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Last year the WIMM established a collaboration with the Chinese University of Hong Kong to encourage and support medical students on the Global Physician Leadership Stream to participate in exchange studies overseas. This year, Timothy Liong Tipoe chose to spend the summer break from his medical studies working in Paresh Vyas’ lab with Lynn Quek, and in this latest post in our series written by students undertaking placements at the WIMM, he explains how his time here has inspired him to pursue a career in clinical research.

There are different definitions of enjoyment; while most of my classmates were out enjoying themselves during the summer, I was having my own form of enjoyment at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) in Oxford.

Here, I spent eight precious weeks under the supervision of Professor Vyas and Dr. Quek, a clinical fellow who worked with me on a daily basis and taught me the ropes of Molecular Haematology.

Within the first few weeks, I quickly developed an understanding of a form of leukemia (blood cancer) called Acute Myeloid Leukemia or AML, and the vast number of mutations that can lead to the development of this devastating disease.

In the lab, Dr. Quek immediately got me started on the dilution of primers, polymerase chain reaction and gel electrophoresis, three fundamental processes that are crucial to almost any research project in molecular biology.

Despite being a research-based internship, I was also able to deal with patient samples, going through the process from storing and recording blood samples, to DNA extraction and genotyping.

As well as these fascinating encounters, I got to explore the genetics of haematology. I learnt about the range of changes to our DNA that can cause red blood cell disorders, from some that are equivalent to ticking time bombs in our bodies, to those that are unique and spontaneously acquired.

These mutations made me more intrigued about the how AML develops in patients suffering from the disease, and the events that occur in order to cause a relapse in patients undergoing remission. Luckily, my thirst to find out more about these pathways was always quenched by Dr. Quek, who was more than happy to explain the process of haematopoiesis (the formation of blood from stem cells) to me.

I also busied myself with a research project on haematopoietic progenitors, where I helped harvest cell cultures and analysed them for specific markers that might help to identify and isolate these rare cells.

Although my internship has drawn to a close, it is in no way an end In fact, it is the beginning of an exciting journey where I can apply what I have learnt not only to enhance my medical studies, but also to become a medical doctor that appreciates how science is innovative in medical practice.

I am deeply grateful to Professor Vyas and Dr. Quek for taking me in and teaching me about haematology and working in science. This internship has inspired me to pursue clinical research after completing my medical degree.

I would like to thank the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine and the Global Physician Leadership Stream Programme for giving me this golden opportunity to work in a world-class research institution.

Post edited by Aimee Fenwick and Bryony Graham.