Touching Base with Graduate Fellowship Recipient Sun Nee Tan

This week’s Science First highlights the work of Sun Nee Tan, a recipient of the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) Graduate Fellowship for Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Science. NAVS recently caught up with Sun Nee to discuss the progress she’s made on her project, “Structural and functional neuroplasticity of Parkinson’s disease following a sensori-motor contingent musical walking intervention (Ambulosono),” which is currently in its second year of funding.

Sun Nee is a Ph.D. candidate in Neuroscience working in Dr. Martin McKeown’s laboratory at the University of British Columbia. Her project focuses on Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nervous system that affects movement and includes symptoms such as tremors, stiffness and slowing of movement.

Sun Nee is working with Parkinson’s patients to determine the impact of a non-pharmacological intervention program on motor ability and overall quality of life. Her approach uses an app on an iPod as a sensing device to determine stride length in patients while they move and listen to music. If their stride becomes too small, the iPod stops playing music, to remind patients to take bigger steps.

sun-nee-tan-science-firstIFER fellowship recipient Sun Nee Tan in her lab at the University of British Columbia

State-of-the-art brain imaging techniques will then be used on the patients to examine the impact of this therapy on the brain. Use of imaging techniques on human subjects to study changes in the brain may help replace animal models, which are often used in Parkinson’s disease research.

While Sun Nee had previously worked with animal models as part of her Master’s degree project, she switched gears for her Ph.D. work, making “a conscious decision to transition away from research that relies on animal sacrifice.” Now, Sun Nee is focusing her efforts on working with human patients with Parkinson’s disease. “I feel strongly motivated by the Parkinson’s research volunteers I work with,” she says. “Their optimism in the face of health challenges and eagerness to contribute to Parkinson’s research stimulates me to contribute to humanity in any way possible.”

Sun Nee indicated that the recruitment phase of her project will be ending soon, in order for data analysis to begin. We are eager to learn the results of this important work.

Following completion of her Ph.D., Sun Nee plans to “work tirelessly to develop new forms of treatment and improve quality of life for our aging global population” by developing technologically-advanced, non-invasive biomedical products that can slow progression of neurodegenerative diseases and help alleviate symptoms of those conditions.

NAVS wishes Sun Nee continued success with her project and is thankful for her efforts to advance science in a more human-relevant way that does not harm animals. Please click here to learn more about Sun Nee’s project.

Please consider helping NAVS and IFER support smarter science—such as Sun Nee’s—that advances discovery, innovation and human-relevant solutions without the use of harmful, flawed and costly animal experiments.


–Dr. Pam Osenkowski, Director of Science Programs

IFER is now accepting pre-proposal applications for 2016-2017 Graduate Fellowships. If you, or someone you know, is a graduate student working on alternatives to the use of animals in science, be sure to apply for an IFER Graduate Fellowship. The application deadline is April 29, 2016.

This entry was posted in News and tagged on February 29, 2016.
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