a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Marine Biology and Aquaculture Science and Technology at James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville, Australia.

The marine biology major touches on the biology of marine animals as well as challenges that marine and coastal ecosystems are facing. The aquaculture major imparts scientific and practical skills in areas such as farm husbandry and the breeding of plants and animals.

JCU Singapore offers the Bachelor of Business and Environmental Science (majoring in Aquaculture) that would put graduates on the same path as Mr Chew. This multi-disciplinary programme provides students with knowledge and training in the application of business and environmental principles, with particular attention to aquaculture.

With his passion ignited, Mr Chew signed up and is in the midst of a 12-month, full-time Graduate Diploma of Research Methods (Tropical Environments and Societies) at the Singapore campus of JCU. He reveals how he got to this point:

How did you become interested in fish aquaculture and marine biology?

When I was seven, I had my first goldfish aquarium. Once, my goldfish fell ill and all I wanted to do was to determine the reasons behind it. This sparked my interest in the fields of aquaculture, marine biology and fish health.

I pursued my studies at JCU for my undergraduate and postgraduate education as it is renowned for its aquaculture and marine biology research. I believe that aquaculture is a sunrise industry and there will be plenty of career prospects in the near future.

Can you recount anecdotes that contributed to your learning while studying for this graduate diploma?

I travelled to Townsville in Australia and trained for two weeks under leading fish parasite experts. This course was conducted in the Marine Parasitology Laboratory at JCU by Dr Kate Hutson, a fish parasitologist.

There, I learnt how to effectively collect internal and external fish parasites, and how to identify them. I applied skills learnt there to my research project in Singapore for my graduate diploma.

Also, throughout this course, I get to interact with top aquaculture industry players and learn about farming practices and fish husbandry methods. More importantly, I found out about the concerns and challenges they were facing. I am inspired to pursue a PhD research topic in future that will benefit the aquaculture industry.

How would this diploma help in your future plan to pursue a PhD?

The course is designed as a bridging programme to expand my research questions on a larger-scale during my PhD. It is preparing and equipping me with the relevant skills and knowledge to embark on my PhD.

This graduate diploma is unique, flexible and exciting. It allows you to design your own research topic - not restricted to aquaculture or fish parasites - with help from your supervisor. It is exciting as you can research things that you are passionate about and the results are rewarding.

Describe a typical day.

I am currently doing an internship at a diagnostic laboratory for fish and crustacean diseases.

My typical day includes dissecting fish, looking for parasites through a microscope checking on fish health and performing laboratory tests to check for diseases. I am also given the opportunity to work at an aquaculture breeding and research facility where I take part in their husbandry and broodstock management practices.


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