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Success Story: Dr Nahrul Hayawin Zainal

(Article contributed by Dr Nahrul Hayawin Zainal, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.))

In the Name of ALLAH, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.

My PhD journey started from a conversation between me and my former Head of Unit of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), Dr. Astimar Abdul Aziz. We have been working together since eight years ago when I was attached to MPOB.

After I received my MSc from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), I was offered a position of Research Officer (RO) in MPOB/UKM, Bangi in 2010. Dr. Astimar encouraged me to pursue my study with one tripping condition; MPOB will sponsor everything during my study period, but I need to be a part-time student/ full-time RO at the same time.

Long story short - Challenge accepted, and that’s how my journey as a PhD student in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) began. Working as a RO, my main focus was on composting and vermicomposting. On the other hand, as a PhD student, I had to study on converting oil palm biomass into valuable products (i.e., charcoal and activated carbon). It was never an easy ride; two different topics to focus on and I had to complete it within three given years.

In UPM, I was supervised by a remarkable and supportive academician; Prof. Dr. Suriani Abd Aziz, on top of the great team consists of Prof. Dr. Mohd Ali Hassan, Dr. Juferi Idris from UiTM Sarawak, Dr. Mohamad Faizal Ibrahim and Dr. Astimar.

Why did I choose ‘charcoal’ as my research topic? Well, without us realizing, we are very much depending on charcoal for a living. We use it for barbecue, in vacuum cleaners and it is also used in the water treatment system. Meanwhile, activated carbon is widely used in water purification system and fish tank filtering system. Yes, charcoal plays a very important role in our life.

The journey became more interesting when I started to receive phone calls asking for collaboration. They knew that charcoal was a promising product for their industries and would benefit their companies in the long run. Along with the request to collaborate, I was also able to create awareness amongst the community for a go-green and zero waste campaign.

My three years PhD journey has given me a lot of opportunities. I attended several international conferences and workshops and conducted my research attachment in Korea University for a month. All these have strengthened my knowledge and skills, despite broadening my network. Not to mention, I also managed to publish four high impact research articles in well-known international journals, won gold and silver medals in several competitions and conferences, as well as have filed two patents.

People thought everything went smoothly but truth is, I was mentally pressured as I need to balance my duty as an employee, a wife, a mother of three as well as a daughter and a sister. Praise to Allah SWT for giving me an outstanding strength and faith. I’m also grateful for the continuous support from my husband, parents, family, the team in UPM as well as MPOB employees.

Alhamdulillah, as I am writing this, I am already a Doctor Philosophy. People say, ‘killing two birds with one stone is never an easy ride’. However, I have faith in myself. I took all the challenges throughout the hectic-three-years as my precious and unforgettable experience. I believe there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I just thought I should be patient and keep up my momentum until the end and I did it! Indeed, there is no strength and faith except from Allah SWT, The Most Powerful.


Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) 42nd Convocation 2018 MVP Doctor of Philosophy Gold Medal winner, Dr Nahrul Hayawin Zainal


Date of Input: 22/11/2018 | Updated: 14/10/2019 | azimin


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