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Nelson in front of Christ Church College, Oxford

The Global Physician Leadership Stream (GPS) at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) allows trainee doctors to undertake placements in research labs abroad as part of their studies, The MRC WIMM has hosted several students on the programme over the past few years (see previous blogs here and here) and this summer was no exception. Read on to find out just how valuable Nelson Tsz-Pui Kwan found his experience working with David Beeson (NDCN) at the MRC WIMM earlier this year.

In the summer of 2016, I undertook a 2-month GPS summer research internship in Professor David Beeson’s laboratory in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (MRC WIMM).

The main research focus of Prof. Beeson’s group is understanding the pathophysiology and the treatment of Congenital Myasthenia Syndrome (CMS). CMS is a rare inherited neuromuscular disorder that can be caused by several types of genetic defects that affect the communication between nerve cells and muscle cells, leading to muscle weakness.

Neuroscience is famous for being a fast-changing field with lots of unknowns. Under Prof. Beeson and Dr. Judith Cossins’ kind supervision, I conducted a project to look for potential drugs that might increase levels of the protein DOK7, a strategy which the team suspected could help treat patients with congenital myasthenic syndromes. Fluorescence microscopy was the major technique I used in the project, as effective compounds would lead to fluorescent shining cells.

Apart from my research project, I found life in Oxford to be very exciting. The city is an international hub for academics, therefore it was possible to meet with people from all around the world to have both cultural and academic exchanges in a variety of settings. These could be anything from specific academic events such as seminars, to discussions about anything happening in the world such as politics and culture, to the fun times in the Institute (such as joining the summer party and the quiz evenings). It is undoubtedly enjoyable to stay in this beautiful city.

During my time in Oxford, I learnt that as a pioneer, very often many years are spent to look for new discoveries, with uncountable failed attempts. I also learnt that perseverance, passion and determination are necessary qualities for a scientist to have in order to persist through the inevitable repeating attempts at an experiment. This is definitely one of the most valuable lessons I learnt during my research internship, which is also applicable to my medical studies and many things that we encounter in life.

Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to Professor David Beeson’s group, the MRC WIMM and the CUHK Faculty of Medicine, for their guidance in allowing me to get a taste of medical research. This has definitely been an incredibly fruitful experience that will guide me in my medical studies and my possible future path of clinician-scientist.