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Name: Jonathan Chung Fai Leung
Institute: The Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM)
University: University of Oxford
Period: Summer, 2014

Global Vision Enhancement in the "City of Dreaming Spires"


During studying in medical school, my interest in the medical field not only pertains to practice medicine, but also to the research behind it as well. I want to become the one treating patients, but likewise the one finding clues to a better cure, or the basis behind diseases.

I remember feeling both nervous and excited when I first arrived in Oxford, the ‘city of dreaming spires’. Soon, it turned out to be an eye opening experience to meet and work with pioneering research experts side by side.

The Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) is among one of the widely renowned research centres, and I was attached to its Molecular Haematology Unit, which consists of multiple teams of over a hundred scientists and doctors from around the world. Even as an undergraduate student, I was given the responsibility and independence on the conduction of cutting-edge techniques such as Next-generation Sequencing and CRISPR genome editing. With a personal one-to-one supervisor, Dr. Anthony Cheong; and close companionship with other researchers, I can also enhance myself with global vision and better prepare myself as a researcher by perceiving the thinking approaches, methodologies and the passion of Oxford experts.

Not only did I gain a deeper understanding of laboratory research and obtain early exposure into the field, the internship has also been a catalyst that helps me prospect into future opportunities to pursue further training in medical research. The Global-Physician Leadership Stream and WIMM has made this incredible learning experience possible for me, and my attachment was also supported by a scholarship.

This attachment has motivated me to continue to be involved in medical research in the future. These weeks have far exceeded my expectations and I would absolutely recommend it to future medical students interested in the academic field without reservation.

jonathan chung fai leung

Name: Pensi Lam Ping Hei
Institute: Yale Cancer Center
University: Yale University
Period: Summer, 2014

What an Inspirational Experience!

Lucky ME! I went to Dr. Katerina Politi's lab on lung cancer research in Yale, the lab is under the Yale Cancer Centre and Department of Pathology of Yale School of Medicine. The active interactions within the lab, the way how meetings are held, and how I am patiently guided, all intrigue me and make me feel grateful that I do not solely learn lab skills, but much much more.

The part of work I am focusing is related to lung cancer drug resistance. My main lab work is mRNA extraction from tumor tissues and cells, to eye on if they carry the mutations they supposed to have. I also learn giving xenograft mice drugs to see their tumor responses. These are new skills I obtained in Yale.

I love the lab culture here, Politi's lab holds meeting every week and besides people updating their lab works, they will spend time on journal pub, i.e. discussing fun or interesting papers. Even for topics like "if praying helps patients with bloodstream infection ", they will analyze rationally on the research methods. And I like how everyone is actively involved in the lab meetings, throwing questions and helping brainstorming.

Among all, one of the most inspiring events must be the translational lung cancer meeting. It is a weekly lunch meeting with free decent food, where doctors and researchers will present findings and patient cases. I truly get inspired by the frequent academic exchange between the bedside and bench-side, as this shall bring the maximal benefits to patients.

I treasure time in lab as I wish to focus on lung cancer molecular research in the future. The Yale exchange definitely granted me insights that one may not easily perceive in Hong Kong.

Leibovici L . Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients with bloodstream infection (randomized controlled trial) . BMJ. . 2001;323:1450–1451

 lam ping hei yale

Name: Phil Xie
Institute: Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
University: Yale University
Period: Summer, 2014

Early Professional Development

This summer, I am fortunate to work in Gerstein Lab, the largest bioinformatics lab in Yale. Bioinformatics is getting increasingly important in medical field, one reason of which is that it helps doctors study large data, such as those from sequencing and microarray. It is a promising tool that can be used to visualize personal medicine in near future.

My project is related to identifying enhancer, which is a part of the ENCODE Consortium. Enhancers are essential DNA sequences which are involved in controlling transcription, and ultimately the cell's function and identity. However, unlike coding sequences, it is humanly impossible to tell whether a piece of unknown DNA is enhancer or not, without actually testing it in labs. This is particularly the question we need to answer when analyzing cancer genomics, because we want to know whether the mutation found is causing cancer. Thus, developing a tool to quickly identify enhancers is very meaningful.

Members of the Consortium have already developed prototypes using machine learning, which is a type of artificial intelligence, and have made predictions for enhancers across the whole genome. My work is to analyze the performance of these prototypes, and thus help in further development of the tools. In the process, I wrote programming scripts in Python and R (two commonly used programming language), and ran them on Yale's supercomputer.
With effort in my project, reading papers, and communication with other lab members, I learnt how bioinformatics can help both doctors and researchers. Also, since most works are done on computer, international collaboration is possible.

Last but not least, I must thank the Faculty for giving me this opportunity, and Professor Mark Gerstein for accepting me into his lab. I am most grateful to be in a lab with wonderful lab culture and members from diverse backgrounds.

 phil xie yale