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  16 September 2014  
  Mee Len CHYE  

Mee Len CHYE
(Research Fellow at IMCB, 1987-1993)

Mee Len is currently the Wilson and Amelia Wong Professor in Plant Biotechnology at the University of Hong Kong (, having joined HKU after IMCB. She was a Research Fellow and PI Rep for the Plant Genetic Engineering Lab at IMCB from 1987 to 1993.

It was indeed a privilege to have been given the opportunity to work in Nam-Hai Chua's Lab! I was mid-way through my PhD, investigating the molecular biology of aromatic amino acid transport in Escherichia coli in the Pittard Lab at the University of Melbourne when IMCB advertised to recruit postdocs. Nam interviewed me in Melbourne for the post. I had decided to work on plants because I was intrigued by talks from plant biologists as a grad student, and I also did not think I would enjoy handling mice...this decision led me to where I am today!

The early days at IMCB were not easy as the lab had to be set up - ordering of chemicals, glassware, equipment etc. besides the pressure to publish. Nonetheless it was a lot of fun with labmates especially Shanthi who was also my flatmate in New York when we were in the Chua Lab at the Rockefeller University. I had such a good time with her and we still have fun together when we meet up in Singapore.

In IMCB, I initiated investigations on the molecular biology of isoprenoid biosynthesis in the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis. I worked on 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-CoA reductase, an enzyme in the isoprenoid pathway. There were others who worked on other aspects of Hevea: Vasanthi Vanniasingham, Anil Kush, Shanthi Sivasubramaniam and Elisabeth Goyvaerts. There were yet others who worked on orchids in the same lab. We were also very fortunate to have Eng Chong Pua, and his lab members, Gek Lan Chi and Donna Barfield, and together, we formed the plant biologists at IMCB. The "Plant People" were a great group and I remember the enjoyable outings we shared.

Recalling my time in IMCB, we were very fortunate to have the best facilities at hand for research but it was very challenging working in IMCB at times... I cannot forget the security guard and his photo album (yes have a laugh now those who know what I mean!). I guess, as pioneers, we were expected to achieve a lot within a very short period of time ie to bring IMCB to the world stage. It is good to learn that IMCB has achieved much and is at the forefront of science today. The best thing for me was "once you have survived IMCB, you can excel anywhere"! IMCB has indeed armed me well.


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