September 9, 2019  Print

Orion Tong from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) has received a Clarendon Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford.

Orion Tong in the lab.

Orion Tong, a Research Assistant with WIMR’s Centre for Virus Research, will be leaving us this year to complete a PhD in cancer research at the University of Oxford.

Orion received a Clarendon Scholarship from the University, a prestigious and highly sought-after scholarship that is awarded to the strongest international candidates.

As he prepares to leave WIMR, Orion will also be preparing to make the transition from HIV research to cancer research.

“I completed my Honours years with the HIV Molecular Pathogenesis Laboratory, and since then I’ve been a Research Assistant with the same lab,” he said. 

“Both HIV and cancer have pressing treatment and cure needs, and there are some fascinating parallels between the two. I feel fortunate that I will now have the opportunity to study in both fields.

“Cancer research is very clinically focused, and is very patient driven. There’s a huge intersection between clinical studies and immunology – as we’ve seen here at Westmead with CAR T cell trials as a potential treatment for people with blood cancers. It makes cancer a very dynamic and exciting field that’s full of new questions and research directions.”


Dr Najla Nasr

Dr Najla Nasr from the HIV Molecular Pathogenesis Laboratory said it was hard to say goodbye to a member of her team.

“It was an absolute pleasure to have Orion in our team. He is motivated, dedicated and always displayed initiative and diligence in his work,” she said.

“His journey at WIMR was full of great achievements and memories. It’s very hard to so goodbye.
“But, I know this opportunity will allow him to excel, largely due to his passion for science. I look forward to seeing him scale new heights, and hope that he will be back at WIMR after a couple of years.”

Likewise, Orion said that while he is excited to have the opportunity to study overseas, he will miss his lab at WIMR.

“My Honours year was very intense, but also very rewarding. I’ve also found being a Research Assistant a very rewarding experience.

“The student environment at WIMR has been incredibly enjoyable, and has helped me get through some of the longer days of research.

“It feels quite sad to be leaving both the lab and Sydney. I’ll miss my friends and family.

“But, studying at Oxford will definitely be a new experience and that’s part of the fun of – to try new things!”

We wish Orion well in his future endeavours, and hope he returns to WIMR to share what he has learned. Well done, and good luck!