Sabrina Koh

Sabrina Koh

Age: 19


What are you studying and what year?

3rd year Medicine


At what university are you studying?

University of Otago – Dunedin


When were you at the GMRI?

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


What are your career aspirations?

As I am still in the pre-clinical years of my medical degree, I have yet to be exposed to many of the specialisations medicine has to offer. However, I am looking forward to my clinical years, where I will have the opportunity to gain a better appreciation of what various specialties involve before making a decision.


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

Research is fundamental for the improvement of medical care. However, at medical school we get minimal opportunities to conduct scientifically robust research. GMRI’s drive to pioneer the future treatment of cancer and fibrotic conditions was something that resonated with me as I considered what studentship interested myself. As I have personally witnessed the debilitating effects of some of these conditions on individuals and their families, this field of research which the GMRI specialises in was an area I was eager to contribute to and learn more about.


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

The research project I have been involved with looks at identifying and characterising a population of embryonic stem cells in Dupuytren’s Disease. We made the exciting novel discovery of a population of embryonic-like stem cells around the microvessels of Dupuytren’s Disease tissue.


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

To speak up. Never be afraid to ask questions, to get things wrong or seek help and opportunities. Prior to my summer at the GMRI, I was always cautious about asking questions and suggesting ideas. However, the highly supportive team at the GMRI helped me realise that the most effective way to learn is by having the confidence to ask questions, to seek help and put yourself out there to embrace all opportunities which come your way. In addition, you should never doubt your own ideas – it is important to have the confidence to contribute your ideas to a discussion as, collaboratively, different ideas may help form a solid explanation for the findings of your research.


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

The team at the GMRI were the most supportive and encouraging team I have had the opportunity to work with. Never did they doubt our ability and knowledge as students. Instead, they were in the background every step of the way, nurturing our scientific skills, to give us guidance but simultaneously challenging us to step out of our comfort zones by giving us the freedom to collect our own data and write our own manuscript and think critically to form feasible conclusions. As much as I enjoyed learning about how to write a scientifically robust paper and developing my scientific skills, the team at the GMRI were the icing on the cake, and made the overall experience even more enjoyable than it already was.


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

The freedom we had to collect our own results, write our own manuscript and form our own conclusions was refreshing. I am looking forward to completing my paper and submitting it so I can share my exciting findings with everyone else.


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

Definitely! The studentship offered by the GMRI is a completely unique experience which is exciting, enjoyable and challenging. It broadens your appreciation of science and research and gives a good taste of what it is like to work in the field of research as we have the fortune of being mentored by some of the leading researchers in this particular field of science who are genuinely eager to see us students blossom.


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

The practical experience at the GMRI has enriched and added a different dimension to my learning. At medical school, we have a larger focus on learning to treat patients using already known drugs and procedures. However, the summer at GMRI allowed me to appreciate the other side of medicine which looks at finding new treatments. It was fantastic to be able to do Western Blotting, various forms of immunohistochemistry and other methods I had only heard about in medical school.


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

Prior to my studentship at the GMRI, I never understood what research involved or how to conduct scientifically robust research. However, I now have a better appreciation of the power of research and the impact these discoveries have on people – especially those suffering from the condition. I know that regardless of what specialisation I choose to pursue in the future, I would like to incorporate research into what I do.