Dr Winnie Tong is a PhD candidate and has agreed to share some of her thoughts about life as a student at St Vincent’s Centre for Applied Medical Research.
Winnie began her PhD at AMR in 2010 and is jointly supervised by two Program Heads, Professor Andrew Carr of the Clinical Research Program and Professor Anthony Kelleher of the Immunovirology Program. “I worked for both of them as a registrar in my first year as an immunology advanced trainee - I knew them both to be great clinicians first, then came to appreciate their impressive record as researchers. They were always approachable and supportive so I was confident they would make great PhD supervisors. I also spoke to their previous students and they were both highly recommended”.
“I enjoy solving problems, and research gives me the opportunity to look at a problem in depth. Research is quite different from clinical work in the sense that you have the latitude to really ask "why?" or "how?" and spend time looking into answering these questions.”
Her PhD project looks at measuring immune responses in a patient's blood to human papillomavirus (HPV), and looking to see if their immune responses correlate with precancerous disease caused by HPV. This is important in order to learn more about how to manage HPV-related precancerous disease, and also in understanding how HPV causes cancer, which may lead to new ways of treating HPV. She bounces between the immunology clinic and AMR laboratories at St Vincent’s Hospital as the laboratory work for measuring these immune responses needs to be done as soon as possible after the blood is taken from the patient. “Being at AMR, which is part of St Vincent's Hospital, is key to making translational research projects like this possible”.
Students at AMR enjoy a culture which promotes knowledge creation and sharing. AMR is located within the St Vincent’s Research Precinct, with other leading bodies such as the Kirby Institute, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and the Garvan Institute. Winnie particularly appreciates “the friendly and dynamic culture at AMR. No matter what your background (science or medical), you are encouraged in a positive way to learn from everyone within your lab and also on the wider campus. There are a great array of visiting lecturers and a smorgasbord of campus based seminars, journal clubs etc. to choose from every week”.