August 2016 | Issue 25
Introducing students to research

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By Sivalingam SP
Senior Research Fellow

I have the privilege of working with Associate Professor of Human & Microbial Genetics Eric Yap, whose laboratory develops portable and low-cost formats of all types of diagnostic equipment – from incubators to tools that rapidly detect pathogens and determine antimicrobial resistance. For example, we are developing ultrarapid (<5min) polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays for point-of-care diagnostics that do not require inconvenient and risky nucleic acid extraction methods.

This month, we are getting ready to welcome a group of LKCMedicine Year 4 students who are completing their six-week Scholarly Project with us. This is not the first time our lab hosts students. We recently hosted a group of student interns and undergraduate research experience on campus (URECA) programme students. We challenged them to independently find ways to set up a microbiology lab using only low-cost DIY lab equipment and materials which are readily available from the kitchen, home or local stores. In this way, we challenged them to engage in the process of inquiry and investigation, which hopefully kindled a sense of curiosity. Furthermore, if (or as is often the case, when) they encounter no or unexpected results, we would step in to motivate and guide them in their research. Through this process, we were able to boost their confidence in problem-solving and cultivate a practical understanding of the scientific process.

My professional experience in microbiology and infectious diseases has helped me in student supervision and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) promotion. It was enjoyable working with the students as their energy and enthusiasm are contagious and have made me feel younger! Overall, it was an enriching and enlightening experience. I probably learnt as much from them as they did from me. We are looking forward to working with the next group of students.