A Research Internship Exposure in Vienna

Internships are golden opportunities for students to explore the professional world by applying academic theory and enriching themselves with career-related experiences. Tan Yuqi, a graduate of S.H. Ho College and the valedictorian in 2014, participated in a research internship programme in Europe which brought her to a culturally diverse research environment, built her professional network and paved the way for her postgraduate scientific pursuit in unveiling the molecular mechanism behind human diseases.  Having received more than 1,200 internship applications worldwide, the Vienna Biocenter Summer School chose 21 interns from 15 countries. Yuqi is one of them.

The summer school is jointly organized by four leading research institutes in Europe: Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA), Max F. Perutz Laboratories (MFPL), and the Gregor Mendel Institute (GMI). ‘In addition to being hosted by a reputable research institute with state-of-the-art facilities, the programme offers stipend, accommodation and reimbursed flights which make the programme appealing to international candidates,’ explained Yuqi.  She believed her past research experiences, ability to communicate and skilled lab techniques were the key factors to stand out from keen competitions. 

The research project Yuqi conducted at IMP was related to investigating the molecular mechanism behind the neuronal migration in a developing mouse brain and the spatiotemporal expression of a gene family, mutation of which could potentially contribute to neuronal migration disorders. Gaining hands-on research experience from top-notch scholars using state-of-the-art lab facilities, the programme widened Yuqi’s perspective in different organism models which would be advantageous to her graduate school application. Working with labmates from different cultural backgrounds may be challenging, but Yuqi took cultural diversities as interesting encounters rather than cultural shock or language barrier. ‘I believe the international exposure received at S.H. Ho College outreach programmes has nurtured her cross-cultural communications skills.’

One feature Yuqi noticed at IMP was ‘Work hard. Party hard’. With regular social hour on Fridays hosted by different labs, researchers and students can enjoy a few good drinks while having casual or research-oriented discussion. ‘But they don’t forget to work even harder, which can mean working till late in the evening or on weekends,’ she added. Summer cultural activities in Vienna were extremely lively, which includes Doauinselfest, film festival and endless great performances in the opera houses. It was definitely a gigantic cultural feast to Yuqi. 

Yuqi was awarded ‘The Reaching Out Award’ by Education Bureau of the Hong Kong SAR government in appreciation to her meaning cross-border research experiential learning. The awards aims to support meritorious students enrolled in full-time publicly-funded programmes at degree or above levels to participate in learning, internship or service programmes which are organized or endorsed by institutions, as well as national, regional and international events and competitions that are conducted outside Hong Kong.

Innovativeness, the spirit that SHHO advocates, is one of the traits as a scientist. To Yuqi, college education is undoubtedly a life-changing experience. She learnt to be creative and take the initiative to achieve her dream with passion. Life is never a still path, nor is science. In science, in order to test the validity of a hypothesis, one also has to be innovative and devise multiple approaches. This scientific pursuit has shaped her enthusiastic and flexible personality which is a tremendous treasure in her life.