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An International Medical Alliance in the Making

Students at Peking University to attend this year's Summer Research School

In 2012, young Ph.D. candidates from Karolinska Institutet and Peking University visited the Center for Integrated Medical Research on Keio's Shinanomachi Campus for Keio's first ever international joint summer school. Three years later, the Summer Research School is a burgeoning international initiative of four prestigious medical schools in Europe and Asia. The nearly three-week summer school is designed to "provide a global course program, and to promote research and interactions among young PhD candidates"i. The school rotates annually between member institutions, and the host institution is responsible for deciding a theme of research each year; the inaugural 2012 session was centered on neuroscience research, a field of research where Keio particularly excels. The 2013 Summer Research School, which was held in Sweden at Karolinska Institutet, focused on nanomedicine and its applications.

In 2014, Peking University hosted the Summer Research School, with the theme "Cancer," and opened with a week of lectures on subjects such as tumor suppressor genes, cancer stem cells, and whether cancer treatment can be both affordable and equitable. Students were then given two weeks of laboratory research, in which they worked with medical postgraduates and professors from each of the visiting universities.

The program has now been held at Keio, Karolinska, and Peking, where students have attended a wide range of lectures and conducted research. This year King's College London (KCL), is slotted to hold the Summer Research School on stem cell research. We sat down with Dr. Masato Yasui, Professor at Keio University's Graduate School of Medicine, to ask him a few questions about the program.

Group photo from the 2014 Summer Research School at Peking Univeristy

Karolinska Institutet Science Park

i. According to the program introduction

What were some of the considerations behind your initial motive in creating the Summer Research School?

I realized the need for international interaction between young PhDs--that was most important. But in order to foster that interaction, students need to be guaranteed that credits earned at other universities will be transferrable. In the European Union, due to the Bologna Process credits between universities are often compatible and transferrable; for example, a medical student might learn anatomy in Germany and then travel to Oxford the next semester to learn something else. I thought this was a great system and set to devise something similar; the goal was to break down the barriers to receiving credit. Those were the beginnings of the Summer Research School.
We also thought about cost, another barrier to going abroad. We try to reduce the student burden as much as possible―for example, home institutions cover the cost of the participating students' airfare. Most other costs on the ground are borne by the host institution.

What does the Summer Research School entail?

The Summer Research School begins by acquainting participants with one another, after which a week of lectures ensues. This week of lectures is followed by two to four weeks of research, in which participants belong to a laboratory to receive hands-on experience at the host institution. Seeing how things are done at another research institution gives students new perspectives on their own research. Moreover, students are often exposed to research and methodologies outside their own area of research, which opens up new horizons. But most importantly, the Summer Research School entails interaction between young aspiring researchers.

What do you see for the future of the Summer Research School?

As for the program itself, I'm optimistic that we can create an international alliance of universities conducting high-level medical research through the joint summer school. King's College London was eager to join the program, and I see possibilities for prestigious American medical schools to get onboard. I would also like to broaden the scope of research to involve the fields of science and technology, which could lead to interesting international and interdisciplinary collaborations. And in the immediate future, I see students gaining connections through the program for future collaboration.

Student Voices: Julia Ramadhanti

When we visited Prof. Yasui's lab, we met Julia, a doctoral student who had just returned from the Summer Research School in Peking. She was kind enough to take some time from her research to talk to Keio Global about her experiences.

"I went to both the Summer Research Schools at Karolinska Institutet and Peking University. At Karolinska, I got to learn about nanomedicine. In fact, I used the intrathecal injection techniques I learnt there in my project. Though this year's topic of cancer is not necessarily my specialty, I was able to acquire some DNA analysis techniques in the laboratory portion that I hope to apply to my research here at Keio."

Julia takes a short break from her research at Prof. Yasui's lab to talk with Keio Global

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