Helen Yu

Helen Yu

Age: 21


What are you studying and what year?

Final year Medicine


At what university are you studying?

Otago University – Wellington Campus


When were you at the GMRI?

I undertook a summer studentship at the GMRI in 2015/16.


What are your career aspirations?

At this stage in my training I am still uncertain about what field of medicine I would like to specialise in. However, I know that while I really enjoy the clinical work in medicine, I would also love to help contribute to the research behind it.


Why did you decide to do a studentship at the GMRI?

The focus of the research at the GMRI on cancer, regenerative medicine and fibrotic conditions was something that really interested me. This studentship was also a great opportunity to get an idea of what working in the field of research is really like. The chance to work with such a hard-working and knowledgeable team was also a bonus!


What research were you involved in during your studentship at the GMRI?

My time at the GMRI was primarily spent researching cancer stem cells and the expression of embryonic stem cell markers in oral cavity cancers.


What’s the most important thing you have learned while you were at the GMRI?

This experience has taught me a lot about teamwork and the importance of communication. Research is something that can never be completed by just one person, and the team here at the GMRI showed me how beneficial it really is to have support in the form of a hard-working and intellectual group of people. It was exciting to see how passionate the team were and how they were able to exchange ideas and work together to troubleshoot any problems.


What’s the thing you liked most about your studentship at the GMRI?

The independence and trust which was placed in the students at the GMRI made it a really unique learning experience as we were encouraged to be proactive and really take charge of our own research projects.


What’s the most exciting thing you have done/been involved with during your studentship?

It always felt so exciting making a discovery or having successfully overcome a glitch to get a result. I also found it really rewarding to be able to write a complete manuscript detailing my work over the last few months.


Would you recommend the studentship at the GMRI to other students? If so, why?

I would definitely recommend it! It is a fantastic opportunity to learn about research in an incredibly supportive environment. The team at the GMRI are not only leading scientists, but warm and friendly individuals and a pleasure to work with. The studentship itself offers you the chance to follow a project from the beginning through to publication and make a small contribution to the scientific and medical community.


What has your practical experience at the GMRI taught you that university can’t, or hasn’t?

During my time at the GMRI I have gained invaluable skills such as how to plan and carry out scientific research and improved my presentation skills through weekly presentations at research meetings. It also gave me the chance to do hands-on work within a laboratory equipped with top of the line resources and gain a greater understanding of techniques such as Western Blotting, immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridisation. The opportunity to present my research in a lay person presentation was also a fantastic learning experience.


How do you think the studentship at the GMRI will help your career development?

This studentship has also given me more experience in research, presentations and challenged my critical thinking. These are all skills that are invaluable as a health professional. It has also given me the opportunity to begin research at an early stage in my career, and I hope to carry out further research alongside my clinical work in future.