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Name: Fung Chi-Hua, Annie
Institute: Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
University: Yale University
Period: Summer, 2015
Global exposure in the basic laboratory environment
Before elaborating on my experience, I would like to start off by thanking Faculty and Professor Shulman for this invaluable internship opportunity as well as family and friends for their unwavering support.
Over the summer of 2015, I was incredibly fortunate to attach in Shulman Lab at Yale University, which has truly been an eye opening experience for me in terms of both academics and personal development.
During my 8-week internship period I chose to work with Professor Gerald I. Shulman, because I think his work on the pathogenesis of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes is intriguing, clinically significant and most importantly, challenges our current knowledge on type 2 diabetes. The mechanism via which insulin resistance develops still remains a mystery, thus current treatment methods for type 2 diabetic patients target mainly the symptoms and comorbidities associated with diabetes. Investigating the mechanisms of insulin resistance on a cellular level can enhance our understanding of type 2 diabetes thus from a clinical point of view, could potentially transform the therapeutic target for treating diabetic patients.
The main bulk of my lab work surrounded around various widely applicable techniques such as qPCR, western blots, cDNA synthesis, RNA and protein extraction from tissue samples. Conducting experiments in the laboratory is like cooking in the kitchen – follow a set of instructions (recipe or experimental protocol) using the required ingredients and equipment to obtain your end product. Starting off as an amateur cook with limited experience I was capable of making decisions and running experiments independently by the end of my internship period, thanks to the care and mentorship of Max, my supervisor and fellow lab mates, all of whom have taught me immensely. Additionally, I also had the opportunity to involve in advanced experiments such as rat infusion studies, rodent tissue extraction, magnetic resonance spectroscopy and hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic mice clamps, some techniques which are unique to Shulman’s lab.
Asides academics, I treasure the chance to further develop my personal qualities and soft skills by socializing in Yale’s diverse community, stepping out of my comfort zone and learning to be independent. Professor Shulman, Max and colleagues at the lab are excellent role models that I look up to because after working closely with them, I have observed the qualities of an outstanding leader and caring mentor.
Upon arriving back to Hong Kong I realized how much I have grown both as a medical student and an individual within a short span of time, which is truly unforgettable. In the future I aspire to further develop my skills, experience and research interests to translate potential therapeutic targets for diabetes and other endocrine disorders into clinical practice to improve patient care.
It was a pleasure to work with Max, my supervisor, whom has not only taught me laboratory techniques, skills and knowledge, but also the characteristics and qualities to be a caring mentor and outstanding leader.
Name: Lai Ka Ho Tommy
Institute: SickKids Hospital
University: University of Toronto
Period: Summer, 2015
Explore the Ever-changing field in Medicine
Under the recommendation of Prof. Poon Wai Sang, I had the opportunity to attach to the Division of Neurosurgery in SickKids Hospital, Toronto for 2 months.
I have always had a strong interest in Neurosurgery, and my attachment in SickKids allowed me to explore in this ever-changing field in Medicine in depth, where I truly appreciate the work of a neurosurgeon and the multi-disciplinary team involved in treating various neurological disorders in operation theatres and clinics.
Research has always been a crucial part in medical training in North America. During my time in Toronto, I made several visits to the key laboratories in SickKids on Brain Research, and attended a number of academic symposiums. I am very impressed by the effort of all the principal investigators there in exploring the possibility to bring revolution in different treatment modalities in Neurosurgery.
I was very fortunate to conduct an interview with my supervisor, Dr. James Rutka, who is the Editor-in-chief in the Journal of Neurosurgery, the Professor and the Chair of Division of Surgery in the University of Toronto. I learnt so much from him as he shared his passion and enthusiasm in his work.
On the whole, this was such a rewarding and fruitful experience for me, and none of this would be possible without the full support from the Faculty of Medicine at CUHK.
Name: Chan Long Landon
Institute: Gerstein Lab
University: Yale University
Period: Summer, 2015
Thanks to the GPS program, I had the opportunity to attach to the Gerstein Lab, Yale University for 10 weeks in the summer 2015.
The Gerstein Lab is one of the biggest bioinformatics labs in the United States. It is involved in many international consortiums related to genomic annotations and comparative genomics such as the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) and 1000 Genomes Project.
This summer, I worked on a project on targeted enhancer predictions under the supervision of Dr. Anurag Sethi. Enhancers are one of the key genomic regulatory elements that increase gene expressions. Understanding enhancers are particularly important in developmental biology and certain diseases’ mechanisms such as cancer and autoimmune diseases. However, we do not know the genomic locations for most enhancers. One reason is that we are only able to detect active enhancers but only a fraction of enhancers are active in any one tissue. Another reason being enhancers are often located far away from the genes that they control, making it a difficult task to estimate their locations using distance.
Because of these difficulties, Dr. Sethi developed a computational model to predict regulatory elements on the genome for all tissue types. My work is to validate these predictions and to develop further methods to distinguish promoters and enhancers given any regions on the genome for any tissues. I found the task tremendously interesting and challenging. I got to utilize all the knowledge and skills I acquired through my previous research experiences, including biology, genomics, statistics and computer science, to tackle this research question. In particular, I found the adoption of Bayesian statistics in this project very elegant.
Outside of working on my project, I also enjoyed the many heated discussions with other colleagues in the subgroup meetings and journal clubs, as well as our daily conversations that were never short of supplies of laughter and hidden jokes during lunch hour. Furthermore, the weather was the most superb while I was there and the scenery was simply gorgeous, which made the whole experience very memorable.
All in all, I must thank the Faculty of Medicine of CUHK, and Prof. Mark Gerstein for enabling this wonderful learning opportunity for me. With this experience, I have strengthened my research interest in computational genomics and my belief in its potential clinical utilities. Upon returning to Hong Kong, I hope to translate these research findings to patient care and to develop personalized genomics in both diagnostics and therapeutics directions in the future.
Name: Lui Yat Man Edmond
Institute: Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine
University: University of Oxford
Period: Summer, 2015
Translational Molecular Medicine Research in Oxford
Through the GPS overseas research internship, I spent my summer in the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine of the University of Oxford for three months. My supervisor, Prof. Zameel Cader, is a physician-scientist specializing in neurology. The main focus of my lab is the pathology of migrane headache.
Migrane headache is very common, yet its pathology is not well-understood. My major work was to try different techniques on cells reprogramming and I had the opportunity to develop a lentivirus transduction system and transport a reporter gene. This was challenging but definitely a fulfilling learning experience, which helped me to learn and discover more on this aspect.
In addition to my project, I was very impressed by the research environment in Oxford. Researchers in my lab are willing to teach and share with me. Therefore, besides the techniques involved in my project, I actually had a chance to work on almost every techniques from different specialists in my lab. Moreover, a lot of seminars and talks were held during the summer and I was granted great chances to attend them. Even more rewarding, I met and learnt from a group of doctors and scientists pursuing DPhil in Oxford of how to plan in order to become a biomedical researcher.
Finally, I would like to thank Cader’s lab, WIMM and CUHK for this educational and fruitful internship. It gave me a wonderful experience working in a molecular medicine lab and met new the top researchers around the world.