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Double joy as mother and son donned the mortarboard on the same day

Family portrait at the convocation


A delightful turn of events that unfolded by chance has brought double joy to PhD in Information Technology graduate Dr. Loh Wai Ling, 58, as she walked the graduation stage alongside her son at UTP's recently concluded 19th convocation.


She says, "I had finished all of my conference and journal papers last year. However, because of my heavy work schedule, I was not able to meet my research dissertation deadline on time."


Dr. Loh, a secondary school teacher who teaches Bahasa Malaysia at SMK Bernadette's Convent in Batu Gajah, Perak, says that she was supposed to complete her research by year end in 2018. But her fate was sealed when the delay deferred her graduation to the following year.


Fortunately, this also meant that she will don the mortarboard on the same day as her son, Christopher Teh Jun Qian, 23, a first class Bachelor of Electrical and Electronics Engineering graduate.


After six years juggling work and study part-time, Dr. Loh is optimistic that her PhD will open up a new chapter in her career. She says, "If you are healthy, you should still serve the country. Sixty is too young to retire nowadays. We need more retirees to come forward and become role models for our future generation."


Dr. Loh, who was accompanied by her husband, Teh Thien Lai, 59, at the convocation says, "I have been teaching for more than 20 years. In one and a half years, I will be retiring. But after my PhD, I am raring to turn a new leaf in my career. In fact, I've already started the search for my next job."


"I don't want to be laying around at home after I retire as a teacher. There's still a lot left in me and I want to contribute for as long as I can, probably as a lecturer in IT," she explains.


Next, Dr. Loh looks to combine her profound experience in teaching with her research knowledge to contribute to the nation's pedagogical development. Following her research breakthrough, her next venture will centre around making her research work more visible. Ultimately, Dr. Loh aspires to help the Ministry of Education Malaysia accelerate the implementation of interactive digital technology in schools.


For her PhD research, Dr. Loh worked on programming and developing a smart board courseware for teaching and learning. She says, "It's like a digital blackboard. It can be used only with a digital touch screen white board. The smart board connects to IoT and digital peripherals to make learning more interactive by incorporating touch functions."


"I am very happy with the outcome I produced for the research. The project holds great potential to improve weak students' achievements in learning and teaching," she adds. According to her, she chanced upon the project following a previous University of Science Malaysia's collaboration with  UNESCO that had chosen her school for a pilot project in view of future use-cases of smart boards.


However, as a part-time student, Dr. Loh faced difficulties committing adequate time to work on the project. Despite this, under the watch of her supervisor, Assoc Prof. Wan Fatimah Wan Ahmad, the collective input they both generated helped to speed up her research work.


"Because I'm a part time student, most of the time, I was working on the project on my own. However, my supervisors, especially Assoc Prof. Wan Fatimah did all she could and was hands-on in helping me to overcome my research problems. Also, my Department of Computer & Information Sciences (CIS) lecturer, Dr. Aliza introduced me to Prof Dr. Ramayah of Universiti Sains Malaysia for the statistics courses I needed to analyse the bottlenecks I faced during my research."


The graduation is the culmination of a challenging journey that has given her so much joy, shares Dr. Loh. The emotions stuck out more so as she received her graduation scroll together with her son on the same day.


Prior to enrolling Christopher at UTP, Dr. Loh says, "We (Dr. Loh and her husband) scoured all the top private universities in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor for my son. We even went to Curtin University in Sarawak. But in the end, no other university could match UTP in terms of its leading facilities."


Meanwhile, Christopher says, "I was quite  surprised when I found out that we were going to graduate on the same day. It wasn't at all anticipated. Now, we can have a great family photo together. My friends were surprised too as I got more entry tickets than them for the chancellor hall."


Following in the footsteps of his parents who hold PhD qualifications, Christopher, who recently completed his internship at the University of Applied Sciences, Austria, says, "I think, now, every youth needs a PhD. I want to become a role model too just like my parents."


In a nutshell, lifelong learning is a theme that is widely practiced at UTP. Regardless of age, our enterprising education is helping our people create the opportunities they need to reach their potential. As a leading university in engineering, science and technology, our industry-connected learning seeks to overcome infrastructure and capability deficit across all sectors and industries.