Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An Enriching Internship Experience at Harvard Medical School’s primary teaching hospital

Third Year Molecular Biotechnology Students Ng Wei Ting and Evelyn Chen were really excited when they found out that they were selected for a three month internship at Boston Children’s Hospital. It was one of the most popular choices for internships because it is the primary teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.

The two girls, who were attached to the Karp Family Research Laboratories at the hospital, worked on stem cell research from April to June 2013. It was a steep learning curve but they were happy to pick up lab techniques and procedures that were commonly used in America.

Here, they recount their internship experiences.

Ng Wei Ting: Gaining a Deeper Knowledge about Stem Cell Research
From this internship, I brushed up on my current techniques and learnt many new ones too. As part of my job, I did experiments for my supervisors. These experiments helped me to improve my lab techniques and skill, and at the same time enhanced my knowledge of different subjects.

At first, it was hard to understand these subjects because Evelyn and I only had a basic understanding of stem cells. However, when we were in Boston, we were taught about stem cell pathways, and many other areas related to stem cell research.

The working experience at the Karp Family Research Lab was amazing. Our supervisors were friendly and outgoing. They also understood that we did not have much background information about stem cells. Thus, they gave us reading materials on stem cells, and even tested us on our knowledge so that we would be able to fully understand what we were doing.

Even though we made mistakes while doing the experiments, they continued to encourage us and taught us how to do the experiments better.

We were also able to meet a lot of PhD and undergraduate students who were also very friendly. For example, when I was trying to find a specific substance in the laboratory, they would gladly come over and ask if I needed help.

I learnt that being a researcher is tough. One would need to understand the subjects very well before an experiment can be planned or conducted. Otherwise, funds given for the experiments can be drained quickly.

Overall, my experience was good, and I would definitely want to work there again if given the opportunity.

Wei Ting (left) and Evelyn (right)
Evelyn Chen: Understanding Supervisors, Learning from Mistakes 
During these three months of internship at the Karp Family Research Laboratories, I was fortunate to learn many skills and techniques from my supervisors and colleagues.

In the first month, we learned how to apply techniques, such as Western Blotting, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), cell and tissue culture techniques, and DNA/RNA/Protein isolation techniques in our experiments. After the first month of adapting and learning basic skills and theory, we started to help our supervisors with their research project for the next two months.

One of my memorable experiences was learning from my mistakes. While performing experiments, I made mistakes, which resulted in the repeat of the whole experiment, or part of the experiment. I felt bad about making these mistakes but I also learnt a lot from them.

Our supervisors were very understanding and encouraged us to open up and ask questions. Therefore, I developed the habit of asking questions when I had doubts, I felt that I have learnt a lot from the American culture and it was definitely a good thing for me.

Wei Ting and Evelyn with their supervisors
It was not all work and no play. One perk we had was getting to travel around Boston and Cambridge. We also spent a few days in New York.

We had loads of fun travelling around and visiting city attractions during our weekends. I also learnt to be more independent while living in a foreign country.

Hence, in all, I felt that it was a great experience and I am glad that I was able to go for this internship. I made many new friends in the lab and also learnt about things I couldn’t have learnt in Singapore.

It was a tremendously useful learning experience as I felt that some of the things I have learnt greatly aided me in my Final Year Project.

I also shared this experience with my friends in school, and they did likewise with their own internship experiences. It was great because we got to exchange views and talk about the skills we learnt.

No comments:

Post a Comment