Yutei Shi, an Asian man in a white T-shirt gazing into the camera with carved pillars in the background
Yutei Shi, freshly returned from his European research stay

Yutei Shi (UC’23) is returning from an overseas summer course with a new perspective on what’s important to him in his studies and in his career in biology. The CSB397 Research Abroad course offers UofT students a chance for experiential learning through lab-based research in select cities around the world. Shi had hoped to travel to Hong Kong, but COVID restrictions made Konstanz, Germany the best alternative for a host lab.

Shi was accepted to Prof Patrick Müller’s lab, which uses light sheet microscopy to study the development of zebrafish embryos. Shi was nervous to be travelling to a new country and imagined his days would be filled with experiments and paperwork.

He was pleasantly surprised by his reception: “The lab was really helpful and sociable. We would go out for drinks some days on the lawn. Working there really showed me the importance of work-life balance”.

Shi had lab experience from attending teaching labs at U of T, but Müller was interested in his hobby of creating virtual objects using 3D sculpting software. Shi applied his knowledge of coding 3D objects to develop machine learning models for determining the position and orientation of a 2D slice of a fish embryo within the 3D space of the fish embryo. Before moving to the keyboard, Shi was taught at the lab bench to prepare samples through embryo injection, PCR screening and fluorescent imaging.

Shi also took the opportunity of being in Europe to travel with fellow CSB397 students to cities including Madrid, Naples, and Rome. He was struck by how the urban geography of all the cities he visited was derived from the ancient patterns he saw in Rome. Even his train journeys west through Switzerland afforded beautiful views of the Alps. Shi developed an interest in European history from his travels and discussions with his landlord.

With support from Centre for International Experience, Shi had funds to pay rent for a room he found online and for living expenses in Konstanz. This support has revealed to Shi that he wants to find a job in industry upon graduation to provide the stability of a regular salary and the freedom to have his own room.

For students curious about applying to CSB397, the University has previously arranged positions in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany and Scotland. More information can be found on the CSB397 webpage. A final list of CSB destinations for Summer 2023 will be available in Fall 2022.