December 29, 2017, by Lisa Chin

Images of Research: So What’s It Really Like?

The winners of 2017 Images of Research Photography Competition share their experiences participating and subsequently winning the competition. They also share some insights and tips for future participants. We hope that these sharing of experiences are useful especially for those who intend to take part in the competition next year.

Winner – Chan Zi Yang, PhD student from the School of Pharmacy

First off, I would like to thanks the Graduate School for organising the Images of Research Photography Competition. I personally find it really meaningful because a picture is really worth a thousand words. Question is, how can I get a right picture that clicks with the right people?

As a postgraduate researcher, I often find that I have more ideas than what is practical. That is why I rely on experiments to test them out. It is ultimately through these experiments that one can learn to improve. The same goes to taking pictures. I experimented with many concepts and models before settling into the most satisfying one.  In fact, this experimenting stage is where I found most enjoyable. So resilience in research, it takes time and effort.

I study chemistry, but it doesn’t take a PhD to show people that water is made up of H2O. It is not the formula that matters, conveying a pictorial message doesn’t work this way. People often relate abstract concepts to simple things in daily life, to their own conscious experiences. So to make a picture relatable and meaningful, you will need to start simple and be relevant to your audience. Creativity often comes when you least expect it. Open yourself to new possibilities, experiment with them and perhaps your eureka moment is just one thought away.

Lastly, there is always an element of luck or randomness in life. For that, I shall be grateful. So do what you can do and good luck in all your studies and future endeavors!

Resilience comes with time. More often than not, things just take time to dissolve, to crystalise and to sort themselves out.

People’s Choice – Nguyen Nhat Tan, PhD student from Nottingham University Business School (NUBS) 

I came across the Images of Research photography competition held by the Graduate School when I was in the first year of my PhD in Business and Management. However, I was unable to join it due to heavy assignments and time constraints for my thesis proposal at that time. Therefore, I committed myself to look forward to this year’s competition as an active participant. From my point of view, I think this year’s topic “Resilience in Research” is much closer to all postgraduate participants and encourages creative ideas as it basically reflects the reality in our research life.

As a PhD student, challenges and difficulties in doing research are unavoidable. The important thing is being able to overcome and win those hindrances and toughness to achieve your set objectives and get your expected degree. Grasping these ideas, I decided to take a picture of my favourite studying corner in my room, which has been motivating and inspiring me during my studies in UNMC. This competition not only brought me new experiences in photo-taking about how to convey your intended message to the audience through just a picture but also provided me a chance to show my interests in photography. This partly proves that PhD life is not as boring and lonely as people normally perceive. In contrast, it comprises of other non-academic activities that makes the lives of postgraduate students more dynamic and colourful.

As the winner of People’s Choice Award in this 2017 competition, I cannot express how happy and surprised I am to win. The other images were also very interesting and meaningful. I think the people, who shared the same thoughts as me, saw their lives reflected in my image and thus decided to vote for that. Taking this opportunity, I would like to send my sincere thanks to those who have spent time voting for my picture to help me win this award.

Finally, I highly recommend all postgraduate students to participate in this exciting competition next year to discover your inner photographic capability and gain a great experience in your PhD life in UNMC. In order to have high chances of victory, you should remember to read the topic carefully and stick to it while you take the picture and capture your own moment, especially in selecting a unique and meaningful image as your final decision to submit.

Since joining UNMC, I recognise that the Graduate School has organised a variety of interesting activities for postgraduate students to enhance their knowledge and enrich social networks as well as life experience in our university and I hope to be able to join others in the future.

This picture captures a part of my favourite small study corner during my PhD life in UNMC. Experiencing pressures and difficulties is unavoidable in doing my daily research. However, by hard work, well-organised plans and surely self-motivated by this tidy and colourful corner, I strongly believe in winning those challenges and heading to a happy graduation with a PhD degree.

More information is available from Graduate School on

Featured image: Chan Zi Yang (left) was announced as the 2017 Winner of the Images of Research Photography Competition by Dr Lee Jiin Woei, Research Training Development Manager. Used as a tool to encapsulate the theme “Resilience in Research”, he presented us with the hourglass in commemoration of his winning. The recipient of the People’s Choice, Nguyen Nhat Tan, was unable to be present at the prize-giving session due to a prior commitment.

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