[Vol.20] The First and the Most Brilliant Time in My Life (Hyeon-myeong Lee, UST-KRICT Campus, Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacology Major / Master's Course)
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- Registration Date : 2016-12-28
I have been studying the development of antiviral drugs and nerve agent detoxifying compounds using organic synthesis in the incurable disease treatment research group of KRICT's medicinal chemistry center. In the meantime, my advisor professor recommended me to apply for Overseas Research Training Program, and as a result I could have an opportunity to participate in the lab of Professor Kamil Kuca of the Czech Republic, who has been conducting research exchanges with my advisor for more than 10 years. I was a little nervous, but it was overwhelmed by the excitement that I could build research knowledge through new experiences.
My first overseas experience in the beautiful Czech Republic
In 2016, I was selected for the year's first Overseas Research Training Program and attended a training session for about a month in Hradec Kralove, which is located on the eastern edge of the Czech Republic. I was able to concentrate only on training activities as I was supported for all the relevant expenses including the airfare, travel, food, and accommodation. I pledged myself to learn as much as possible during the short training period.
Sit in the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic has a lot of beautiful attractions that are considered to be a must for travelers to Europe. Czech was the first foreign country that I visited. I could not help but feel excited. While staying there, the weather was so sunny that I felt as if it welcomed my visit. After arriving at Praha Central Station, I took a train for about one and a half hours to the east and arrived at Hradec Kralove. It is a small town, which mainly produces musical instruments and chemical materials. But I felt very pleasant thanks to the fresh air and the river running across the town.
Unlike Prague, which is crowded with tourists, the town hardly has foreign visitors, so communication in English was so challenging there. During the training, Dr. Novoti helped me a lot. Every lunch time, Dr. Novoti printed menu of famous restaurants near the school for me and gave me information about the town's attractions and how to use the local transportation. By the way, the Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption and the world's best beers, which are also cheaper than water, so you can afford as much as you want. If you go to Czech, you are recommended to drink its own beer Pilsner Urquell and Kozel.
Collaboration with world-class research team
Nerve agents are toxic substances that cause paralysis, seizures and dyspnoea by inhibiting the achetylcholinesterase that hydrolyzes acetylcholine, a neuro-transmitter. The substances are designated as one of the three major weapons of mass destruction along with biochemical weapons and nuclear weapons. However, as there is no clear treatment for nerve agents, the development of its detoxifying compounds is a very important issue.
The team of Dr. Kamil Kuca of the University of Hradec Kralove is a leading group in the development of Alzheimer treatment and nerve agent antidotes and has achieved many accomplishments in the treatment development. I have completed various joint papers and conducted experiments through the exchange research with Dr. Kamil Kuca's research group. I worked in the chemistry department's building that is a little away from the main school.
Because the experiment requires the use of nerve agents, only authorized personnel could perform the research in the restricted facility. The experiment has been done in the laboratory of the University of the National Defense, which is collaborating with the university of Hradec Kralove. Dr. Kamil guided me to learn the process of animal test using real nerve agents and explore the experimental facilities. Like Korea, Czech researchers have been actively communicating with each other through collaborative projects in various institutions. This was part of an effort to produce faster and more accurate research results.
Attitude first, environment later
In fact, one of the most impressive aspects of the visit was the laboratory environment. Contrary to my expectation that it would consist of various advanced equipments and instruments, I was somewhat surprised at the size of the lab that was as small as a highschool science room. Compared to those of KRICT, which I belong to, the facilities seemed to be outdated. I found that they were constructing a new building near the school and planed to move there. The fact that they have made amazing results under such environment came to me with a fresh shock. A good facility is not a necessity in bringing in good experimental results. I learned lessons that their attitude to utilize given condition as efficiently as possible and to achieve the best results with limited resources led to the outstanding research outcomes. I acquired a lot of knowledge and research know-how during my stay in Czech, but this enlightenment was the fundamental reason why I had to go abroad.
The one month period that I spent in the first country I visited out of my country gave me a lot of brilliant memories as well as served as a chance to improve my ability as a researcher and build a good relationship. The overseas training session was even more precious as it is the ever first time to me. It will help me continue related research in the future for a long time.