Postdoctoral Fellow at HKU-Pasteur, Tami Zhang travelled to the Institut Pasteur in Paris from February 2016 to June 2017.
Why did you go to Paris? I was very lucky. When I was working at HKU-Pasteur Research Pole, my supervisor Dr Sumana Sanyal got a grant to foster her collaboration with a researcher at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. My credential was suitable for this project! So I went to Paris for one year and a half, before going back to Hong Kong to complete the project. How was your stay in Paris? The colleagues were very friendly. The team I worked with is very multidisciplinary and was always keen to help me. The lab in Paris has established a state-of-the-art platform to study the interactions between proteins, and it was a critical part of my project. I was very excited to learn this new technique. The everyday life was also very nice and interactive, with a lot of exchanges about research life. Every first Tuesday of the month, the team members gathered outside the lab and spent fun time together. During my free time, I used to be a crew member of an association helping the other international students and staff and creating social times within the Institut Pasteur: the association of the young researchers of the Institut Pasteur StaPa. Besides new virology techniques, I have also learned a lot about French bakery! Not to mention that I ran the famous race "20 Kilometers of Paris" as part of the Institut Pasteur team, to raise funds for the institute. In short, it was a formidable stay in Paris!
What made you choose virology as a career?
I got my Bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical. A lot of my graduate fellows became sales managers for pharmaceutical companies but I found myself more interested in upper-stream research. I was not really into engineering, so I decided to go for basic science. I had the chance to study as a PhD student at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong, investigating Dengue virus. Afterwards, Dr Sumana Sanyal’s team at HKU-Pasteur Research Pole was the only other team that worked on Dengue virus in Hong Kong. So, when I attended the HKU-Pasteur Virology Course in 2013, I started networking and discussing my career plans, and I finally joined the team after I defended my thesis! The international atmosphere at HKU-Pasteur Research Pole is very nice, and the research project on Dengue virus is promising. Thanks to the HKU-Pasteur courses, I am able to meet a lot of world-renowned experts and get inspired. Joining the Institut Pasteur network makes me very proud. It had early been a goal during my studies. I remember when I visited the Pasteur Museum in Paris, I was very sentimental! « Finally I am there »… There clearly is this « Pasteurian » feeling. We feel united as biologists, immunologists, virologists… to better understand infectious diseases, with a strong awareness about human wellbeing in every sense.
What do you love in your job?
When you work everyday in a lab, of course you have to face difficulties and see experiments failing, but it’s always very inspiring and encouraging if you can solve a problem, get new findings allowing you to refine a concept… I like to face challenges in science, go into the unknown of my research scope! It’s where my passion is.