Special Programme in Science (SPS)

SPS Alumni Talk by Dr. Aida Ramdzan

Photo of Dr Aida giving her presentation in SPS seminar room.

The 11-July-2016 edition of SPS alumnus talk features Dr. Zubaidah Mohd. Ramdzan (or Aida in short, as we always dearly call her). Aida belongs to the SPS batch 2000. She earned her PhD from the Department of Biochemistry of National University of Singapore in 2010. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Goodman Cancer Research Centre at McGill University. SPS had the privilege to have Aida served as one of the most dedicated and inspiring mentors (and SPS mentors are generally dedicated and inspiring to begin with), well-liked and well-respected by her batch-mates, seniors, and juniors. It is no wonder that Aida's talk drew quite a number of "oldies" which SPS has not been seeing for years, the like of Chune Yang, Alaric, and Emma.

Group photo with the supporting fans.

Aida started her first half of the talk by sharing her experience in the last 18 months of her PhD candidature, leading to her eventual post-doctoral fellowship in McGill. From this experience, she drew 3 lesson points:

  1. Choose the right PI and lab. This is accomplished by attending conferences, talking to people, and simply scouring the web. In looking for potential PI, we should look for the type of research s/he is doing, his/her publication and funding record, and the geographical situation where the lab is located. Her advice is to start with a broad field and search for the right person.

  2. Talk to our supervisor. The supervisor, whom themselves were postdocs before and have gone through the experience, are the best source of advice. They may be able to link us up with the right lab and introduce/recommend us to the right people. Any reasonable supervisors would want us to succeed and they will help us. Don't shy away from seeking advice from his/her collaborators as well.

  3. Know ourselves. Select the position that excites us. Select the laboratory that suits us. Select a project that develops our skill.

The second half of the talk describe Aida's work on the paradoxical Cut homeobox 1 (CUX1) gene that is implicated as a haploinsufficient tumor suppressor gene, yet surprisingly is overexpressed in many cancers and is associated with tumor progression. In the last couple of years, the Nepveu laboratory and herself have shown that elevated expression of CUX1 accelerates repair of oxidative DNA damage and prevents RAS-induced senescence in primary cells. She demonstrated that CUX1 is directly involved in DNA repair, which may explain its dual role in tumourigenesis. Interestingly, this project, which now is the main project in Aida's lab, started as side project, originally meant to get her busy during her spare time. So who knows, that tube that has been lying around unnoticed at the corner of your lab may become a potential Nobel-winning project. Always be diligent. Always be creative. Go the extra mile!