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Student Spotlight: Chan Wee Lee

23 Apr 2015

Having fun while learning

Tell us about your path to Duke-NUS.

I went up to Oxford in 2004 to read Biochemistry. While I was a student at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, I had several incredible tutors who were leaders in the fields of biophysics and structural biology. In my four years there, I was greatly influenced by their work and developed a strong interest in understanding the structures and functions of biological molecules. Upon graduation, I was keen to further my training in this field, and one of my tutors recommended me to a friend of hers, Professor Randy Read, at the Department of Haematology in Cambridge. It was in Professor Read’s laboratory that I pursued a PhD, where I learned to use X-ray crystallography to elucidate protein structures to angstrom resolution.

The move from the Biochemistry department in Oxford to the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research proved to be an important one in my life. While I previously worked mostly with bacterial gene products, the Read lab in Cambridge used basic science techniques and methodologies to answer key clinical questions. It was here that I was drawn towards the more translational aspects of basic science research. It was also at Cambridge that I met the retired head of department, Professor Robin Carrell, a prominent clinician-scientist and a close friend of Professor Read’s. Professor Carrell encouraged me to learn more about human physiology and to make my work interesting not just to protein crystallographers, but also to clinicians and scientists from other fields. I also began to follow a few of the physicians in the department to some of their clinics to understand more about what they did, and gradually developed an interest in clinical work. When the time came for me to graduate, I told Professors Read and Carrell that I would like to take a hiatus from research to study medicine. To my surprise, they both thought it was a great idea and felt that I would benefit from the clinical training.

As my family was back in Singapore, I decided to return home to pursue my medical training. At that time, Duke-NUS had only just been founded, but I had friends who were already enrolled here, and I had heard good things about the school, which prompted me to apply here. I enrolled in 2014 and two years into my medical school career, I am thoroughly enjoying myself and have not looked back since.

weelee1_0Trying to get the ball out of a ruck

What are some of your interests?

I played rugby union and sevens when I was at Cambridge and at Princeton, where I spent a semester as an undergraduate. These days, my involvement in the sport is limited mostly to the capacity of a spectator, although if there are enough interested parties in the school, we should definitely attempt to put a team together. Other than that, I enjoy doodling, which comes in fairly handy during the Normal Body course, when it is often far easier to draw than to describe anatomy in words!


The planning committee for the medical symposium

Would you share a great experience you’ve had at Duke-NUS?

Sheares College has traditionally been involved in organising the events for World Autism Awareness Week. Along with my fellow Shearites, we organised a full-day symposium in April 2015 to help raise awareness of autism among medical professionals. Invited speakers from KK Women and Children’s Hospital and the Institute of Mental Health shared their experiences and knowledge and everybody went home learning a bit more about autism spectrum disorder that day!