Published on 26 Oct 2022

An athlete explores new paths with a Master of Arts

Basketball player, coach and PhD candidate at NIE NTU, Singapore, Mr Tan Zhi Sen is strategising a career in research based on his love of sports.

Can caffeine enhance your performance in basketball? Mr Tan Zhi Sen is hoping to find out.

Surprisingly, it was not the prospect of performance enhancement but the fear of injuries that sparked his interest in sport science.

The PhD candidate at the Physical Education and Sports Science Academic Group of the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NIE NTU, Singapore), shared: “I sustained injuries on my ankle and foot during my army days. It occurred to me that there were many athletes who gave up their sport because of severe injuries. I wanted to educate myself about sports injuries so that I can prevent this from happening.”

Mr Tan decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Sport Science & Management at NTU, before progressing to a Master of Arts by Research at NIE. “NIE is a globally renowned institution, and the familiarity made things a lot simpler as my supervisor, Associate Professor Stephen Burns, is someone whom I’ve worked with before and I have the utmost trust in our relationship as supervisor and student,” he said.

Not just for educators, NIE NTU, Singapore, offers an extensive range of graduate programmes designed to challenge students, develop their skills and boost their career prospects. The programme categories include a Master’s by Coursework, PhD and Master’s by Research, and Doctor in Education.


A basketball coach and player, Mr Tan was inspired by his morning beverage when it came to picking a research topic.

The avid coffee lover said: “It randomly struck me one day to question if caffeine had an actual effect on sports performance. I found that caffeine is known to be a useful supplement, but there is inadequate research on accuracy-based performance. I decided to focus my research on two things I enjoy – caffeine (from coffee) and basketball.”

Since the beginning of his Master’s programme, he knew he wanted to go on to a PhD and continue his research on the topic.

“By upgrading myself, I will be able to contribute to the sporting industry with the newly attained knowledge from my PhD journey,” said Mr Tan, who graduated with his Master’s in February this year.

While he has yet to complete his proposal for his doctoral research, he revealed that he will be investigating how caffeine affects basketball performance based on comparisons among different basketball athletes. “At the same time, I want to further understand how prevalent the use of caffeinated substances is in Singapore. The focus of my doctoral research will be geared towards understanding how caffeine’s ergogenic (performance-enhancing) abilities affect female basketball players, as there is a lack of attention given to this aspect.”


Mr Tan, who received his coaching licence in 2019, toggles between his roles as a basketball coach and player, as well as his PhD studies.

His recent wins include the 2022 Rigorer Youth Cup in June, which saw the under-18 boys’ team from Siglap Basketball Club claim victory under his coaching. He was also the assistant coach of the combined Singapore universities’ men’s team in the recent 20th ASEAN University Games.

While it can be challenging to juggle his post-graduate commitments with training, gym and coaching sessions as well as competitions, Mr Tan believes that his hectic schedule is worthwhile, as being at NIE has given him valuable learning that he incorporates into his coaching.

“These new insights have provided modifications to the way I coach and the methodologies I use to ensure that my coaching attains its greatest goal – for the players to improve in basketball, and be better people,” he said.

In addition, he has gained a new appreciation of working with others, after winning the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition at the NIE Graduate Student Conference 2021. A fellow PhD student, Ms Alexiaa Sim, not only encouraged him to participate but also shared with him videos of past winners so he could craft his script – which he took pains to memorise, even rehearsing it in the shower.

With the guidance of his supervisor, he was also able to publish two journal articles – one of which won him the Dean’s Commendation for Research – and present at several conferences.

Said Mr Tan: “My long-term goal is to use sport science knowledge to form a team of trainers to nurture athletes and raise their sporting performance to compete on Interested in furthering your studies with NIE NTU, Singapore? Graduate programme applications are ongoing until Jan 13, 2023.

Read the Original Article here.

Source: Channel NewsAsia © Mediacorp Pte Ltd. All rights reserved