ZunMing (Hunter) Lim, 2013
Country: Malaysia (university in Australia)
Mentor: Doug McMahon
Hi there, I am ZunMing. I finished my high school back in Malaysia, and subsequently did a Western Australian Foundation in Perth and then continued on to pursue a Bachelor of Science majoring in Neuroscience at the University of Melbourne. I had just finished my second year in my BSc at the time of VISRA. I have always loved Science, and by Year 10, I fell in love with the brain specifically and decided to accept the challenge of solving the puzzle of how the brain works. This was an easy –to-pose question, but the path to finding an answer has taken researchers and scientists on a challenging yet rewarding journey ever since. And I wanted to be on that journey as well.
I knew I wanted to do Science. What I wanted to find out was whether I could do Science for a lifetime, I guess. And VISRA was just the program that would answer that question.
This summer (or winter), I have been lucky enough to be accepted and placed in Dr. Doug McMahon’s lab. His lab focuses on three linked systems in the Central Nervous System, the visual, circadian and serotonergic systems that are the engines that govern our sight, bodily daily rhythms and regulate our moods. I do not yet possess the complete details on the specific project that I will be a part of, but I am definitely excited to know that these brain systems are fundamental in furthering our understanding of disorders such as schizophrenia, winter depression, bipolar disorders and myopia. On top of that, I am sure I will enjoy learning the variety of lab techniques practised in the lab, such as gene knock-outs and reporter genes. I have never actually done any research work before, and I am as exhilarated as I am daunted by it all .
For fear of giving away too much details of the program (as I personally would hate it if somebody ruined a good surprise by telling me exactly what to expect), I definitely must say VISRA does a good job of balancing the research experience with the non-academic stuff. There is a good amount of excursions and sports (Go basketball!) and sight-seeing mixed in, and the VISRA team is just amazing and really helpful. There is just a wonderful and supportive network here and I am sure that gives peace of mind for anyone who is trying something new. It was also a real eye-opener to come to US and see how the education system works here and understand how PhD is done here in Vanderbilt.
As for the city, I feel that Nashville is just the right fusion between city and town. I love the buildings – brick buildings that are no more than two-storey tall gracefully spaced and spanning down a slightly winding road with just the right dose of modern architecture peppered in between. The city is growing, alive with beer, music and culture. The bus fares are cheaper than I imagined and I seriously think every bus driver that I’ve met is either very friendly or a comedian-in-disguise. The people are equally nice, and I would say that the cost of living is very affordable too. If I have one thing to say about VISRA, it’s this: Apply for it! As for myself, no matter how my research experience turns out and I discover whether I like researching as a career or not, I am happy that I’m here, that I’ve tried and that I’ve had the experience. If you have quickly skim-read to this part and do not appreciate the length of my rambling, it would suffice to read the above paragraph. No hard feelings. Cheers.