Finding cures for children's genetic diseases


Summer student boasts about time at CMRI


While all her friends were at the beach over summer, Zoe Brown completed an internship at Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) and she couldn’t be happier about the decision.

“It reinforced that I studied the right area and now I’m moving forward with so much more enthusiasm,’’ Zoe said. “I’m already thinking about coming back to do a PhD.’’

CMRI has run a successful Summer Student internship program for some time, but this is the first time that ProCan has taken on a student. Zoe conducted her internship under the supervision of Dr Merridee Wouters and Dr Rebecca Poulos in the ProCan’s Cancer Data Science group led by Dr Qing Zhong. 
Zoe recently finished her Bachelor of Science, majoring in biochemistry and statistics at the University of Sydney. She knew she wanted to do Honours in 2019, but she still wasn’t sure about what direction she was headed in.
“During the holidays I thought it would be good to do an internship,’’ Zoe said. “I got an email from someone I knew talking about CMRI. When I looked up CMRI and ProCan I realised the internship was exactly what my degree had given me experience for. At uni towards the end of your degree, you start to think, ‘I don’t know what I am going to do with it’. I didn’t know what bioinformatics was – I didn’t even know it existed.’’
Zoe said she enjoyed going from being a student to a researcher.
“It was better than anything I’ve done at uni,’’ she said. “I was treated as an equal, not like being at uni where you feel like a student all the time. I was encouraged to learn on my own. I was given a desk, a dataset and was told to ‘go for it’. I like being thrown in the deep end, while still being very much treated as an equal rather than just a student.’’

The internship may have gone for only two months, but Zoe said it was amazing what she had learnt.
“I’ve been boasting to my friends about the power of data and now I’m really ready to jump into my honours.
“Having all the groups in ProCan coming together from different backgrounds – using their skills in such a harmonious environment was great to see. It really is a community at CMRI. There was a lot of trust and support.’’
Dr Qing Zhong said there are benefits from internships for both CMRI and students. The student is able to get early exposure to a lab and deal with real-world questions.
“Cancer data science requires multi-disciplinary knowledge,’’ Dr Zhong said. “Training young people from the beginning is essential, so that CMRI will get the right people when needed.’’
He also said that students who have enjoyed their internship are more likely to let others know about CMRI and the opportunities on offer in research.

This summer CMRI hosted six summer students - one in ProCan, one in Telomere Length Regulation, one in Genome Integrity and three in Embryology.

CMRI Embryology research officer and program coordinator Dr Pierre Osteil said it was a great way to expose students to the life in a lab.
“They come from different universities across Australia, from Sydney, Queensland and Wollongong to discover what doing research actually means. Every year we are amazed by their talent and hard work,’’ Dr Osteil said.
 Find out more about our student programs: