Chatting to our youngest intern

For the past two weeks, our lab has had a very special honorary member. Sellena, 17, has come all the way from Hong Kong to do an internship with us and learn a little bit about the everyday life in a biomedical research lab. After the experience, I’ve caught up with her for some insights:
Why did you decide to do an internship in a lab during your summer holiday?
I really enjoy the various science courses that are offered at my school and hoped I could intern at an institute somewhere to further my knowledge and love for sciences. However, opportunities are rather limited in Hong Kong (whether it be because one is too young or not considered advanced enough to intern…). Along with this, in the American college process, it’s widely considered a huge advantage if a high school student can have some experience working in the field they hope to major in. Ultimately, Ken Nakayama’s lab and work appealed to me the most.
Are there many girls interested in and studying science subjects in Hong Kong? Are boys more encouraged to take up STEM subjects, or are both boys and girls equally stimulated?
The subjects of sciences and maths are considered prestigious in Hong Kong so a lot of people (despite their gender) are encouraged to study such subjects. However, I believe that boys are generally given more, and better, opportunities when it comes to real life experience (internships, science fairs, etc.).
What did you learn during your internship?
The topic of tissue engineering has never come up in my studies before so a lot of what I learned at this internship was new! Over the course of two weeks, I learned about (and even got to try out for myself) the process of printing a biological vessel. A lot of time and effort is spent on creating and perfecting the spheroids that are later stacked on top of each other to create vascular grafts (emulating the ‘dango’) which can hopefully be used in future clinical trials. Along with this, I also learned and got the chance to use several different pieces of technology that are essential to the process, including a laser cutter and 3D printer. I also learned a bit of programing, such as Arduino, html and java script.
What was your favourite thing to learn/do and why?
My favorite thing to do was work in the physical lab, whether it be practicing how to pipette or actually creating a medium for the cells, I loved it all. This was my favourite because it was my first time working in an actual lab. Nonetheless, hours upon hours of reading textbooks and watching teacher demonstrations at school did not prepare me for what was to come. An example would be the aseptic technique that is strictly followed here (and for obvious reasons). Working here gave me a little insight into what is to be expected in the real world.
Apart from the language, did you find Japan very different from Hong Kong? What is the most curious/funniest difference?
Hong Kong is similar to Tokyo in the sense that there is a huge population living in quite a small and bustling space. However, Hong Kong is very different from Saga. I found it more peaceful and calming, an environment very suitable for the lab! The most curious difference was the fact that on public transport, people are unusually quiet. Even if a bus were packed full of people, everyone would be silently listening to music or enjoying the view. In Hong Kong, it’s the complete opposite, people talk freely on transport and sometimes the drivers of such vehicles would be blaring their own music!
It was great having her with us, she is a bright young woman and was an absolute star in the lab! Here she is, receiving a certificate from the Medical School dean:

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