When best laid plans come unstuck

Photo of Muhammad Shamoon

The idea of moving to a new country is an exciting prospect - a new city to explore, a new culture to experience, new friends to be made and new places to visit. What could top that? Perhaps if the move is part of a career plan that will also connect you with renowned researchers, world-class facilities, and the research work you undertake will lead to the award of a PhD. For Muhammad Shamoon, all of this is true.

Muhammad arrived from Pakistan to Canberra two weeks before borders were closed. With the help of the ANU Postgraduate and Research Students' Association he was able to quickly find accommodation.  “Luckily, COVID-19 didn’t impact my travel to Australia. But with the lockdown of the ANU campus and the lab closure, the start of my research has been delayed.” This would probably feel like a huge step backwards and a daunting prospect for someone who has a plan. But Muhammad has taken the lab closure and the COVID crisis in his stride and with the guidance and encouragement of his supervisor, Professor Chris Nolan, he’s come up with a new plan. “I decided to shift my research work activities to focus on writing a research plan, starting a literature review and completing online training provided by the ANU Researcher Development team.”

Muhammad has also made sure to explore his new city (as much as possible given the restrictions) and has connected with new friends, which has also helped him to settle in. “Even though there has been a complete disruption to any sense of normality I have looked for the positive in every situation and have adapted to this new reality. The Higher Degree Researcher (HDR) Pandemic Forum run by Dr Diana Perriman is a brilliant initiative of ANU Medical School allowing HDRs to come together for support. I realise we’re all facing challenges but we can get through this.”

Now that restrictions are slowly lifting, Muhammad is eager to meet face-to-face with his fellow HDR students and research colleagues. He hopes his current work - writing a review paper on potential biomarkers in diabetes prediction and preparing his research plan - will facilitate a great start to his laboratory work.  “With intellectual curiosity, I am passionate about making a contribution towards still unanswered questions in my field of research and, hope that my research project can open up new lines of inquiry to help people at risk of diabetes.”