School: University of Glasgow, UK
Placement: Khalid Shah Lab, Massachusetts General Hospital
Ivan had worked in two laboratories—both in his home country of Singapore—and was studying medicine in the UK by the time he arrived in Boston for the HSCI Internship Program. He was one of five students attending school outside of the United States accepted into the program in 2014.
Based on his interest in brain cancer, Ivan was placed in the lab of Khalid Shah, PhD, an oncologist who studies experimental methods to eliminate glioblastoma multiforme, the most common brain tumor in human adults and the most difficult to treat. Shah’s lab is also one of the most international at HSCI, and quickly became a second home to Ivan.
“The lab has people of Dutch, Korean, Indian, Chinese, German, Italian, English, and, of course, American origins,” he said. “It was amazing to be part of group made up of such diverse cultural backgrounds. Daily interactions were filled with interesting exchanges on food, festivals, and traditions.”
One of the more enjoyable parts of the internship for Ivan was that, aside from regular check-ins, his mentor granted him a large degree of freedom to conduct his own experiments. Ivan often came in on weekends (not unusual for a HIPster) to work on his summer project—testing how well variants of a cancer-killing herpes virus treat metastatic melanoma in the brain.
“The independence that I was provided allowed me to make mistakes (thankfully not too many) and learn from them first-hand,” he said. “I believe such experiences teach you the art of troubleshooting an experiment and allow you to harness your analytical skills, which is harder to do when you’re getting instructions from the top down.”
Ivan’s advice to future international students is to not worry about finding friends. “Just go in with an open mind and be curious about other people,” he said. “Ask others about their stories and where they come from, because, more often than not, every single American is very different.”