LEARN News and Events

Upcoming Events

Please follow our LinkedIn group for the latest updates of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine early career researcher (LEARN) community via https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13918082/. We want to unite young scientists and put forward vibrant ideas, standards, and values to spark next generation discoveries in science, medicine and research. We strongly encourage you to reach out and stay connected with us. Get the first hand information about our events, networking opportunities, career and professional development, exciting news and etc. Post-doctoral researchers, research associates and assistants as well as graduate students are welcome to join this group.

When you request to join, please ensure your LKCMedicine affiliation is listed on your profile for verification. You can also reach us via email (LKC-LEARN@ntu.edu.sg).

Past Events

On 7 Apr 2022, the founding committee of LEARN held a handover meeting to the incoming committee. This marks a new phase of growth for LEARN and we seek your continued support to co-create a vibrant and conducive environment for all of us to enjoy. Please join us to thank the founding committee members for their contributions to the school community.
On 14 and 15 February, LKCMedicine held a conference for our early career researchers to host and interact with accomplished scientists whose research would be of great interest to the School. Titled “New Frontiers in Biomedicine”, the two-day hybrid event was jointly organised by LKCMedicine Early Researcher Network (LEARN) and NTU LKCMedicine Graduate Students' Club. Over 60 participants comprising young scientists, research staff, and LKCMedicine Principal Investigators joined in the event. With a programme focusing on advances in neurobiology and cell biology, stem cells and developmental biology, public health and infection, and technologies in life sciences, the event featured 27 presentations, including talks and poster sessions. The conference culminated with the inaugural LEARN annual awards ceremony on 15 February that celebrated the outstanding efforts of early career scientists towards excellence in LKCMedicine and beyond. Seven brilliant young scientists were shortlisted for their contributions in research excellence, mentorship, and community service. On top of that, two LKCMedicine Doctoral Students won the Best Oral and Poster Presentation Awards. LKCMedicine Vice Dean (Research) Professor Lim Kah Leong and Assistant Dean (Research​)​ Associate Professor Kevin Pethe presented the awards to the winners. The event was concluded by Associate Professor Kevin Pethe, mentor of LEARN, who encouraged our young scientists to excel and stay forefront in medicine and public health. We look forward to seeing you in the next LEARN NFB conference in 2023!
The fifth Fireside Chat held on 21st of October, featured Toh Kian Chui Distinguished Professor, and the Professor of Developmental Biology Philip Ingham, with the session entitled “Trithorax to Therapeutics”. Nearly 80 guests including faculty members, postdocs, PhD students and administrative staff from LKCMedicine, A*STAR and NUS, attended the online event. In a wide-ranging discussion, Prof. Ingham shared his motivation to be a geneticist and his journey to becoming a developmental biologist. He narrated the story of how as a young PhD student, after his work on the trithorax gene had been published, he naively applied to attend an EMBO conference. This enabled him to establish contacts within the small but insular Drosophila community, which served him well during later stages of his professional career. Prof. Ingham also revealed how he was persuaded to switch to a vertebrate model system – zebrafish, by the Nobel laureate Prof Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, and how the collaboration that he fostered at informal gatherings she organised, led to the seminal discoveries related to the Sonic Hedgehog pathway in the early 1990s. His experiences with patenting ideas in basic sciences and how that generated interest amongst the venture capitalists, followed by drug screenings by a start-up and a resultant FDA approved drug, brought home the importance of curiosity driven research to the audience. During the Q&A session, Prof. Ingham took questions about the differences in PhD programs during his time as a student and now, and noted that the graduate schools have now become more structured, perhaps at the cost of students’ intellectual freedom. He also emphasized that being able to pursue what you are passionate and curious about, eventually leads to success.

On 29th June 2021, LEARN organized the fourth Fireside Chat featuring Professor James Best, Professor of Medicine and former Dean of LKCMedicine. The session, entitled “The Best of Both Worlds”, was attended by over 70 LKCMedicine members, including early career scientists, PhD students, and faculty members. The conversation began with Prof. Best sharing his motivation to become a clinician. Prof. Best’s enthusiasm in endocrinology and diabetes research was greatly shaped by his mentors during his early career, including Professor Thomas John Martin, Professor Donald Chisholm, Professor Rosie Young and Professor Daniel Porte Jr. In 2014, he was fascinated by the unique concept of a medical school jointly set up by two prestigious universities from the Eastern and Western world and decided to lead the development of LKCMedicine as the Dean. His personal trick to cope with multiple professional commitments and avoid burnout at work is to be smart with time management so that of the various aspects of his career could progress steadily while keeping him engaged on all fronts. When being asked about how he wants to be remembered for, Prof. Best expressed his gratitude to be part of a leadership team that has laid a strong foundation in LKCMedicine, allowing it to scale to a greater height. During the lively Q&A session, Prof Best encouraged the young scientists to be proactive, stay focused and collaborate with each other to keep up with the ever-changing world. The event concluded with a wish from LEARN to Prof Best as he begins a new chapter in his life.

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The third Fireside Chat held on 20th of May, featured University Distinguished Professor Joseph Sung, Dean of LKCMedicine and NTU’s Senior Vice President (Health and Life Sciences), with the session entitled “Shifting the Paradigms of Modern Medicine”. More than 80 LKCMedicine members, including faculty members, postdocs, PhD students and administrative staffs, attended the online event. Prof. Sung shared his motivation to be a clinician and his journey to becoming a clinician-researcher. His candid confessions of his travails as a clinician-PhD student resonated well with the audience. His experiences during the 2002/2003 SARS epidemic brought home the challenges encountered by our clinical staffs at the frontline of today’s Covid-19 pandemic and helped the audience to understand the situation better. In his free time, Prof. Sung practises Chinese calligraphy as a way to soothe his mind. He finds the pastime extremely useful to sharpen his thoughts and recharge him for facing more challenges. When queried about his diverse and evolving research interests, he revealed that his penchant for being constantly curious and open to ideas outside his expertise has enabled him to explore new research avenues. His ideas, concerns, and potential hurdles regarding the implementation of artificial intelligence in clinical practice garnered great interest from the postdocs and PhD students. During the Q&A session, Prof. Sung took questions about his own research setbacks and revealed how, it sometimes does not take long for the tide to turn! He also emphasized that being able to adapt to a world of constant changes is a crucial attribute to be successful not only in our profession, but also in life. 
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The second Fireside Chat held on April 13th featured Professor Helen Smith, Professor of Family Medicine and Primary Care. About 30 participants, including junior researchers, graduate students and faculty members, attended the sharing session entitled “A Career Built on Challenging Convention in Healthcare Delivery”. Prof Smith shared her journey from a clinician to clinician-scientist, how she uses her experience and skills from different clinical postings to shape her career in Family Medicine and Primary Care. Regarding work-life balance, she encouraged the young scientists to work hard and play hard, and at the same time, seize any opportunities so that one can craft a unique career path. As a successful woman scientist, Prof Smith thinks that a healthy work culture should motivate all female employers to cultivate and develop their career interests. She also highlighted the need to shape an organizational culture that is aware of, and able to, alleviate any unconscious biases. For all young scientists, she emphasized the importance of having good mentors and a deep professional network. Inspired researchers should be ever ready to communicate their ideas and receive feedbacks. She explained that being determined, broad-minded, ambitious, and, very importantly, to enjoy science are crucial qualities to kick start and sustain a successful research career. After her sharing, the audience took part in an interactive dialogue with Prof Smith to discuss further about the challenges encountered by junior researchers and women in workplace. A small token was given to Prof Smith to appreciate her efforts and conclude the event. 
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On 15th March 2021, LKCMedicine EArly Researcher Network (LEARN) kick-started a new event series, the Fireside Chat. This event aims to provide a glimpse into the scientific journey of a successful faculty for early career scientists. The inaugural Fireside Chat featured Assoc Prof Yusuf Ali, Associate Professor of Metabolic Disease. Close to 50 participants attended the event physically and virtually. During the event, Assoc Prof Yusuf shared his personal motivation to do science, as well as the memorable mentors who had helped him during his early career. He also gave a brief overview of his recent research projects and some major setbacks he encountered. Due to the ease to produce and access research data, he found that the barrier to do research has been significantly reduced, but at the same time, publishing research findings has become more and more challenging because of growing expectations from the scientific community. Therefore, Assoc Prof Yusuf encouraged all the young scientists who wish to pursue an independent career in academia to actively expand their horizons and skillsets so that they can keep up with the ever-changing world. The next Fireside Chat in April will host Prof Helen Smith, Professor of Family Medicine & Primary Care.
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In conjunction with the LEARN Grant Call 2021 initiative, LEARN organised a grant writing workshop on 23rd Feb 2021, aiming to help early career researchers to improve their grantsmanship and scientific writing. More than 40 enthusiastic young researchers attended the workshop physically and virtually via Zoom. 
The workshop featured the following speakers: 
• Prof Michael Khor, Director, Talent Recruitment and Career Support, NTU Singapore, who gave the introductory address highlighting the important ingredients of a successful grant proposal.
• Prof George Augustine provided tips on how to persuade reviewers and funding agencies to fund your research from a perspective of an experienced grant reviewer. 
• Asst Prof Sanjay Chotirmall dissected the manuscript review process and emphasized the importance of careful journal selection and a well-constructed cover letter in increasing the odds of manuscript acceptance.
• Asst Prof Marie Loh and Asst Prof Franklin Zhong shared their journey on transitioning from a postdoctoral fellow to an independent PI, and some of the challenges they had faced in grant application.
After the sharing sessions, the participants took part in a meaningful discussion with the speakers. Many crucial aspects, like the key determinants of an outstanding proposal, techniques to improve clarity and capture attention, the importance of obtaining support and having clear communication with current PIs, were raised and discussed. In-person participants also contributed towards building the LEARN researcher database as a platform to be able to identify researchers with specific or relevant expertise/techniques. The workshop concluded with an announcement of the LEARN grants and Innovation Awards, which all eligible full-time LKCMedicine postdoctoral fellows are encouraged to apply.

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LKCMedicine Early Career Network (LEARN) kicked off the New Year with “Beyond Academic Career”, a hybrid physical + Zoom networking event on 26th January 2020. Speakers representing 5 industry domains shared their career journey. LEARN had the pleasure of hosting the event together with A/Prof Yen Choo (Start-up and Entrepreneurship); Ms. Christina Gee (Intellectual Property, NTUitive); Dr. Bhuvana Raghavan (Regulatory affair, NTU IRB); Dr. Andrew Ang (Grant Administration, RASS) and A/Prof. Kevin Pethe (Pharma). A total of 27 attendees (14 physical, 13 Zoom) participated in this event. Questions include “What is a day in the office like?”, “valuable lessons when transitioning from academic career to industry”, “What would you advise your younger self?”. Personal reflection shared to early career researchers includes spending more years in research, or in different groups, before transitioning to industrial career to obtain specific skills or identify technological gaps. LEARN ended the afternoon by announcing the LEARN Grant Call, Grant Workshop (22/2/2021) and Fireside Chat series (18/2/2021).

On 30 November 2020, LEARN organized the first post-launch event to introduce LEARN’s 2021 activity plans and gather useful feedbacks from the early career researchers at LKCMedicine. A total of 39 participants, including faculty members, research staffs, and graduate students, attended the webinar. There was great enthusiasm on the LEARN grant call, attracting many questions regarding judging criteria and mechanism, grant usage, and collaborative investigation. LEARN’s mentor, Assoc/Prof. Kevin Pethe emphasised that LEARN grant is designed for research fellows to prepare for their next career stage by sharpening their grant writing skills and administration. Additionally, Soon Keong, an Exco member of the LKCMedicine Graduate Student Club, welcomed further collaboration between the two clubs in future events. Prof. Lim Kah Leong, Vice Dean of Research, reiterated that LEARN has the full support of the core leadership of the school and encouraged all LEARN members to actively foster a mutually beneficial relationship among early career researchers.

We proudly announce the official launch of LKCMedicine EArly Researcher Network (LEARN) on the 28th of October 2020. “The LKCMedicine EArly Researcher Network, LEARN, is a newly formed club for, and run by, the research fellows at LKCMedicine. The goal of LEARN is to create an interactive community among the early career researchers through social and scientific events, professional development workshops and collaborations with other schools of NTU,” said Prof James Best during the LKCMedicine 10th Anniversary Ceremony. As a new initiative by the Office of Research and the Post-doc community, we hope that LEARN can offer our members a more enjoyable and fruitful time at LKCMedicine.