Saw Hoon Lim

THE 2022 SDR SCIENTIFIC EDUCATION AWARD: SAW HOON LIM

Institute of Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacy

University of Melbourne

Teaching brings me such joy, it simply re-energizes me – although I couldn’t explain it for a very long time! I come out from a class more content than when I entered. If I could, I would whistle a happy tune.

Right after my BSc, I was offered a job at a multinational company in Malaysia as a systems analyst employing completely different skills from my degree in genetics. A year in, the offer of a scholarship for a PhD at the University of Cambridge came in the mail (yes, it was that long ago). It was one of the most agonising decisions that I had to make. Leave a decent paying job for another three years of study? But when I looked to the future, I knew that I needed to carve out a path that included being an educator. After all, since Year 1, being a teacher has always been my ambition.

Three years later and after many rounds of punting on the River Cam, I graduated with a PhD in Plant Molecular Biology. I was offered a lecturing position at the National University of Singapore, teaching molecular biology and doing research on transferring genes into orchids. As beautiful as orchids were, I found the scholarship of teaching and learning even more captivating. There, I was also part of the pioneering team to form the University Scholars Program, bringing a multidisciplinary curriculum to undergraduate students.

Eight years on, we moved back as a family to Malaysia where I secured a position as a management consultant, a world away from teaching. But again, the lure of teaching beckoned so I went back to being an academic at the Malaysia University of Science and Technology, a (then) postgraduate university, modelled after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Another eight years later, we moved to Australia. My ‘wondering’ years were over. I knew then that teaching was what I really wanted to do. I restarted my career again as a tutor, and then as a lecturer at Monash University. I settled at the University of Melbourne as a senior lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology, teaching biochemistry and incorporating biochemistry concepts into interdisciplinary subjects.

I finally solved the mystery of why teaching brings me such joy – it’s the relationship and the connection with students and with my other colleagues that I thrive on. I feel gratified building knowledge with students as partners and incorporating interdisciplinary perspectives in my teaching. No more eight-year itches, no more hopping into other careers, I have found my answer.