29 Apr 2020 An Amazing Internship Experience in Singapore for an IMU Biomedical Science Student
In the final year of the IMU Biomedical Science programme, students are encouraged to seek internship placements spanning two and a half months in a research or clinical laboratory abroad. Shiroshini Periasamy chose to perform her attachment at Dr Su Xin Yi’s translational retinal therapy laboratory at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), A*STAR in Singapore.
Explaining the reason for doing her internship at IMCB, Shiroshini said, “As a person who grew up in a relatively sheltered environment, I wanted to explore my independence and push my boundaries beyond my comfort zone. Furthermore, I became very interested in ophthalmology and therapy because a person close to me was affected by it in the months leading up to the internship. So I threw all my doubts and fears to the wind, sent in my application, and fortunately, was accepted under the wing of a research fellow, Dr Regha.”
|What did Shiroshini do at IMCB?|
|As Dr Regha’s research assistant, Shiroshini worked on differentiating and culturing different cell lines of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells from stem cells. RPE is a specialised pigmented monolayer of cells that has several functions, including absorbing light, secretion of factors and signalling molecules, phagocytosis of photoreceptor outer segment (POS) membranes, and epithelial transport.
RPE cells do not work properly in several pathological conditions, one of which is age-related macular degeneration, a condition found in many older people that affects vision. The goal was to find the optimal conditions to grow RPE cells in the laboratory, ready to be transplanted in a person whose RPE was affected.
“Over the course of the internship, I determined cell viability by measuring transepithelial/transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) readings to determine the integrity and permeability of the RPE monolayer, and also evaluated cellular proliferative activity. Additionally, I helped with POS phagocytosis assays determine cell function status. I also experimented on the optimal conditions for freezing and thawing RPE cells, as differentiating them from stem cells was a lengthy, tedious, and expensive procedure.”
“Apart from cell culture, I also engaged in immunostaining and learnt to use a microscope with advanced specifications. Amongst the techniques I observed include fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), a specialised method of flow cytometry, as well as detecting mycoplasma in cell cultures, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and electrophoresis, and protein detection experiments”, added Shiroshini.
|What has Shiroshini learnt from this internship?|
|“At the IMU, the curriculum ensured that I was well-equipped with the underlying theory behind these cutting-edge techniques, and the ability to understand and learn quickly. I was able to quickly adapt to the nuances of working alone as well as in a team, something I initially thought would have been challenging for me.”
“However, I came to realise that when it came to it, I had the capacity to succeed and more. The realisation dawned on me because of this opportunity to explore not only a new environment, but my own skills and capabilities. My confidence level has increased and I am now more aware of the workings of a biomedical research laboratory, which would allow me to make an informed decision on my passion and career path post-graduation.”
Besides all that, Shiroshini visited the many attractions of Singapore, made new friends and met new people.
She would like to take this opportunity to thank her supervisor at A*STAR, the lovely people she met there, as well as all the biomedical science lecturers who helped to facilitate such an amazing internship experience.