JUSTL participant: Dr Raymond Yip
Dr Raymond Yip is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in a laboratory jointly headed by Prof Geoff Lindeman and Prof Jane Visvader at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia. He obtained his PhD in 2016 in Prof Kathryn S.E. Cheah’s laboratory in the School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, where he was involved in identifying and characterising novel human SOX9 enhancers, and investigating the function of Sox9 in regulating the differentiation of hypertrophic chondrocytes to osteoblasts during the process of endochondral ossification. After finishing his PhD, Dr Yip continued to work in Prof Cheah’s laboratory for an additional 6 months before taking up the position at WEHI.
Dr Yip is currently investigating why breast cancer cells preferentially metastasize to the skeleton rather than to other organs. He uses high-resolution imaging methods to track cancer cells in real time to determine where and how they hijack the surrounding microenvironment to survive in the bone. By understanding these processes, he hopes to identify novel therapeutic strategies to eradicate and prevent bone metastasis.
Dr Yip was unique among the JUSTL participants in that he was the only one who had applied to join, and was accepted as one of just 24 students attending, the 2014 MBL Embryology course. In 2014, it was celebrating its 121st anniversary, so it was an especially auspicious year to attend this world famous course. During his time on the course, Dr Yip and the other students worked from early in the morning until past mid-night for much of the six weeks that the course ran. Lectures and laboratory courses ran for six days a week, and each week the embryology of certain model animal systems was examined, including sea urchins, fruit flies, fish, frogs, molluscs, planaria, tunicates and annelids as well as birds and mammals.
Dr Yip found his time in Woods Hole to be very stimulating. He was mentored during the course by leading experts in each animal model, and so he learned techniques that he wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to work with. He said that this gave him the opportunity to explore many different research options. He said that, “unlike in a PhD where you are focussed on addressing a particular research question, on the MBL course you have the flexibility to try new methods out of the confines of your home institution where you might be under pressure to generate data.” He said that there you can test even “crazy ideas”. If they work out, then this is perfect…if they don’t then it is not a problem. This is what makes the MBL unique in that you are encouraged to explore new and different ways of approaching research questions.
Indeed, it was spending time at the MBL, which at the time was an independent research institute rather than being affiliated with the University of Chicago, that inspired Dr Yip to join the WEHI in Melbourne. This is also an independent research institute and Dr Yip says that he can put all of his effort in his research.
In the report Dr Yip prepared at the end of his time at Woods Hole, he summed up his experience of the Embryology course: “The intensity and depth of knowledge delivered in the course ...literally suffocated us….but we absolutely enjoyed every moment. The diversity of the organisms… and the choice of reagents and experiments you could try were truly overwhelming. The absence of pressure to generate publishable data in the course brought back the joy of doing science, and reminded us why we entered the scientific field.”