February 2018 | Issue 34
Research attachments with LKCMedicine hone skills beyond the lab

Grace Ang (Custom).jpgGrace Ang, Senior Executive, Communications & External Relations

Peering through a microscope into a petri dish of fermented rice concentrate, 18-year-old Ayushi Shroff studied the morphology of different strains of bacteria. This turned out to be one of the most enriching experiences for her. Under the tutelage of LKCMedicine Associate Professor of Human & Microbial Genetics Eric Yap, Ayushi embarked on her first foray into research, examining the effects rice and milk bacteria have on crops, as fermented rice is used as a fertiliser in the Philippines.

Like Ayushi, a growing number of students from universities and colleges here and overseas are choosing research attachments at LKCMedicine, with stints ranging from a couple of months up to a year. Aspiring to become a biology researcher, Ayushi who is pursuing her studies in the US wanted to experience research in a different part of the world. So she chose to do a summer research attachment in Singapore. The undergraduate student who is currently reading Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, "I was eager to experience what research in a lab entailed and was excited to see if research was what I imagined it to be."

RA 2 (Custom).jpg
Ayushi (left) learnt a lot from her stint with Assoc Prof Yap

With NTU climbing global university rankings, it is no surprise that the number of aspiring researchers seeking opportunities with LKCMedicine labs is on an increase.

The School's dual campus, comprising the Experimental Medicine Building on NTU's main campus and the newly opened Clinical Sciences Building (CSB) at LKCMedicine's Novena campus, is also a huge draw for students eager to try their hand at research. Hosting an array of state-of-the-art research facilities and advanced equipment, the lab teams at LKCMedicine focus on research topics at the cutting edge of modern medicine, such as neuroscience, population health and living, lipidomics and phenomics.

Apart from international students, the School has also seen interest from a pool of top NTU students keen to get a taste of academic research with LKCMedicine. A year-long research attachment with LKCMedicine boosted 25-year-old Shafiq Sahib's aspirations of building a career in Public Health. In developing low-cost point-of-care diagnostics for opportunistic fungi thriving in Singapore, Shafiq had to use a combination of skills, including creative thinking, product design and programming, along with his scientific skills.

He graduated in 2016 with first class honours from NTU's School of Biological Sciences, a year after the research attachment. Shafiq recounted, "Through my attachment, I picked up skills that I would not have acquired in my biological sciences curriculum. It was very much an interdisciplinary research experience which made the attachment interesting and fruitful."​

With an increasing number of students and collaborators seeking research opportunities at the School, LKCMedicine's Research Administration & Support Services (RASS) and Academic Affairs have jointly introduced a process to enhance the admission of research interns and collaborators to LKCMedicine. This includes an official matriculation and a lab safety briefing before researchers embark on their research stint.

But aspiring researchers who come to LKCMedicine get to sharpen more than just their research skills; they also benefit from LKCMedicine's multidisciplinary research faculty, who offer a variety of projects that allow them to explore interests and hone skills beyond the lab. "I had countless opportunities to improve my soft skills, including showcasing my work and speaking to the public, and also meeting brilliant minds both within and outside of LKCMedicine," said Shafiq.

For Ayushi, the autonomy and responsibility she was tasked with helped her progress towards her dreams of becoming a full-fledged researcher. "The highlight of my attachment was the level of involvement I had in the research process. From proposing solutions to planning experiments, to plating the bacteria as well as preparing presentations – I was completely responsible for the project I was conducting," said Ayushi. "On completing the internship, my motivations to make my dreams a reality only got stronger," she added.

LKCMedicine's research faculty welcomes students from local junior colleges, polytechnics and universities, international students, NTU and LKCMedicine PhD and undergraduate students.

After venturing where no man had gone before, Neil Armstrong said, "Who knows what mysteries will be solved in our lifetime, and what new riddles will become the challenge of the new generations." If you have a curious, inquisitive mind and a calling for research like Ayushi and Shafiq, please contact us at LKCMedicine-RASS@ntu.edu.sg, stating your research interests.