I started work in newly-opened, majestic, glass-covered IMCB located at the top of Kent Ridge Hill way back in 1987, not as a researcher, but as a glassware washing technician. Little did I realize at the time that in years to come IMCB would undergo a series of startling transformations and become the current vortex of scientific research that it is today. Interestingly, while witnessing these changes, I also experienced my own scientific metamorphosis.
I left IMCB in 1989 to pursue a degree in Cell and Molecular Biology at the National University of Singapore. The delay in my entrance to the university was, in part, due to my “fondness” for examinations. After obtaining my honours degree in 1993, I returned to IMCB as a graduate student under the superb mentorship of Dr. Catherine Pallen, an expert in protein tyrosine phosphatases. My research career thus formally began under a myriad network of positive and negative regulators of cellular signalling, interspersed with moments of joy, frustrations, anxieties, trials and tribulations that so aptly characterize the kaleidoscope of life as a graduate student in biomedical sciences. And ironically, both my brightest and darkest moments occurred in the Institute’s dark room – freshly-developed autoradiographs bearing testimony to the validity of our hypothesis, or at times, throwing us off the track altogether. Thankfully, a fantastic bunch of co-workers were there to share my woes and victories in science. When it all finally culminated in my thesis defence, I entitled my talk as “The Singapore (PTP-alpha) Story: Memoirs of LKL” as a reflection of my experiences as a graduate student. Well, the title did ruffle some feathers, but luckily, all of my thesis examiners laughed it off.
Shortly after graduation, I developed a keen interest in the brain and found an overseas training in neuroscience, firstly in the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and subsequently in the Department of Neurology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Although the scientific landscape in these two schools proved to be somewhat of a culture shock for me initially, my training in IMCB served me well in both places. I finally returned to Singapore in 2002 to lead a laboratory at the National Neuroscience Institute. Recently, I have had the good fortune to land myself a joint appointment at the newly formed Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. My lab focuses on understanding the molecular pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, with the view to develop novel therapeutic strategies to treat these incurable and debilitating disorders.
As I look into the future, I often look back with gratitude knowing that my development from a glassware boy to an independent investigator could never have happened without the support and training that I received from IMCB. I’d therefore like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to my former colleagues at IMCB for all that they provided me. As a popular Chinese saying, loosely translated, goes, “When we drink water, remember its source.” Thank you, IMCB.
LIM KAH LEONG
Ph.D. (IMCB/NUS), 1999
Dr Lim Kah Leong's email address: email@example.com