Best of Both Worlds: Living a Double Life as a Graduate Student and Fiction Author


A dream is a wish your heart makes and Dhira put all of her heart on the stakes, to make her dreams come true. Her lifelong dream is to be an author or a scientist and through hard work, she makes the best of both worlds. Under the pen name of nellaneva, she published five fictional books. Moreover, she also published motivational books with other students and academics paper throughout her study. From her stories, you don’t need to choose who you want to be, instead, you can just be both. Let’s unleash her journey to becoming a graduate student and an author.


How It Started

Science and fiction have been the two biggest passions in my life. I remember spending my childhood mostly reading biology encyclopedias and fiction books, dreaming that one day I could excel in one of those fields by becoming a scientist or author. Hence, in the university entrance examination, I selected Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB)’s School of Life Science and Technology as my first option then English literature major at another university for the second one. When I got accepted in my first option, I was beyond elated. At that time, I gave up my other dream to become a fiction author as I wanted to focus on being a scientist. 

While pursuing my degree in ITB, I indulged myself not only in academic activities but also in student organizations, such as the Microbiology Student Organization (Himamikro ARCHAEA) and the Japanese Culture Club (Unit Kebudayaan Jepang). In Himamikro ARCHAEA, I became the Staff of the Community Service Division and was in charge of arranging community service programs through seminars and workshops. In the Japanese Culture Club, I held the Secretary position during my second year and then the Head of Public Relation during my third year. Besides that, I also managed to join student activities outside the campus. In July 2012, I participated in DREaM summer program which was held for two weeks in Yogyakarta. That was my very first international experience where I got the chance to interact and make friends with foreign students from various countries. 

DREaM summer program hence drove me to seek other international exchange opportunities. In July 2013, I participated in Chiba University’s TWINCLE program for ten days in Japan. The program required me to share the education system and teaching methods in Indonesian high schools with Japanese students. In exchange, when the Japanese students came to Indonesia (Bandung) weeks later, I accompanied them teaching in high schools.

This experience further encouraged me to study abroad, especially in Japan as my top destination. In 2014, I was selected to join the student exchange program, named KUEST (Kanazawa University Student Exchange of Science and Technology). During approximately two academic semesters, I did laboratory experiments to elucidate the bacterial communities over the Gobi Desert area which later became the topic of my undergraduate thesis.

Being an exchange student delayed my graduation, yet I did not regret it because I obtained precious experience during my one-year stay in Japan. Studying abroad has taught me important lessons: independence, self-motivation, tolerance, and the need to widen my comfort zone. My days of traveling around Japan have granted me a wider perspective which amazingly inspired me to start writing fiction again.

 Taking Pictures with One of My Books. Source : Private documentation.

On the Road

Therefore, returning to Indonesia in 2015, I began writing and uploaded my book scripts on the online writing platform using Nellaneva as my pen name. The genres of my books are mostly science-fiction and fantasy, though I also enjoy writing slice-of-life stories. After several months of displaying my scripts online, I managed to gain plenty of readers. Their positive reviews and comments encouraged me to submit my scripts to Indonesian major publishers. Getting no beginner’s luck, I received several rejections and even no response. Then I decided to publish one of my books with an independent publisher. I was in no rush anyway, since at that time I had just started my job as a senior analyst at Kalbe Nutritionals. While adapting to a work environment and preparing for my first book launch, I spent my spare time by writing new book scripts. As much as I wanted my books to be widely published, I was also eager to pursue higher education. Since I was working in the food industry, I am interested in studying more deeply about food pathogens. When I found out that the Research Institute of Microbial Diseases’ Department of Bacterial Infections at Osaka University is analyzing the molecular mechanism of bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection, I immediately took interest and applied for graduate school admission there. 

Then, in April 2017, my book entitled Dharitri was released. The sales and reviews were so surprisingly good that once again I got the confidence to re-submit it to major publishers. All the patience finally paid off: my book script was accepted for publication. Not long after that, I also passed the Taniguchi scholarship selection process which will sponsor my study in the Frontier Bioscience faculty at Osaka University. Yet, by the time my books were ready to be distributed to Indonesian bookstores, I departed to Osaka to start attending graduate school.

Selected as one of Excellent Female Researcher Prize Winners at Osaka University. Source : Private documentation.

My journey in Osaka has been nothing but great and fruitful. My research theme is about the investigation of the mechanism underlying Vibrio parahaemolyticus pathogenesis, a bacterium associated with gastroenteritis in the human body. Using this research theme, I got my Master’s degree in 2018 and directly continued to doctoral course in the same year while being selected as one of Osaka University Excellent Female Researcher prize winners. I also had the opportunity to do internships at Nagasaki University and Biofarma under the Indonesia Global Talent Internship (IGTI) program. Besides doing laboratory experiments on a daily basis, I participated in Osaka-Nara Indonesian Students Association (PPI/Persatuan Pelajar Indonesia) as the Head of Public Relation and recently hold the position as the Head of Taiyou Indonesia Foundation, a charity organisation that raises and donates funds for underprivileged schools in Indonesia.

As for my writing journey, I have published five more books since my debut in 2017. I wrote most of my book scripts before entering graduate school, therefore I only had to deal with the revisions in a way that they do not interfere with my study here. The constructive reviews from my readers become my biggest motivation to produce more interesting stories. In 2019, I and my team from PPI Kansai also published a motivational book about the PPI former leaders’ journey during their study in Japan. The title of the book is The Power of Dreams and is available in Indonesian bookstores.

Master graduation at Osaka University. Source: Private documentation.

How It Is Going

Presently, I am in the final year of doctoral course. Pursuing a Ph.D. degree is surely challenging and full of struggles. There are difficult moments when conducting my research, such as failed experiments, approaching deadlines, and the tendency of having impostor syndrome. However, I keep motivating myself by remembering my goal and the reason why I am initially interested in my research topic. Luckily, my academic supervisors always give me compassionate guidance and advice. The endless support from my family, friends, and colleagues also encourages me to keep moving forward. 

To conclude, looking back at my journey, I am now happy and proud that my dream has become true. Even better, not only being a scientist, I can also excel to be a fiction author. My future goal is to get the best of both worlds, making sure that my dream will not go to waste. Hopefully, I can graduate well and contribute to society using the knowledge I gain during my study. After graduation, I have this plan to translate my books into English and publish them in the international market. Lastly, I would like to deliver this message to all the young generation out there: never give up. It is alright to feel discouraged when we fail, but let us learn from it and keep trying. Most importantly, enjoy the process!

Supporting links:

To know more about Dhira, you can read here :

To know more about her journey as a writer, you can read more here:


For those of you who are preparing or thinking of doing a PhD, you can join the PhD bootcamp prepared by Indonesia Mengglobal through this link :

Hope to see you in the PhD bootcamp!


Editor : Stephanie Triseptya Hunto


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