Tremendous experience, Summer Vacation Research Scholarship

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Even as the academic year winds down, I was preparing to meet a new challenge: 8 weeks in a laboratory that will hone my scientific skills and prepare me for a possible career in research. I was fortunate enough to work in the Steroid Receptor Biology lab in Prince Henry’s Institute of Medical Research as part of the initiative supported by the Cancer Council of Victoria.

Such programs give students a chance to immerse themselves in cutting edge medical research in tertiary research institutions. For an international student like me, it is a pivotal experience that helped me decided whether to pursue a career in research, and to consider a possible career of being a physician-scientist.

Throughout my placement here, I realized researchers/clinicians who bridge the gap between clinical medicine and basic science are in a unique position to exploit the expanding knowledge of human genome and other recent advances to make remarkable discoveries that will benefit the human health.

The range of possible research areas that I was exposed to is immense. Emerging areas include identification and use of markers to allow early detection of ovarian cancer, gaining an in depth understanding about the exact pathophysiology and discovery of new molecular targets for possible therapeutic agents spearheaded by the steroid biology receptor group over in PHI.

Upon completion of this program, I truly recognize the increasing importance of science and research for practicing physician. I probably didn’t have any idea that I am going to do research before this experience. This journey down under really does build up the excitement, but even if I decided not to pursue research somewhere down the line, I am undoubtedly better prepared for 21st century medicine after working in the lab.

By immersing myself in the project looking into the “Pathogenesis of Granulosa Cell Tumour”, I am proud to say that I have mastered a few key techniques in laboratory research. Among the techniques are cell culture, plasmid purification, bacterial cell transformation, mammalian cell transfection, PCR, Western Blotting and many more.

Personally, I have the impression that research is more tedious and meticulous compared to clinical medicine. Moment to moment awareness is crucial to avoid to avoid making mistakes that could jeopardize the whole experiment. Techniques such as cell culture are indeed demanding requiring strict adherence to sterile practices to prevent unwanted contamination.

Besides learning core techniques, one of the most valuable lesson I have gained from the people here is to be analytical in science. I was taught by my supervisor to think critically when things go wrong in science. Critical skills in investigate thinking do provide a basis for better medical practice, better assessments of evidence for that practice that will change rapidly in my generation of physicians and a better foundation for new biology of medicine. Spending time to search for answers as well as fixing problems that arise truly intrigues my inquisitive mind.

Although the results for my experiments are not conclusive, I have indeed benefited tremendously as in PHI there has been a great focus on understanding the aspects of translational research, a valuable experience for medical students beginning their careers, By having done an independent study project, I have gained insights in how things move from the lab bench to patient bedside.