2016 NDM Summer Internship Programme Student Profiles

Interns from Brazil

Joao Barbalho

João Barbalho (Alison Simmons), 5th year medical student from Federal University of Ceará, UFC, Brazil. 

I am a part time undergraduate research assistant in a research lab and also an undergraduate teaching assistant in Medical Microbiology at the same institution. I did as part of my formation one-year exchange programme on 3rd year BSc (Hons) Tropical Disease Biology at Liverpool School Tropical Medicine, University of Liverpool, UK.

My current research interest is understanding better the pathophysiology of some diseases particularly in the gastrointestinal tract. Over the last years I have been working with different approaches in the modulation of gastrointestinal inflammation such as pancreatitis trying to identify possible natural compounds to ameliorate the inflammatory process as well as to understand the mechanism of cell death in this disease.

In this summer, I had an opportunity to work with Prof Alison Simmons at Translational Gastrointestinal Unit from NDM. My project was to understand better the role of CD8 T cells and NOD2 signalling in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. To achieve this goal, we used a high range of Molecular Biology techniques including high profile ones as RNA single cell sequencing. For me it was a fantastic experience to work in this outstanding group as I could learn so many new techniques and also share my previous knowledge in an enthusiastic academic setting with many researchers from different part of the world. I would recommend all students interested in Biological Sciences to apply for this excellent programme.

Carolina Mastella Botelho (Adrian Hill & Paulo Bettencourt), BSc student at Federal University of Espirito Santo in Pharmacy.

I am a senior Pharmacy student at Federal University of Espirito Santo, Brazil. While pursuing my bachelor's degree, I had developed a strong interest in both Neglected Tropical Diseases and Molecular Biology. Therefore, I have had the chance to participate in several research projects correlated with the genetic variation in malaria and leishmaniasis parasites.  

Eager to experience the vaccinology field, which is considered the most cost-effective medical intervention, I joined the Jenner Institute as part of the NDM Summer Internship Programme 2016. Under Professor Adrian Hill's supervision and Dr. Paulo Bettencourt's co-supervision, I worked in the Pre-Erythrocytic Malaria Vaccines group as an intern.

The main research project designated to me consisted of assessing the Plasmodium falciparum gene expression in a humanized mouse model infected with the parasite. These genes express peptides which are likely to be promising liver stage malaria vaccine candidates. In parallel, I was able to get involved in many other ongoing research projects, along with learning numerous lab techniques. I also had the chance to attend compelling seminars and weekly lab meetings that were also very helpful and provided me with insightful, constructive criticism of my work.

Moreover, I worked with very supportive people, always willing to help and kindly share their knowledge. Besides being placed in the best university of the world and in an amiable city, this is a very well structured programme that provides the interns with any sort of assistance needed. In addition to sharpening my research skills, working in direct contact with vaccinology, and maturing professionally, I thoroughly enjoyed working with such a great team of people. My experience was extremely rewarding. I highly encourage every student who is considering to apply for the NDM Summer Internship Programme, which is certainly a unique opportunity.  

Paola Lanzoni

Paola Lanzoni (Jonathan Grimes), MSc student at University of São Paulo (campus São Carlos) in Applied Physics.

Hello there! My name is Paola Lanzoni and I am a MSc student at University of Sao Paulo. All my background studies are in Physics-Chemistry-Biology interfacial area and I have been studying protein and DNA sciences from my first year at Uni and have had developed a true love for Biophysics and Protein Structure since then. In Brazil, I study the roles of assembly of septins (known as the fourth cytoskeleton component) under supervision of Dr. Richard Charles Garratt. We use heterologous protein expression and a range of biophysical assays to address questions regarding protein-protein interactions.

For my happiness and luck, I was selected in March 2016 for a short term internship at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, under Dr. Jonathan Grimes supervision at Strubi.  This was a very productive time for me as I had two different projects to follow, both regarding protein crystallization. In the first one, I applied bacterial protein expression for a range of Mononegavirales nucleoproteins chimeras constructs, in collaboration with Max Renner. For the second one, I applied baculovirus-insect cell system for protein expression of some metyltransferase domains of the same viral order as a collaboration with Dr. Guido Paesen . For both of them, I could set up crystal trays and learn how to do a crystal screening and even operate the facility’s crystallization robot (and this was very fun!).

This internship was, without a trace of doubt, one of the best academic experiences I ever had and will be proud for the rest of my life. I strongly recommend anyone who is interested to apply for this scheme not only because of the fancy of Oxford but because this is probably a perspective-changing experience!

Interns from China

Lap Sum Chan

Lap Sum (Sam) Chan (Cecilia Lindgren), Biomedicine student at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Before starting my internship at NDM, I had been working with Professor Pak Sham, the director of Centre for Genomic Sciences at HKU in the field of Genetics and Genomics, more specifically statistical genetics study of False Discovery Rate (FDR) and identifying new genetic variants for Hirschsprung disease (HSCR).

As I also had a statistics and computational background, during my internship, I worked with Professor Cecilia Lindgren at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics on two ongoing projects: 1. Pleiotropy Analysis and Collider Bias and 2. Transcription Factor Binding Enrichment, and was responsible for datamining as well as performing simulation analysis using software R. I was also responsible for interpreting the data and writing up part of the project research paper.

This two-month internship was very fruitful for me that it not only polished my skills in R programming language but also learnt the essential techniques needed for writing a real paper that is going to be published. In addition, this internship gave me a taste of the life of a researcher at a world-class University and I absolutely liked what I was doing.

I really want to come back here for a DPhil because of its strong academic-promoting atmosphere and I would strongly recommend this programme especially to those who are intending to pursue a postgraduate degree in the field of medical sciences. Seize this opportunity and do not hesitate to apply! You will definitely have a great experience here in Oxford!


Yuxin Mi

Yuxin Mi (Adrian Hill), Undergraduate student in the School of Life Sciences, Peking University

During the sponsored internship at NDM, my project was about assessing antigen presentation from malaria infected liver cells, determining whether it will be affected by different cellular location and expression duration and optimizing an immunostaining protocol as well. I not only learned multiple techniques but also had the chance to design, conduct, analyze and thoughtfully present my experiments, within the excellent research environment at the Jenner Institute, and under the inspiring guidance of my supervisor.

Before the internship I was mainly working on protein engineering for molecule sensors in neurobiology at Peking University, through approaches including molecular biology, confocal microscopy and immunocytochemistry.

At Jenner I came to know how fundamental studies in clinical medicine could be of critical help in the human battle against infectious diseases and cancer. Apart from working intensively on my project, I also had chance to gain a wider perspective and deeper understanding of the different research themes, especially in immunology. All together this is a valuable experience that definitely benefit me in developing research abilities and motivating me towards a pursuit in science.


Zhenyu Tan final

Zhenyu Tan (Juha Huiskonen), BSc Biomedical Sciences, Tsinghua University.

I am Zhenyu Tan. I am in the last year of my undergraduate study, at Tsinghua University, China.

Before I went to the NDM Summer Internship in this summer, I was in Prof. Bryan Wei ‘s lab at Tsinghua University. My project focused on using DNA as materials to build up nanostructures. After an enjoyable time in Oxford, I went to another lab. Now I am developing single molecule fluorescence technique in Prof. Chunlai Chen’s lab.

In Oxford, I worked in the Division of structural biology with Prof. Juha Huiskonen. We focus on structures and host cell interactions of emerging viruses. We are using cutting edge techniques such as Cryo-EM to investigate this process. During my summer research, I evaluated the performance of the Volta potential phase plate in the Cryo-EM with 3 set of the tomography data. I really learned a lot from this project. I am now very familiar with the whole data processing procedure in the Cryo-EM data analysis. 

This summer internship program provides an opportunity to work in this world famous research institute. And it motivates me to continue in Biological research.

Interns from Japan

Motoyuki Ogawa

Motoyuki Ogawa (John Christianson), MSc student in Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Tokyo.

I’m a first year master course student at the University of Tokyo. My research theme is the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of cell competition in mammals. Recently, it is suggested that cell competition is involved in cancer, so I would like to clarify the mechanisms of cell competition to establish a novel type of cancer prevention and treatment in the future.

In Oxford, I had the opportunity to work at the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research under the supervision of Dr John Christianson with a project focusing on the molecular architecture of the EMC complex. I had many good experiences that are irreplaceable and precious. I think that this internship program has motivated and inspired me to do more research in Japan.

Interns from Mexico

Elizabeth Irina Figueroa Juarez

Elizabeth Irina Figueroa Juárez (John Christianson), MSc student in Biomedicine at the graduate program of Biological Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)

I have had the opportunity of working in biomedical research in different projects in Mexico mainly at the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition, Salvador Zubiran (INNSZ). During my last 3 years, I have been working with Dr Claudia Tovar-P

alacio at the Nephrology and mineral metabolism department with projects involved in the role of Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in renal lipogenesis.

In Oxford, I have been part of the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research (University of Oxford) working with Dr John Christianson's lab with different cellular stress inductors and the ER associated degradation. The experience as an intern of the NDM program that I am part of has been an irreplaceable opportunity that has helped me grow up as a researcher, as a student and also as a person. I think that this international collaboration program has motivated me to continue in biomedical research, and has given me a global vision of the impact that research has in the medicine development.  


Javier Rios Valencia

Javier Ríos Valencia (Arturo Reyes-Sandoval), Medicine undergraduate student at Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, Morelia, Michoacan

Hey there, worldwide student community! I am Javier Ríos Valencia, a Medicine Mexican student who went through the NDM Summer Internship selection process and who today can pronounce itself as the luckiest and happiest at his university of origin in Morelia, Michoacan: "Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo". For about eight weeks I will have the opportunity to know and learn from one of the most worldwide recognized professors, Prof. Arturo Reyes-Sandoval and his team who nowadays are leading "Emergent Disease" science area. I also will be able to develop and set laboratory techniques which are not known already for all the frontier science worldwide community as plasmide cloning anZika virus protein isolation. In addition, all this time the Oxford University campus will be my hometown, which means I can consider myself as a much benefitted student who with any doubt will pursue his postgraduate academic degree at the world’s oldest and most coveted university. Do not hesitate about applying if your expectations about growing and learning are unstoppable and your desire for becoming a worldwide investigator is insatiable.


Jesus Ortiz Urbina

Jesús Ortiz Urbina (Tammie Bishop), Medical undergraduate student at Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico

As I move forward in my medical career, I see myself remaining strongly involved in medical research as well as continuing my passion for helping in the social development of communities. My experience at theWellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, as a member of Ratcliffe team has been personally and educationally enriching. I have been able to work with oxygen sensing mechanisms and to examine the response of different tissues to hypoxia. In Mexico, my research focus is the role of growth factors; specifically, Insulin-like Growth Factor 1, and its role in the pathophysiology of several human conditions. With my continuing interest in molecular medicine, I am convinced, more so than ever, that research, when implemented properly and in conjunction with clinical practice, can improve the lives of thousands and help close the gap that has prevailed over the centuries and which has caused the suffering of unrepresented minorities. This globe needs more of that.


Pablo Romero

José Pablo Romero-López (Alison Simmons), Médico Cirujano /FES Iztacala-UNAM, Maestro en Ciencias Quimicobiológicas, Laboratorio de Inmunoquímica I, Departamento de Inmunología, ENCB-IPN. Miembro del comité editorial de Conscience & Art

I did the switch from clinical medicine to science thanks to the program “PROINMED- MEDICI” and Dr Citlaltepetl Salinas of the FES Iztacala-UNAM in Mexico City, which gave me the opportunity to start a research project during the last year of Med School. I started working with Dr Ethel García-Latorre from ENCB-IPN, who has enthusiastically encouraged what until now has been my career in science and immunology. In Mexico, my research projects are related to the immunopathogenesis of Spondyloarthritis, and, I usually participate in the activities of the Mexican Society of Immunology and I am part of the editorial board of the student journal Conscience and art.

Here in Oxford, I’m working in the group of Dr Alison Simmons in projects related to the signaling of pattern recognition receptors like NOD2 in Crohn’s disease s and its relationship with the presentation and cross-presentation of antigens; also learning about first-class techniques like single-cell sequencing, gene knock out, and phospho-proteomics. I really think that projects like this internship program will help to get more and more high-lever researches with an international vision in many areas, so, I hope that many students apply to receive this great opportunities.