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A full circle


This morning (US Eastern Standard Time), the Board of Overseers of Harvard will appoint its 28th president and the first female president in the university’s 371 years of history.

Read more about it here.

Drew Gilpin Faust, currently Dean of Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, is set to take over the leadership of the world’s richest and, (perhaps arguably) the most powerful university.

Her appointment comes nearly one year after former Harvard President, Lawrence H. Summers (a prominent American economist who’s also ex-Secretary of Treasury during the Clinton administration) was forced to resign due to his clash with many members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and his costly remark during the 2005 National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER) conference that the innate ability or preference of women may be the reason why women are under-represented in high-end science and engineering positions.

Other candidates who’ve been seriously considered by The Harvard Corporation included Thomas Cech (HHMI president), Steve Hyman (Harvard Provost), John Etchemendy (Stanford Provost), and most interestingly, Allison Richards (yes, our dear Vice-Chancellor herself! One wonders if she might have followed the footsteps of Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate and former Master of Trinity College, Cambridge who was lured back to Harvard as Lamont University Professor, citing that Harvard gave him an ‘offer he couldn’t refuse’). Looks like VC Richards is set to stay in Cambridge University till the end of her tenure at 2010.

From Summers’ allegedly sexist remarks, to the appointment of the first female President of a traditionally male-dominated seat of learning, we have come to a full circle of events.

Or have we?

My Summer of 2006


So, I’m now back in Cambridge, England for my third and final undergraduate year. For my Part II year, I’ve chosen to major in Pharmacology – a decision which was largely influenced by the nature of my summer research internship.

Which brings me to the point of this post – what have I been up to this summer?

Right after my second-year examinations, I skipped MayWeek, and in the process, giving all the celebrations of MayWeek and the opulent MayBalls a miss. The reason why I had to rush home to Malaysia immediately was because I wanted to start my US visa application, something which I have been keeping on whole for quite some time.

Back home in Malaysia, I took the opportunity to meet up with close friends from prep school, who are now at the International Medical University (IMU) in Kuala Lumpur. It’s really heart-warming to see them again after so long – people whom I shared laughters and tears, joys and sorrows in two meaningful years of my life before I went to medical school abroad.

My visa application was pretty straightforward and it went on unexpectedly prompt. I even had the opportunity to witness first hand a relatively peaceful demonstration against American-support of the Zionist Israelis when I was at the US embassy in Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur.

I arrived in Boston’s Logan Airport on the afternoon of Friday, July 14th after an insanely long journey from Penang, via Singapore and London.

And then, I came face to face with the ‘Athens of America’, a city that was the cradle of American civilization, culture and political revolutions. Today, this city remains strong as the intellectual hub of the USA, having the most number of educational institutions per square mile in the world, and not to mention amongst them, two institutional giants in academia.

Since a picture tells a thousand words, here’re some of the many many pictures that I’ve taken:

Longwood T stop

Longwood MBTA stop (the MBTA is also affectionately called ‘the T’ by Bostonians). This is the stop at which you need to get off in order to get to Longwood Avenue, a long road along which the medical school and many of its affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutions are situated.

Harvard Medical School quadrangle

The medical school quadrangle. The building in the picture (Gordon Hall) is made from marble. Sweet.


A close up of Gordon Hall. Ain’t she a beauty?

Joslin Diabetes Center

Joslin Diabetes Center, a research and clinical care institution affiliated to the medical school I’m attached to, which is solely devoted to diabetes. It is the world’s largest comprehensive diabetes facility. It is located just 5 minutes’ walk away from the main quadrangle of the medical school and located in the intersection of Brookline and Longwood avenues. I spent 2.5 months living, learning and trying to make myself useful here.

Dr King & I

Left: a full Professor of Medicine at the medical school, who is also the Research Director of the research center and Head of the Vascular Cell Biology Section. He’s the Principal Investigator of the lab I’m in.

Right: Me, confused medical student and visiting undergraduate research fellow at the research center.
King Lab

My lab members. Not all the lab members are in this photo. And not all the people in this photo are the lab members. The guy in front carrying a baby is my supervisor. The baby in his arms is his first-born. Very cute!! And the lady on his right is his wife.

Mouse and I

That’s me playing scientist. On my hand is a really really big mouse! (It’s a Zucker Fatty mouse, which is an animal model of Type II Diabetic mouse) The poor cute thing was later sacrificied in the name of science. ūüėõ

It was not all work. In fact, I had good fun in Boston. And I had good company too. We did lots of fun things and visited many places together over the weekends.


Freedom Trail

That’s me on the Freedom Trail in Boston. It’s essentially a 2 mile trail starting from Boston Common all the way to Charlestown, which connects all the historical attractions together. Behind me is the Paul Revere statue. Paul Revere is an American revolutionary war patriot who rode in the midnight, all the way from in land from Charlestown to warn the American revolutionary militia at Concord and Lexington that the British troops were coming from Boston.

I didn’t only stay in Boston. I also crossed Charles River to visit the campuses of two universities in Cambridge, MA.
Harvard Gate

The inscription on Harvard’s 1875 gate:

Open Ye The Gates That The Righteous Nation Which Keepeth The Truth May Enter In. (Isaiah 26:2)


This is the Widener Library of Harvard College. Harvard has the world’s largest academic library and one of the five largest libraries in the world (the largest being the Library of Congress in Washington DC, which, much to my delight, I also had the opportunity to visit! Yay!)

Memorial Hall

This is Memorial Hall of Harvard College, which houses the Sanders Theatre (a concert hall) and has an adjoining undergraduate dining hall – Annenberg Hall.


I even had the opportunity to have lunch at Annenberg Hall. The hall is just basically fashioned after an Oxbridge dining hall. But the hall is bigger (I think it’s the size of Trinity’s) and food is not too bad. (they serve buffet lunch and dinners! No wonder Americans have Freshman 15!)

Besides Harvard College, I also visited the geek-capital of the world. M. I. T.

Me standing in front of MIT’s Great Dome of Building 10 in Killian Court. Yeah, MIT’s so cool that EVERYTHING is numbered, rather than named. From their undergraduate courses to their buildings.

And then I even ventured out of New England. To the Big Apple.


No introduction needed, I think. Lady Liberty.

Ground Zero

At the Ground Zero memorial at the site that formerly housed the Twin Towers of the 9/11 tragedy in 2001.

Then, I also took another weekend to fly down to Washington, DC – the capital of the USA.


Me standing in front of the US Capitol on Capitol Hill.

Finally, towards the end of my stay in Boston, I was in time for the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Longwood campus of the medical school. There was a 3-day symposium to celebrate this centennial event, with speakers coming from as far as UCSF and Caltech.

HMS Quadcentennial

Me standing in front of the New Research Building of the medical school along Louis Pasteur Avenue. All the talks were given in a really state of the art lecture theatre in this ultra-cool building.

Jo Martin

During the celebrations, there was an afternoon reception to mark the event. The guy giving his speech is the medical school dean, Joseph Martin, while the guy sitting to his left is the interim president of the university, Derek Bok.


My last day in the lab. Picture says it all *grins*

On Monday, September 25th 2006, I bid Boston and the Land of the Free goodbye and returned back to the UK. But my summer hols didn’t end just there. I spent my remaining week in the land of beer, waffle and chocolates – Brussels!!!

Me at King’s Cross. Platform 9 3/4 of the Harry Potter fame.


Me on the Eurostar from Waterloo Station to Brussels in 3 hours.


Travel Mate 1

Travel Mate 2

Hotel de Ville in Grand Place, Brussels. Brussels was good fun ūüôā

And thus, the curtains came down on one really fantastic chapter of my life.

My Farewell Party


There has always been a ‘tradition’ in the King Lab to host a farewell party to send off any outgoing research fellows. My turn finally came today.¬†So, Dr King suggested we hold a pizza party and the event was kindly organized by Christian, my supervisor.

Here are some pictures of the event:

(L-R) Matsu (standing, a Japanese postdoctoral fellow who’s been very nice to me) , Yukio (a very nice Japanese postdoc cum opthalmologist, who’s been encouraging me to go to graduate school), Jan a fellow¬†student from North Germany, me and Christian (my supervisor and mentor; a Danish cardiologist who’s a postdoctoral fellow)


(L-R) Lindsey (sits directly across me in Lab), Dahlia, Maeno (he’s a Japanese postdoc, who’s also an endocrinologist), Pedro (a footie-crazy Portuguese postdoc). Nice bunch of¬†people they are.


Dr King (seated far left), the principal investigator and Research Director of the Center. I owe it solely to him for my stint in Boston.


Christian, on how I’ve been a nuisance to him for the past 2.5 months. Nah, just kidding. He gave a short but very moving speech. I am honored to have him as my mentor, teacher and friend.


Me, with that silly grin


Me, deep in thought. No, actually, I’m deep in munching my pizza.


I’m giving a short farewell speech, which was basically to¬†everyone about how I’m leaving the lab with a heavy heart. That I’m heading back to Cambridge, UK after this. To which Dr King jokingly said,’Haha, that sounds boring. Malaysia would be more fun, right?’

Christian gets bored with my talk and decides to drink his water. haha.

Thanks to my ever so helpful lab manager, I-Hsien, for taking these pictures!!

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