Elysia Tan

Elysia Tan

Age: 21


What are you studying and what year?
4th year Medicine


At what university are you studying?
University of Otago – Wellington Campus


When were you at the GMRI?
Summer of 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16.


What are your career aspirations?
Ultimately graduate with my medical degree and become a doctor, but as I am only just about to enter my clinical years I haven’t decided what I’d like to specialise in.


Why did you decide to do a studentship at the GMRI?
As I medical student I have always found medical science very interesting but didn’t know much about medical research. I thought the summer studentship would provide the perfect opportunity to learn about medical research and use the knowledge I have gained over the past couple of years in medical school to complete a summer project and report my findings in a research paper.


What research were you involved in during your studentship at the GMRI?
I was involved in four research projects over my time at the GMRI, all on strawberry birthmarks. In my first project I identified and characterised subpopulations of myeloid cells within strawberry birthmarks, and a paper on my findings has just recently been published. In my second project, I looked at lymphocytes within strawberry birthmarks and a paper on my research has also been published. In my third project I looked for a particular neurotransmitter, neuropeptide Y, in strawberry birthmarks. This paper is ready to be submitted for publication.


What’s the most important thing you have learned while you were at the GMRI?
I have learned patience and persistence. I found sometimes research can be frustrating when the results don’t turn out the way you expected or when experiments don’t work and you have to repeat them. However, with patience and persistence the results end up coming together and forming a picture that gives a better understanding of the biology of strawberry birthmarks.


What’s the thing you liked most about your studentship at the GMRI?
I enjoyed working towards something over my summer holidays, and watching my project slowly evolve from a collection of literature reviews to a finished manuscript. It was exciting to come into work and receive the results from the last experiment I did because it was all adding to the bigger picture.


What’s the most exciting thing you have done/been involved with during your studentship?
The most exciting thing I did was submit my first research paper and, as the first author, having it accepted by the Journal of Clinical Pathology. That was a very proud moment for me and was such a great reward for the work I put in over the summer. I am also very proud to have my second paper published with me being the first author.


Would you recommend the studentship at the GMRI to other students? If so, why?
I definitely recommend the studentship to other students. It is an amazing opportunity to gain practical research skills under supervision and mentorship of world-leading medical researchers. The research staff at the GMRI are so supportive and helpful and the lab facilities are fantastic. There are also opportunities to publish a paper as a first author, and present at conferences.


What has your practical experience at the GMRI taught you that university can’t, or hasn’t?
Through the GMRI I have gained invaluable research skills including how to do literature reviews, carry out lab research by myself such as real-time PCR, Western Blotting and immunohistochemistry, and present results in the weekly research meetings. My laboratory and presentation skills are far greater than before I worked at the GMRI. I was also given the opportunity to present my research to a lay panel. It was a remarkable experience to communicate science to lay people.


How do you think the studentship at the GMRI will help your career development?
I think having the opportunity to do research at the GMRI will make me a better doctor in the future because I have been trained to think outside of the box. It instils an inquiring mind and provides me with the ability to formulate hypotheses and scientific methods of investigation. It is wonderful to be able to make a contribution to the scientific knowledge that may lead to more effective treatments.