December 2018 | Issue 39
Rising to the top

Sean Firoz_Byline.jpg​By Sean Firoz, Assistant Manager, Communication and Outreach

From seeing patients at the National Dental Centre, Singapore, to analysing dental pulps and in-vitro experiments at her laboratory in CSB, Lim Wen Yi has a lot to juggle during her first year in the PhD by Research programme at LKCMedicine.

"Juggling multiple responsibilities is definitely a challenge, as I am now a student, researcher, clinician and also a mother of two young children," said Wen Yi, who is currently looking at the role of gap junction building block, Connexin 43, in tooth decay in Professor of Tissue Repair & Regeneration David Becker's lab. "I am particularly grateful that my fellow lab members are a great bunch of people who are helpful, fun-loving and encouraging, which was integral for me to adjust to a new work environment."

Wen Yi and her class of 13 students were the latest to be admitted into the PhD by Research programme in August 2018, a programme that aims to expose a range of topics and disciplines – natural science, medicine, social science and engineering – to its students so that graduates will have a deep knowledge and appreciation of both translatable and translational medical research methods.

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The PhD programme exposes the students to a range of topics and disciplines, and encourage active discussions amongst peers

The PhD programme is an exciting one, and every day offers something different for these PhD students. Fellow first-year PhD student Emma Cartwright Jane is currently developing an intervention in Associate Professor for Health Psychology and Behavioural Medicine Konstadina Griva's lab to support people with chronic kidney disease by making dialysis at home possible. Her day consists of completing her coursework, reading about her research area and meeting with other researchers for deep discussions about the work they do. "I try to manage by dedicating time to both reading and writing each day," said Emma.

But by far, the most exciting part of the PhD programme for these first years is their clinical and global health awareness attachment, where students are attached to different clinical placements both locally and abroad.

Nur Raihanah Binte Mohd Harion, who is currently working on the critical roles of unique cellular structures termed membrane contact sites in the regulation of intracellular lipid delivery in Nanyang Assistant Professor Yasunori Saheki's lab, had her Global Health Awareness Attachment in Vellore India.

Raihanah said, "The PhD programme provided me with the chance to observe the clinical aspect of my research and experience first-hand the daily diagnosis and treatment of diseases in a developing country, and I especially enjoyed interacting with the locals there and the doctors were very patient to explain to us about their work. If given another opportunity, I would do it again!"

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Both student and supervisor work together towards a common goal

While the PhD by Research programme offers many opportunities to learn both bench and bedside practices, the lessons they learn from their supervisors are the most valuable. As students who are on the road of research and science, their lab supervisors are there to guide them through their projects and teach them skills relevant to their field of work.

Mark Chan, who is currently working on antimicrobial resistance in Associate Professor of Human and Microbial Genetics Eric Yap's lab is thankful for the experience and wisdom that his supervisor has shared while working in his lab.

"Learning science is always fun and having great people around me who can openly discuss scientific ideas makes my time here worthwhile. They have taught me the importance of intellectual humility, that anyone can learn from anyone regardless of hierarchy or age. I have learnt to take ownership of things, expand my knowledge and skills, and to be more confident in communicating my ideas," said Mark.

Whether in or out of the lab, the current first-year students in the PhD by Research programme are still finding their footing in the world of research. But through a comprehensive programme and guidance from their mentors, these 13 students will soon be on their way to become great experts in their field.