People handled the COVID-19 pandemic differently, as it implicated everyone in ways beyond our imagination. It has been four years since the outbreak and that was the last time we got together as members of the faculty. Therefore, we spent two days at the Institute of Leadership and Development, Universiti Teknologi Mara, to bond through activities and sports, whilst incorporating scientific elements in the activities, in the anticipation to regroup our skills and knowledge as a productive body of the faculty of pharmacy.

Ice breaking session

Teamwork was key to completion of a seemingly simple task

Connecting dots might seem easy, however, how would you do it with many hands, having a pen, without holding it? It was tricky but doable. We tied up the pen to ropes of different lengths and moved it gracefully! We completed the challenge successfully and it was an eye opener of how much we needed each other to get to the end. Similarly in research, this activity reflected well of the teamwork to get things done easier and faster. We might be able to do research by ourselves, but the workload would be massive and plenty of time may be required.

We made our own soap!

Creatively making fragrant soaps with added vitamin E

Who would have thought we made our own soap? This was the highlight of the day as we won the best fragrant soap among 12 other groups! Though the ingredients were given to us to mix and match, nobody knew which would be the best match. Sometimes, we just had to go with our instinct. That was the lesson learnt from this activity. In research, we might have procedures for our experiments, but there are times things turned out differently from planned and we ended up with negative results. At times like this, knowledge, experience and instinct are key to decide which way to go and this includes a thorough discussion with the research team. Agreeing to disagree is normal in this situation, and at times, the decisions made may not have been by choice. If that is what it takes to get to the bottom, then we must risk it all and we may find something good. Eureka!

Sports day

Everyone was pumped for the race. It was a fun day!

The weather was bright on the second day and we were challenged to find answers through short riddles. More importantly, we got our physical stamina checked! It had been a while since we had a race like this and it triggered our body to run and jump! After completing my PhD in Manchester, I had plantar fasciitis. My feet were sore with all the walking and for standing too long in the lab. It took me a while to recover, though it was the best time for me to rest and get my body back to where it was before. Indeed, I learnt so much during the PhD journey, though there were times I got overwhelmed with work that I forgot to take care of myself. Therefore, love your body as much as you love your work!

Dinner together

Everybody enjoyed their food and smiled at the camera. What more could we ask?

Food brings people together, as should research. We had a nice dinner at the event and everybody was well-dressed in floral. Regardless of themes, at dinner or in the field of research, both of these could get people together. The intellectual minds might be diverse in so different levels, however, the ultimate goal of understanding science should keep people humble and respectful of one another. This brings back the memory when I first cooked for our department party. It was a simple Malay finger food, but at the party, a professor came to me asking for more because she finished it all. I was just a student at the time, but to her, I served the best food for that evening. She put a big smile on my face that day and was so humble asking for a recipe from a tiny little girl. Indeed I realise that knowledge does not have boundaries. We can learn from anyone and the more we know, the more we should realise how little our knowledge is, and that should keep us humble to reveal more of the unknown. Don’t you think?

Lessons learned:

  • Teamwork makes things easy
  • Be humble and respect each other
  • Take care of yourself no matter how busy you are
  • Follow your instinct as long as it is guided with knowledge

About the author

Dr. Nur Syamimi Ariffin is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. She is an EACR early career researcher and has obtained her PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom. She is involved in teaching pharmacology and toxicology courses and she is conducting research in breast cancer metastasis. She wrote this article to reflect on research and fun activities they had had post-COVID-19 pandemic.