Michelle Wong took up the DSO Scholarship to increase her depth of knowledge into the research area of Infectious Diseases. She is currently studying at one of Europe's largest medical universities, the Karolinska Institutet in Solna, just outside of Sweden's capital of Stockholm.
"The committee that decides on the winner for the Nobel Prize in Science and Medicine resides within the university. This creates opportunities for students to attend lectures and learn from masters in the field," she says.
Michelle hopes that her course will equip her with greater knowledge on pathogen mechanisms, environmental microbiology, and methods of detection and screening for unknown viral agents. She offers insight into her research area: "The study of infectious diseases, or more specifically the micro-organisms that cause disease, is important to the work that I do in DSO. A healthy soldier plays a critical role in defence."
Having been in Sweden for almost 11 months, Michelle describes Sweden as 'IKEA, Reindeer and Meatballs'. "Like the furniture in IKEA, Swedes are practical and highly effective people. Reindeer represent the proximity and love of nature the people have. It's amazing how one can enjoy the comforts of city life and the tranquillity of nature all within short driving distances. Finally, Meatballs represent the simplicity in food and the interesting phenomenon where Swedes eat the same simple dishes almost daily - but not only meatballs of course. Perhaps this is a reflection of the limited choices in produce that they have," she notes.
While she has taken well to Swedish culture, the weather has at times, proven challenging. "Anyone intending to ride out dark winters in Stockholm need to be very well-prepared, mentally. Further north, winters are beautiful, but Stockholm does not get much snow and can be really depressing. However, Spring has been wonderful with warm weather and lovely flowers!"
Michelle has started taking Swedish language classes to better integrate with her laboratory mates, and is relishing the multi-culturalism of living in an international dormitory. With another three years of study to go, she is determined to work hard and produce results. "I look forward to surprises, and will climb the mountains they lead me to," she says.