“I couldn’t believe my eyes when the interface read, ‘Congratulations you’re a recipient’.”
That was how Ipoh boy Gregory Dominic, 23, felt when he received the news that he was one of the 12 recipients of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Scholarship for session 2018/2019.
The young man with a Bachelor of Science (Biological Science) degree from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, received the scholarship to pursue his MSc degree in Biotechnology with a major in cancer research at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Scholarship is said to be one of the most prestigious scholarships in Malaysia under the Public Service Department Malaysia. Since its introduction in 2006, a total of 153 scholars have received it. Its existence is not known by many and was vouched by Gregory himself.
“Actually, I didn’t even know about it. My USM research supervisor, Dr Nethia, was the one who brought this to light. I applied because I didn’t want to financially burden my dad, Dominic Retnasamy. Another reason was because my MSc degree programme is research-based, thus requiring more financial aid,” he explained.
A month after applying for the scholarship online, Gregory was shortlisted and was called in for a final interview in Putrajaya. The young man was able to convince his panel of interviewers with his research proposal on a cancer therapeutic alternative using natural products.
According to Gregory, his UMT Final Year Project supervisor, Professor Dr Tengku Sifzizul, was the one who got him interested in cancer research. “Not only did he trigger my interest in this field, he also made me aware of how far behind our country is on cancer-cure research,” he said. “I’ve worked closely with marine organisms during my degree. Incidentally, research shows that marine organisms, like sea cucumber, have anti-cancer properties. That’s when it struck me. I realised that we do have a wide range of natural products in Malaysia that could be potential cancer cures. All we lack is research and that’s the stepping stone for me.”
“I came up with my research proposal with the help of my two USM supervisors, Dr Nethia and Dr Darshan Singh.” Handpicked by the selection committee and the Public Service Department Malaysia, Gregory said it was not an easy journey.
“This journey took up a lot of time and effort. It was very gruelling because I had to do lots of reading and research in this field,” he told this scribe.
Gregory said his mother, Grace Saminathan, his brother and Professor Sifzizul were his biggest motivators. They have always stood by him, giving him the push and advice that he needed.
According to Gregory, the scholarship will help lessen his financial burden. It will provide him with monthly allowances for books and other necessities.
“I’ll also receive funds for research and fees should I want to present my papers at conferences in the country,” he added.
Gregory who loves playing the piano aspires to become a lecturer someday.
“Almost all my role models are lecturers. I feel I’ve a sense of responsibility to pass on the knowledge I have acquired to other students, just like they did to me. Also, it’ll give me a chance to continue my research,” he said.
When asked if he had any advice to give to students, Gregory said, “Never stop dreaming. Have as many dreams as you can. At first, I thought this scholarship was beyond me but here I am. Family is often forgotten these days, but it’s their support and blessings that’ll take you further in life,” he added.