Monthly Interview: Felicia Lim

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Isabella Wang
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Felicia Lim

Felicia Lim is a fourth-year PhD candidate in Duke’s Molecular Cancer Biology program. She also participates in the Global Health Doctoral Certificate Program as she is interested in using her expertise in research to enter science diplomacy and global health fields.

Tell me a little about your journey and how you ended up at Duke!

Felicia was born and raised in Indonesia until she was 15, when she pursued her high school degree in Singapore. Afterwards, she obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology degree in China, before coming to the United States for her graduate study.In China, Felicia completed a Bachelor’s program in Biology. While working on her Honor Thesis project, she found herself enjoying her laboratory work and the research nature of the project. This discovery, as well as a rare opportunity to attend a scientific conference with her professor, prompted her to prepare for and apply to various graduate programs in cancer biology research.

How did you choose your lab project? What is it like working in the lab?

Her program allows the first-year students to rotate in at least three different labs before deciding on the one to join. In her current lab, Felicia’s research focuses on how hormones affect our immune system and how this influences their ability to fight cancer cells.

One exciting aspect of doing research, she says, is the fact that there would always be a learning curve as the project progresses and changes, and new techniques are being introduced in the field.

How did you feel when you came to the United States? What were the differences between studying in Asia and studying at Duke?

Coming to the US for the graduate study has been her very first experience of western culture. She experienced various culture shock, and she mentioned a few she has observed in class, including how students were encouraged to voice their thoughts and ask questions during lectures even if that may interrupt the professor’s train of thought. Growing up, she wasn’t used to having lots of discussions and Q&A during class. Felicia was also surprised that students often referred to teachers by first name.

What were the most surprising or challenging aspects of adjusting to life in the U.S.?

She admitted that at first, there were the logistical aspects and learning how everyday things run in the United States, such as how to open up a bank account. Then, there were a variety of cultural differences. For example, both Felicia and I weren’t used to small talk, which happens quite often in American culture. It was also a nice surprise when even strangers would say “hi” to you on the street!

How do you spend your time outside of working on your research?

Felicia enjoys being an IHOP (International House Orientation Peer) to help new graduate and professional students adjust to life at Duke. She and Siddharth Kawadiya, who is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Engineering, are among the most experienced members of the IHOP team. Felicia is also a co-President of WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering), and one of the founders of the Indo@Duke, Duke’s Indonesian student group. She is also involved in Duke F1RSTS (Duke First-Generation Graduate Student Network), DISI (Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators), and plays percussion in the Duke Medical Orchestra.

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