National Science Foundation East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes

Mike Wininger-Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Arriving in Hsinchu Xian, Taiwan, I learned that one can expect three things for certain: affordable and delicious food, scooters, and scientists. Hsinchu and its surrounding towns are known as the “Silicon Valley of Taiwan,” and have the integrative business-and-research infrastructure to justify the comparison. Lately, Hsinchu has been generating buzz for its enterprising biomedical research, much of which results from cooperative relationships between the National Science Council (the Taiwanese equivalent of the National Science Foundation) and industrial partners. One such initiative is the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), where I spent summer 2007 as an EAPSI fellow. 

Under the mentorship of Dr. Wannhsin Chen, I learned cell culture and microscopy techniques specific to human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), and how to design protocols to induce and assess hESC differentiation. As an engineer with a mathematical background, I was able to manage the data from these experiments using analytical techniques that had never been applied to stem cell biology. This project was conducted as a research thrust under a larger developmental umbrella seeking to develop equipment and methodologies for high-throughput screening of pure culture hESCs, which is now considered the primary goal of tissue regeneration therapies. In this way, not only was I conducting frontier biomedical research at ITRI, but I was gaining exposure to the dynamics of technology transfer at the nexus of industry, academia, and government-sponsored research.

Since leaving Hsinchu Xian, Taiwan, I’ve learned that one can expect three things for certain: the food was better in Taiwan, scooters aren’t appropriate vehicular transportation for the New Jersey Turnpike, and that your advisor may or may not be receptive to the suggestion that he take his sabbatical in Taiwan, and if possible- before you graduate!

Last Updated: September 01, 2010 05:07 PM



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