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Nurgul Imangali, 25 years old, Hometown — Almaty

About myself

I’ve lived in Singapore for a year. I applied for a PhD program, and last year I received an invitation. I had two weeks to think whether to go to Singapore or not.

About the country

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When I came to Singapore for the first time, Singapore seemed to be like Europe for the Asians – everything is pure and civil here. I was surprised that in spite of being small, not producing anything, having no exports and no still water, this country has risen to the level of the First World countries in 50 years. I’ve noticed an imprint of English culture, since Singapore used to be a Malaysian colony. It was England that helped Singapore to gain independence. There is a museum here that looks like English museums and houses.

Coming to Singapore as a tourist, you’ll find this country to be chic, but the thing is that it’s expensive. The food will cost three times much than in Kazakhstan. If you are to live in Singapore for long, especially if you are going to study or work, you need to be prepared to work hard. People here are hardworking, otherwise they wouldn’t survive. Since the country is expensive, people have to work a lot - on average about 10-12 hours a day. It was an unrealistic stress for me, I was getting used to it for too long. Firstly, I was very tired. At some point this became a habit, now it's ok for me to work much.

The Singaporeans are patriotic. On Singapore's Independence Day people dress in red and white, which are the colours of the national flag. Families arrange picnics in the city center this day.

About the university and education

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I study at the National University of Singapore on a grant called the Singapore International Graduate Award (SINGA). Submission of documents is carried out twice a year. The requirements are not so high. The university tries to attract more foreign students, the grant is open to representatives of Central Asian countries, Europe, America.

Our university’s logo is an open book, which symbolizes the university as a portal to the world of knowledge. Three rings imply three main directions: creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. A lion denotes an ideal student qualities, the raised paws denote a willingness to serve the people, and the raised tail mean honesty and idealism.


A large number of conferences are held here, many of which are attended by world-class scientists, Nobel laureates. And I had the opportunity to talk with them personally, ask them questions about how they achieved success. For example, there was Martin Chalfi - a Nobel laureate who discovered a fluorescent protein.

There is a Museum of Natural Sciences, where three skeletons from the Sauropodomorpha family are collected.

About scientific activity

I’m to be a Doctor of Science. My studies are not students’ anymore, but a job. Basically I work independently - I conduct a scientific project, put experiments, formulate hypotheses and prove them.


I'm a biologist, at the moment I'm studying osteoporosis. It is a disease of bones in old age, when the bones become brittle and porous; they heal for a long time after injuries. I work on fish on which we induce osteoporosis, and then apply different medicines that haven’t been sold on the market yet.

In Kazakhstan I worked at the Nazarbayev University. I graduated MA there and worked for three years as an assistant in the laboratory. In NU I was engaged in working with cell cultures; on that studies basis we studied various diseases. For example, I studied Alzheimer's.

Compared to Kazakhstan, science in Singapore is sponsored much better. It’s not easy to develop science in Kazakhstan, to tell the truth, since it requires large investments. In Kazakhstan difficulties arise due to the fact that if you want to conduct an experiment, you need to purchase reagents. And to buy reagents, you need to work through suppliers, since we cannot buy them from companies directly. Therefore, the reagents that we purchase cost us at a triple price plus taxes. Being engaged in science turns out to be expensive. In Singapore everything is much simpler. If you need a reagent, you can order it online, it will be yours in a day.


The scientists’ salary initially is quite low in Singapore, therefore the Singaporeans rarely enter MA or PhD. On average everyone goes to work after graduating from the bachelor's, yet here you can find more opportunities to realize yourselves in the scientific sphere. Science in Kazakhstan rarely has further production. In Singapore after testing medicines, we can get a patent. There are many pharmaceutical companies here. The process of transition from the laboratory to entrepreneurship is much faster and easier. In Singapore, startups are well-sponsored, they invest in innovation and research. That’s why Singapore is a leading Asian country.

I plan to return to Kazakhstan, I’m missing home. I think that Kazakhstan’s following Singapore in its start-ups development and promotion way, which is being financed. It is important for science to have an opportunity to improve people's lives.

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