Wenlin Chen

Development of a dual allosteric modulator of NMDARs for stroke
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

After completing my undergraduate study as a medical student, my original plan was to become a doctor and relieve patients from illnesses. However, during my internship, I witnessed many cases in which current medication can do little about neurological diseases such as stroke, recurrent seizures, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Seeing patients and their families immensely plagued by these conditions, I dreamed that there were better treatments or interventions to improve their life quality. Later on, I spent five years on scientific research, and that was when I realized that exploring the pathogenic mechanisms of diseases and discovering novel therapeutic approaches can truly fulfill my dream. All these experiences became a driving force for me to decide to pursue a graduate degree to expand my knowledge and skills

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

UBC is a prestigious university known for its friendly and supportive environment toward international students. There are also a lot of scholarships available to international students. Moreover, UBC is located in Vancouver, a beautiful seaside city in which many Chinese immigrants reside in. All these merits made the program very attractive to me.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

I like the strong interdisciplinary research center of the Neuroscience program at the University of British Columbia because it has more than 100 faculty members from 13 departments. And these research teams are well funded by CIHR. Plus, I found Professor Yu Tian Wang’s research suits my interests and career goal perfectly. His group’s successes in translational medicine are innovative as well as practical. I greatly admire their systematic researches and ingenious application of scientific research in the clinic.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The glass walls of Djavad Mowafaghian Center for Brain Health are painted with pictures of neurons!

I like the strong interdisciplinary research center of the Neuroscience program at the University of British Columbia because it has more than 100 faculty members from 13 departments. And these research teams are well funded.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I love the Neuroscience Research Colloquium organized by the program in which excellent researchers from other institutes give informative talks about their work. Students are invited to meet with the researcher and have lunch with them after the talk. This provides students with chances and time to communicate with these excellent researchers face to face.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

My research involves the simulation of protein and chemical interactions, in vitro screening and drug optimization, and function tests in vivo. I have noticed that the fast-evolving applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in drug discovery are drawing the blueprints of future directions. I think the integration of AI into research might be the biggest challenge in my future career. But that will also motivate me to learn more about interdisciplinary knowledge of computer science and neuroscience.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

The Neuroscience program offers excellent core courses NSC 500 and 501 in which students are mentored by professors who excel in their fields. The program is also providing students with 'databinge' sessions that teach students how to use python, Matlab, or other necessary knowledge of computer science.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

My early research experience during the undergraduate study in Xiaoqing Tang’s lab cultivated my curiosity and passion for neuroscience. I also broadened my views and got chances to meet and talk to numerous excellent researchers during my master’s study in Xiangya Hospital, Central South University. These experiences taught me to stay curious and keep asking questions, and the skills and knowledge I acquired in the early phase really helped me a lot.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

During the sunny season, I like to play ping pong and badminton with my colleagues after work, go for a hike with my friend on the weekend, and jog around my neighbourhood to relax. I also enjoy cooking for myself and sometimes I like to invite my friends over for a hotpot.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Stay open-minded and read extensively, science is a process of trial and error, you can start by doing several projects in parallel and carry the most promising one forward. Make friends with people around you including your classmates, program coordinator and director, your supervisory committee members, colleagues, research assistants in your lab or the department, your supervisor, and so on! These people can help you and give you advice when you are in need, both about your research and life.


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