Most of us fear failure… The fear can become so intense that it influences our decision-making and behaviour; to the point we may not take a particular course of action simply because we fear the f-word. Failing a test means that you are not smart enough. Failing to get fits means that you are not attractive. Failing at work means you are not good enough and so on. For scientists working on projects, failure is encountered every day and it could take months or even years before a positive result is achieved. Dr. Chan Kok Meng, is a young Malaysian scientist who has a flair for puzzles. Embracing failures as learning x number of ways things do not work; he sees his role as “assembling the puzzle pieces together to achieve better treatment options for diseases. In the process of piecing the pieces, there are zillion times we do things before we see a piece fit. Failure is second nature to scientists and it is extremely rewarding when we do achieve a breakthrough that solves a societal issue”.
Dr. Chan Kok Meng is currently examining the toxicity levels of plant-based extracts, synthesised chemicals and environmental pollutants to assess their risk to human health. In doing so, he aspires to find the right alternative to chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer. During chemotherapy, the substance kills the bad cells and in the process also kills some of the good cells in our body. Meng believes “there’s a less-intrusive alternative to chemo”.
Meng has a Ph.D in Biomedical Science, majoring in Toxicology from the National University of Malaysia (UKM) and is one of the youngest to be promoted to associate professor before the age of 32. As the head of PR, he is a hands-on member of Young Scientists Network of Malaysia. The network has provided him the opportunity to enhance his leadership skills and engage with other likeminded scientists to collaborate on research projects, share knowledge and resources. He is also the only scientist with a black belt in Taekwondo that we have ever come across.
Professional experience aside, Meng is a proud father of two children. “Being a scientist made me a better father as I encourage my children to develop a growth mind-set and think critically. These skills are the building blocks to do anything successfully in their adult life”, shared Meng. His family means the world to him and he travels most weekends to Malacca to be with them. He does not mind the travelling distance as he wants his children to grow up in a close-knit community, away from the stress of living in a big city.