I’m Jack Holland from England and shortly after finishing my 3rd year of my Chemistry degree at Oxford University I travelled to South Korea to take part in a research internship at the Centre for Evolutionary Nanoparticles (CEN) at Yonsei University. I’d never been to Asia before, so coming to Seoul was a quite a daunting prospect! However, upon arrival I found the people to be very kind and considerate towards me, a lost and confused foreigner. Seoul is an amazing place, I’ve never been to a city as vibrant and full of life. Yonsei University is located in Sinchon in the North Western region of Seoul. During my 6 weeks in Seoul I stayed at the SK Global House dormitory located near the East gate of Yonsei.
My initial impressions of Yonsei were large and quite grand. I really liked how everything was located just off the main boulevard that stretched down the middle of the Campus. This meant it was always easy to find your own location, as well as adding an aesthetic appeal to the campus, it’s also a great view from the top of the boulevard looking towards central Seoul. The campus is very green and very spacious, it really doesn’t feel like you are in the middle of a sprawling metropolis.
When I first saw the labs that comprised the CEN I was very impressed. The labs were clearly purpose built for high quality research output, both of the CEN labs had adjacent office facilities which had displays that showed all of the journals in which they had articles published. This group is clearly very proud of what they achieve here. The program began with us being delivered a presentation detailing the general aim of the CEN as well as giving us the schedule for the next 6 weeks. I was raring to get into the lab and to do some nanoscience.
Throughout the main body of the program I was joined by four other interns, one other from Oxford, one from Australia, and two from universities in the USA. Our time in the CEN mainly consisted of us synthesizing and functionalizing our own nanoparticles, as well as performing all of the analytical steps along the way to test to see if our reactions were achieving the desired products. I learnt a lot throughout this process, both practically and theoretically. The PhD mentors were very helpful in teaching us some of the practical procedures involved in the synthesis of evolutionary nanoparticles, I learnt quite a few tricks that I hope to use back in Oxford.
I felt that the mentors were especially good at helping us get to grips with the theory and science that underpins the behaviour of nanoparticles and their implementation in medical applications. They did not spoon feed, instead they encouraged us to think on our own two feet and to apply what we might already know about science from our respective degree backgrounds. We were provided with the relevant literature to study and after we were given chance to digest it, the mentors tested our understanding with some penetrating questions.
The final portion of the program involved two short research projects that we selected from a list. I chose to be involved in the investigation of single molecule kinetics of protein-protein interactions as well as a project investigating the use of a dual mode contrast agent for MRI based on a magnetic nanoparticle. The mentors gave very clear and concise answers to the questions I had concerning the research and I really felt like I gained a decent understanding of the science behind both research projects. We were made to feel very integrated in the research environment, being given the opportunity to change our own variables on the experiments conducted.
My experience at the CEN was unforgettable, I really enjoyed working with the PhD students and learnt a lot from them. It was also great to have the opportunity to work with and meet other interns from all over the world and to talk and share our own experiences. I’m amazed at how much I feel I’ve learnt a lot about nanoscience, the field is fascinating and I’m pretty convinced that it is going to lead to several major breakthroughs in medicinal therapeutics and diagnostics. I had a fantastic time at Yonsei and am very grateful to everyone involved in this program and all that they have taught me. South Korea is a very exciting place, I definitely plan on returning!