Healthy advice

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2006, 12:00am

Name: Rossa Chiu Wai-kwun Age: 31 Occupation: Chemical pathologist

Young Post: What is chemical pathology?

Chiu: Chemical pathology is a branch of medicine. [It is

the area of pathology that is concerned with analysis of body fluids.]

Pathology deals with the nature of disease.

It is subdivided into several smaller branches.

Microbiology, for example, is [the science and study of micro-organisms, including bacteria and viruses, some of which can cause disease].

All chemical pathologists must graduate from medical school and do a one-year internship in a hospital before progressing to their speciality training.

YP: What are your duties?

C: I see patients, usually diabetics and those with cholesterol problems.

I am also an associate professor at the Chinese University's medical school so I teach and do research. I have to balance my time but I tend to spend more time on research.

YP: What are your research interests?

C: I am looking at the development of non-invasive prenatal diagnosis methods which detect hereditary diseases in the unborn baby.

At present, doctors often diagnose invasively, which involves getting cell tissues from the baby.

Doctors must stick a long needle into the mother's womb and there is a one per cent risk of spontaneous miscarriage.

Our research looks at how we can bypass this procedure and, based on a newly found biological phenomenon, develop a non-invasive method.

In 1997, my supervisor discovered that unborn babies release DNA into their mothers' blood.

We now try to take the mother's blood and zoom in to the baby's DNA to detect hereditary diseases.

The research has been quite successful and we are working to diagnose more diseases using this new method.

YP: Some people think that staying in the laboratory to do research all the time is quite boring. What is it like for you?

C: It's never boring for me. There are so many research questions we need to answer.

Every day we need to adapt the new information we have. It is a very exciting process.

Even negative results are results. They stop you from going down the wrong track.

Also, researchers travel a lot to attend international conferences.

We present our findings to the other experts and sometimes work together with them.

Communication skills are very important.

YP: What qualities are needed to be a good researcher?

C: You have to be optimistic and not get frustrated easily because research can be a long process.

You should be bold enough to challenge established knowledge to make breakthroughs. You can't think within a set framework.

Modesty is very important too. You should appreciate the work of others and learn from them.

Also, teamwork is important because a researcher usually works in a big team.