Reflections on Fathers and Life Science Careers

Photo credit to Kian Huay Tan and Hiang Ping Tan

On Sunday the 4th of September 2022, I take the opportunity to wish a very happy Father’s Day to all fathers and father figures in the world.

Please allow me to tell you about one of those figures in my life. My father, Kevin Heng.

Kevin was a man of few words. He showed love through acts of service, and gifts, we still have #Mask and #Centurions toys now enjoyed by two generations of children.  

He had a difficult childhood touched by poverty, malnutrition, as well as emotional and physical abuse. Yet, Kevin soared academically and professionally, going on to form his own company building shopping centres and housing apartments across Singapore, as well as construction projects across Southeast Asia.  

The picture of him atop one of his building projects in the late 1970s sees Kevin the young working parent at the peak of his professional life. He regularly led teams to pour concrete until 3am, until he almost overslept his exam finals on one occasion.  

I came to reflect on this when I worked as a young group leader at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, revising a research manuscript that reported on a brain disease gene, TUBB. The international effort behind the study meant that data was collected by labs in both the northern and southern hemisphere, working around the clock. 

On an evening drive home at 2am late one night, after collecting data on the confocal microscope for the paper, I thought of my dad pouring concrete into the early hours. I stood in his shoes and appreciated how he might have been thinking and feeling then. Fortunate to have the world at his feet and a young family to love.   

My father died in 2019, locked in his body as he suffered a severe neurodegenerative condition characterized by symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, known as Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). This cruel neurodegenerative disease slowly takes away one’s ability to walk, talk, eat, sleep and, ultimately, to breathe. My father, a man of few words, sadly died saying nothing. But, his love for us was, and always will be, everything.

This blog is for mentors and father figures in the #lifesciences. In what we do everyday in our professional lives, we can pass on our values, ethics and professional conduct. We can take a moment to listen to young scientists and biomedical professionals. Guide the next generation of #bluesky life scientists and biomedical professionals.

I launched Remotely Consulting to support careers in the life sciences. I am passing on my values. All that I have learnt from Father figures, and more.   

To my fellow life science and biomedical colleagues, what father figure inspired you? Share your story this #FathersDay so that others can be inspired too.

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Julian Heng is a 17-year veteran of the life sciences and Founder and Director of Remotely Consulting, an academic services company that boosts the careers of life scientists and biomedical practitioners at all levels, from students to professionals.

Remotely Consulting offers English language editing services and mentoring/coaching to support you on your career journey. Contact us today on remotelyconsulting@gmail.com to find out how we can partner you to bring the best out of your life sciences research.

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