Changing places and loving it – Hudson’s student exchange

By Rob Clancy, staff writer

Swapping the delights of a Canadian summer for winter in Melbourne may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but these three exchange students wouldn’t have it any other way.

Exchange students from the University of Toronto’s Department of Immunology, Jamal Al-Refaee, Rhidita Saha and Grace Wu have joined Hudson Institute laboratory groups.
L–R: Jamal Al-Refaee, Rhidita Saha, Grace Wu

Grace Wu (Hertzog lab), Rhidita Saha (Mansell lab) and Jamal Al-Refaee (Hartland lab) are the latest students to take advantage of the exchange program between Hudson Institute and the University of Toronto’s Department of Immunology, spending three months advancing their careers and expanding their horizons during their summer break.

They have all been taking advantage of Hudson Institute’s areas of expertise, with Jamal working on new treatments for salmonella, Rhidita testing a novel inhibitor of the NLRP1 and NLRP3 inflammasomes, and Grace striving to understand the activities of IFNε in host-microbiome responses in health and inflammation.

For Jamal, a Masters student, it’s also a chance to experience another culture at a time when he would have been doing an internship if he’d stayed at home.

Supported in the lab

“People here really take an interest in you and what you’re doing,” he said.

Rhidita agreed, adding: “The people are so nice, and I’ve learned so many new techniques during my brief time here.”

Grace, after COVID-19 restricted much of her degree to remote learning, found she: “…did lots of real-life stuff I’ve only seen online at home.”

Student exchange for personal growth

They all have their reasons for being glad they applied for the student exchange program, with Grace saying: “It looks good on your CV and it’s certainly a talking point, but the whole experience brings a lot of personal growth.”

Of course, their time in Australia has not all been in the lab – they’ve also spent time being tourists.

The usual places have been ticked off their lists – Healesville Sanctuary (“we had to see kangaroos!”), Puffing Billy, Phillip Island’s penguins, a day at the footy, Botanic Gardens and galleries – plus flying visits to Sydney.

So, what are their impressions of Melbourne? “It’s great how they’ve retained a lot of the old buildings, like Flinders Street Station,” said Rhidita. “And it’s amazing how green the whole place is, even in winter.”

And they have some advice for the Hudson PhD students and post-docs who will be heading to Toronto in February: “Invest in some very warm clothes and mittens – that puffer jacket just won’t cut it!”

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