Undergraduate Research Program

Kim Ha

Major: MCD Biology, Biochemistry
Mentors: Department of Pediatrics: Kathryn Shively, Michael Bamshad


Current research project: Investigating Variants in Isolated Birth Defects


Kim is a senior majoring in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Washington. She is interested in exploring the intersection between computational biology and genetics to develop models for understanding complex genetic diseases. Since June of 2018 she has been working in the Bamshad lab to identify and expand the spectrum of causal variants in a genetic disorder known as distal arthrogryposis. Currently, she is working with the Bamshad lab to validate variants that potentially cause various isolated birth defects. In her free time she enjoys reading webcomics, chatting with her friends, and watching variety shows.

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Birth defects are the most common cause of infant hospitalization and mortality in the first year of life. Some forms of birth defects are relatively mild and can be corrected with a small surgical procedure while other forms can be much more severe and complex to manage. These issues can be costly and severe for individuals starting a family. To prevent birth defects, it is important to know what causes them. However, our understanding of how birth defects are caused and why severity varies within the same type of defect is still limited. My role in this project is to visually screen the DNA sequences of individuals affected by isolated birth defects and confirm candidate variants observed in these individuals. This is a simple but important step to improve our understanding of the causes of birth defects and how we can prevent them.


When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved with research the summer before my first year of college through a program known as GenOM ALVA at the University of Washington. I find joy in discovering new information and patterns, and research seemed like the perfect route to do just that.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
If you have even the slightest interest, go for it! I believe a lot of people may feel hesitant about getting into research because they feel like they’re unprepared, but you don’t need to know everything before beginning a project. Mentors are very kind and patient people who are more than willing to help you.