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​​A Celebration of Young Scientific Minds

Published on: 11-Jan-2018

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​​Kicking ​off the new year on a high, more than 40 students, staff and faculty gathered at the Clinical Sciences Building's Auditorium last night to mingle and celebrate the end of an intensive six-week research programme called Scholarly Projects for the Class of 2019, which resulted in a showcase of innovative and inspiring poster presentations from the fruits of their labour.

The evening started off with a welcome address by Vice-Dean for Faculty Affairs and Lead for Scholarly Projects Professor Michael Ferenczi, who oversaw the fourth year Scholarly Projects that bring LKCMedicine students out of the bedside and into the laboratory.

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"The Scholarly Projects takes you out of your comfort zone and puts you in an environment you know little about, and you're expected to work very hard during these six weeks," said Prof Ferenczi. "This puts a lot of pressure on you, and it is really wonderful to see that you've come through it very well."

The floor was then given to the prize winners of the four project categories, Gerald Ho, Melvin Lim, Darren Wong and Aliza Wong, who presented to the audience the problem and outcomes of their research projects.

Beginning with the winner of the Laboratory & Translational Research Category, Gerald Ho talked about his work on how the gene blaOXA-23 in Acinetobacter baumannii (A. baumannii) is known to contribute to its resistance towards an antibiotic that treats infections called carbapenems. Using an Ultra-rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) device made from commercially available kitchen and hardware appliances and low-cost plastics, Gerald, whose supervisor was Associate Professor of Human and Microbial Genetics Eric Yap, was able to conclude that the blaOXA-23 gene is a reliable marker in detecting carbapenem resistance in A. baumannii.

Gerald said, "Due to the low cost of making the PCR machine, we can proceed to use this method of detecting antibiotic resistance in less developed countries."

Melvin Lim who topped the Medical Education Category, went up next. His project explored the first-year pre-clinical medical students' viewpoints and what they learn from early clinical exposure in medical education. Using qualitative methods through 198 reflective write-ups from first year students, Melvin's research found that early clinical exposure allowed students to better observe and learn from their experiences and begin developing their professional identity early on.

"It is interesting to note that a lot of students realise that care should not be dictatorial, but should be individualised and contextualised for the patient instead," said Melvin, who was under the supervision of Assistant Dean for Year 5 Associate Professor Tham Kum Ying.

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After Melvin's insightful presentation on early clinical exposure, Darren's winning project from the Medical Practice Category explored the correlation between the macular-centered Foveal Avascular Zone (FAZ) and global retinal Vessel Density (VD) and how severe diabetic retinopathy can be in Asian populations.

At the end of his presentation, Darren, who was supervised by Associate Professor of Ophthalmology Colin Tan, concluded that Optical Coherence Tomography Angiography (OCTA)-derived retinal microvascular parameters can be a more sensitive marker in diagnosing and prognosticating the severity of diabetic retinopathy in a non-invasive method.

Last but not least, winner of the Medicine & Society Category Aliza Wong looked into the effects of physical frailty and the relation to cognitive impairment beyond neurodegeneration, and how it can predict the development of dementia.

By comparing the older and younger generations, Aliza, who was under the supervision of Director of the Geriatric Centre and Senior Consultant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital Associate Professor Philip Yap, found out that cognitive frailty is secondary to factors beyond neurodegeneration and further studies with larger samples are needed to determine these factors instead.

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The four prize winners each won certificates and a $50 book voucher from ResearchBooks Asia, which were presented by LKCMedicine Dean Professor James Best. Nine other students were given certificates under the Highly Commended projects category.

Prof Best commended the cohort for their amazing work during the six-week Scholarly Projects.

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"Medical knowledge is now doubling about every year, and unless you understand the research process and evaluate yourself, you'll be stuck with medical knowledge in 2019. Thus, research is a very important aspect to remain current in your career," said Prof Best.

At the end of the presentations, the audience made their way to the Foyer for a sumptuous buffet, and an opportunity to vote for the Best Poster Presentation. The prize winners of a $50 book voucher which was presented by Prof Ferenczi were:

- Candice Ang, supervised by Nanyang Assistant Professor Guan Xue Li: "Elucidating the Impact of Host Metabolic Status on Inflammatory Lipid Production during Mycobacterium Infections" under the Most Novel Idea category

- Ho Ying Na, supervised by Assistant Professor of Developmental Biology Tom Carney: "Investigating the Factors Influencing H2O2 Production in hai1a Zebrafish Mutants" under the Best Poster Design category

- Sundheep Subramani, supervised by Assoc Prof Eric Yap: "Point-of-Care Ultra-Fast Nucleic Acid Detection of Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue Viruses" under the Best Developmental Potential category

- Melvin Lim, supervised by Assoc Prof Tham Kum Ying: "Holistic Learning in Early Clinical Exposure: A Qualitative Analysis of Reflective Writings" under the Most Thought-Provoking Project category

- Darren Wong, supervised by Assoc Prof Colin Tan: "Quantitative Analysis of OCTA Parameters in Diabetic Retinopathy" under the Most Impactful Project category

- Berwyn Tan, supervised by Visiting Associate Professor and Acting Director of the Medical Education Research & Scholarship Unit Assoc Prof Nabil Zary and Dr Adam Chee from Binary HealthCare: "Setting Priorities to Encourage Innovation in Healthcare Organisations in Singapore" under the Most Impactful Project category

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