Postgraduate Student Life @ CUHK
Romeo GOH
from Malaysia
PhD Student in Biomedical Sciences

The Wind Beneath His Wings

As an undergraduate biomedical science student, Romeo Goh (PhD in Biomedical Sciences) was always interested in the topic of how human beings expressed empathy towards one another.

As a largely niche area of research, the topic had caught Romeo’s interest at an early age thanks to a gift from his brother, which inspired him to pursue the topic at University.

“I was thinking of going to medical school and my brother bought me these neuroscience books knowing that I love the research side of things, since then I got really hooked,” he said.

“While empathy is universal, I was deeply intrigued to know why there are people on both extremes, like psychopaths who feel no empathy. I had spent such a great deal of time thinking and talking about these neuroscience issues and I really found my interest.”

At the time, new research had revealed that rodents could feel empathy towards their kind. All this culminated in a perfect storm and Romeo was on a quest to find the best place to pursue a postgraduate degree where he could focus on research into this area where little was known about.

“I wanted to find out how individuals interacted, the neural mechanisms underlying empathy and the inter-relationships affecting it,” he said. “At the time, I came across my current supervisor and she is by far one of the most passionate people I have ever met. We spent a great deal of time talking about neuroscience issues.”


In pursuit of knowledge

From there, Romeo decided to stay on at The Chinese University of Hong Kong to study for his postgraduate degree. And he has no qualms to admit that his positive and unforgettable experiences during his undergraduate years at CUHK was the real driving factor.

Having scouted across Asia looking at different universities in regions such as Hong Kong and Singapore, the Malaysian whose now in his third year of his PhD decided to settle on Hong Kong. And although he received two offers from other local universities, he eventually decided that CUHK was the place for him.

“What made the decision for me was that the department head at CUHK was so enthusiastic and made me feel so welcome and excited,” said Romeo. He felt that he could get the support that he needed to carry out his research, and he was not disappointed. Whether it was peer or financial support, he said that he was able to focus on his research at CUHK without having to worry too much. 


Getting the right support

Back in his undergraduate studies at CUHK, Romeo had already been invited to join the Undergraduate Research Programme where he harvested friendship, support and mentorship amongst his peers and supervisors. He excelled under their tutelage and consistently made the Dean’s list. He was then encouraged to pursue his postgraduate studies to fill in research gaps in his subject area.

“My peers were encouraging, and my supervisors are so professional and helpful too,” Romeo said. “They can provide us with extensive resources and have a wide network of collaborations with others all over the world.”


Shooting for the stars

Romeo also embraced the fact that his supervisors and professors always encouraged and pushed him to do his best. Whether it was to publish or help him prepare his CV, he felt that his research and experiences underscored by the support of the University made him highly competitive in his field.

“I’m always amazed by the work ethic of the people here, they create this highly competitive environment that drives you towards excellence,” he said.

Then of course there was the whole experience of being in Hong Kong which was a real driver for Romeo. Being at the heart of Asia, he felt that Hong Kong offered a great mix of both the East and the West. Whether it was in the food, the culture or even the city itself, Romeo felt that the city offered a truly metropolitan experience.

“It’s an incredibly international city as you can meet a bunch of people from different backgrounds here — that was my first impression about Hong Kong, and now it’s all about the food,” he joked.


Grasp the opportunities

With a keen sense to dole out advice to his fellow Malaysian peers, he encourages them to think regionally and to take the initiative to reach out for opportunities.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out, it’s something we don’t do often as Malaysians, but write to the professors, talk to them and just find out the new possibilities,” he said. “Sometimes we tend to stay in the same place for too long and we get too comfortable; just take a step forward to embrace these new opportunities and establish your own networks, then all the good opportunities will come to you,” he advised.