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From Malaysia to the UK: Pursuing Higher Dreams in Nutrition Sciences


From Malaysia to the UK: Pursuing Higher Dreams in Nutrition Sciences

15 April 2024

From Malaysia to the UK: Pursuing Higher Dreams in Nutrition Sciences

For Nur Najiah Zaidani Kamarunzaman, pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nutrition Sciences at King’s College London was a dream come true. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Dietetics at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Kuantan and her master’s degree in Sports Sciences at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Kelantan, going abroad under the Graduate Excellence Programme (GrEP) by MARA provided her with the opportunity to further explore her interests in the areas of nutrition and exercise.

Najiah has always been interested in exploring ways to encourage people to stay healthy by combining nutrition and exercise. Her research examines how nutrition can affect one’s mental health, where she is specifically researching how cranberry juice can reduce one’s stress and improve one’s mood.


Pushing the boundaries beyond your comfort zone

Najiah’s biggest advice to anyone considering furthering their studies abroad, especially to pursue a PhD, is to be open to new knowledge.

“You may come into a programme with your own set of skills and experience. But remember that everyone in your cohort has their own unique set of knowledge and experience to share. You may need to clear out some space so you can take in new knowledge and learning, rather than sticking with your own experiences.”

As a PhD student, having a good relationship with her supervisor is key to getting through the challenges. “Even if you are not confident in trying out something new, just go ahead and try. Your supervisor will be there to support you.”

For Najiah, the biggest challenge for her during her PhD journey is the immense focus on lab and hands-on work. During her undergraduate years, it was very heavy on practical hospital work, where she worked with patients on their dietary needs. Transitioning from the social aspect of dietetics into the lab-based nutrition sciences posed a steep learning curve for Najiah, but she is grateful for her supervisor’s support, guidance and encouragement, as well as the support from her PhD team. “When you’re stuck during your study, always ask for help from your friends!”


PhD – Passionate & Highly Dedicated

The biggest difference between doing your undergraduate and master’s as compared to a PhD is that your PhD is very much dependent on your supervisor rather than the university or the course itself.

“The first thing that you choose is your supervisor – you want to be really particular with who you work with,” Najiah advised. She herself researched hundreds of potential supervisors, looking at their research profiles and interests before sending out cold emails.

On top of being a dedicated PhD candidate, Najiah is also taking the opportunity to explore life outside of academia. This includes travelling across various cities and towns within the UK, as well as other European countries. As an outdoorsy person, Najiah enjoys visiting places with magnificent natural landscapes and views and finds Switzerland as one of the most beautiful places to visit. She also plans to go hiking up in Lake District later in the summer to explore the beautiful countryside with her friends.


Connecting with Malaysian postgraduates and professionals

Connecting with Malaysian postgraduates and professionals


Being far away from the country does not stop her from connecting with people. Forming new friend groups and getting to know more people is a beautiful experience. It happened when one of her friends invited her to be a part of the Malaysian Association of Postgraduates and Professionals (MAPP). “Through MAPP, I can connect with Malaysians in London, build my self-confidence, learn how to become a leader and leave a long-lasting impact on society”.

MAPP provides a channel for Malaysian postgraduates, researchers, academics and professionals in the UK and Ireland to network and connect with one another. For Najiah, MAPP is more than just an avenue to network and develop professionally, but it also provides the opportunity to connect and learn from one another on a variety of topics.

As the Head of Activities, she works with a small team to plan various activities for the members. This ranges from informal gatherings and interactive dialogues with panel speakers, to Malaysian Sports Day, as well as sharing sessions with field experts.

“MAPP has also grown a lot! We are not just in London, but we have branches in Manchester, Sheffield and other cities,” Najiah added.

Aside from being an active MAPP member, Najiah is also a member of the Nutrition Society; a diverse collaborative and research community within the field of Nutrition in the UK. Through her involvement as a representative in a Special Interest Group (SIG), she has the opportunity to meet and network with subject matter experts in the Nutrition field. This widened her perspectives in the field and allowed her to exchange knowledge and research ideas with industry leaders. “Don’t stick to just one person or a group of people. At the end of your course/term, you might have friends from many places around the world whom you can visit in the future!”

She is keen on leveraging on the platform to initiate collaboration with other Malaysian associations and like-minded professionals.

Are you a Malaysian abroad who’s interested in collaborating with Najiah or MAPP? Head over to MyHeart to register and get the conversation going