Dr Sin How Lim – Sole Malaysian Recipient of the Joint IAS-NIDA Research Fellowship Award 2013

Background – Joint IAS-NIDA Research Fellowship Award 2013
The International AIDS Society (IAS) and National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) Research Fellowship is a fellowship programme established in 2009 to promote research in drug use and HIV. It facilitates the learning of new techniques, career advancement and transfer of knowledge to the institution or country of origin. The fellowship programme consists of two types of awards: US$75,000 to be awarded to a junior scientist for 18 months of post-doctoral training; and US$75,000 to be awarded to a well-established HIV researcher for eight months of professional development training. Both take place at leading institutes excelling in research in the HIV-related drug use field.

Applicants can be from any country except from the US and they must be junior investigators with a doctoral degree obtained no more than six years before the time of application. The fellowship was first awarded in the 5th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2009) and it has been subsequently annually awarded since then. This year, it was awarded to four outstanding recipients during the 7th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2013) held in Kuala Lumpur. One of the recipients is Dr. Sin How Lim, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Malaya. Scientific Malaysian News Editor, Azilleo Kristo Mozihim had the opportunity to speak to him at the IAS 2013 conference.

Where were you from and can you please briefly describe your educational history?
I was born in Malacca and I graduated from the National University of Singapore with a bachelor degree in Biochemistry. I continued to do my PhD in Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh and obtained it in the year 2009.  

Why did you choose to do a PhD in Epidemiology despite graduating with a bachelor degree in Biochemistry?
After doing my bachelor degree, I got acquainted and become interested in Epidemiology. It is a field that is always been taken for granted by the public and most people are unaware of its contribution in the healthcare system. Epidemiology allows us to understand the determinants and distribution of diseases in a population. Consequently, we are able to devise and implement a plan of action to reduce the incidence as well as the prevalence of a particular disease. Many general knowledge regarding diseases such as the fact that lung cancer is caused by heavy smoking are the result of epidemiological studies. Sadly, most people are ignorant about this and are even oblivious to the existence of this field.   

With the acquisition of the award, what is the plan for your subsequent research project?
I am planning to study the concurrency of substance use and the sexual risk behaviours among men who have sex with men. My mentor will be Professor Fredrick Altice from Yale University, United States.

What is your opinion on the current state of scientific research in Malaysia?
I cannot give insightful comments regarding the state of scientific research in general but I can give my opinion regarding HIV research in Malaysia. In terms of research in the basic science of HIV, Malaysia has a strong performance in this area. However, compared to the developed countries, Malaysia still lags behind in the area of clinical and treatment research of HIV.

Finally, would you like to send a few words of advice to budding Malaysian scientists and/or to those who are planning to be involved in scientific research?
Scientific research is most of the time a collaborative activity.  Teamwork is the key to a successful research project. I am grateful to my colleagues who have been greatly cooperative during my time when I was doing my previous research projects. I am particularly grateful to Professor Adeeba from University of Malaya who has been supportive in my early scientific career and whose empathetic guidance was unparalleled in my eyes.

References

1. HIV and Drug Use Fellowship
http://www.iasociety.org/iasnida.aspx
Note: Applications for 2014 round will be open from 8 December 2013 – 10 February 2014.

2. HIV and Drug Use Fellowship – FAQ
http://www.iasociety.org/Default.aspx?pageId=423