Mentor: Dr. Barbara Jung (Department of Medicine), Dr. Mark Wiley (Department of Medicine)
Current research project: Investigating the Role of Activin A in Colorectal Cancer
Zoe is a junior at the University of Washington majoring in Economics. She is passionate about advancing medicine and is pursuing a career in the medical field, which led her to join the Jung Lab. In the Jung Lab, she is currently researching how activin A signaling affects the metastatic ability of tumoral colorectal cells. She hopes that her findings can help the development of novel therapeutics and improve risk stratification of metastatic colorectal cancer. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, and running.
Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Activin A is a cytokine involved in many physiological processes including cell division, programmed cell death, and inflammation. In the context of colorectal cancer, activin A promotes metastasis. Our research aims to identify the means by which activin A promotes metastatic colorectal cancer. We perform experiments that assess the level of epithelial to mesenchymal transition and migratory ability of epithelial colorectal cells in the presence or absence of activin A treatments. Understanding activin A’s role in metastatic colorectal cancer is essential as risk stratification for metastatic colorectal cancer remains challenging. The findings of our research can help distinguish biomarkers of metastatic disease in colorectal cancer. These biomarkers can identify colorectal cancer patients at risk of metastasis as well as help physicians design more individualized treatment plans.
When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in research in the winter quarter of my sophomore year. I utilized the URP database and reached out to a few PIs and postdoctoral scholars about my interest in their area of research. Eventually, I was accepted for a position at the Jung Lab and have been researching there ever since. I wanted to get involved in research because I was hoping to immerse myself in an environment where I could apply knowledge from my undergraduate studies into a biomedical setting. I also wanted to learn how to use my academic studies to formulate scientific inquiries and independently design hypothesis-based experiments. Working in a lab that seeks to innovate therapeutics and improve global health has shown me how knowledge can serve an altruistic purpose.
What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Don’t be discouraged by rejection! Rejection is a completely normal part of the application process and is not a reflection of your qualifications. Regardless of your grade or level of experience in research, there is a lab out there eager to offer you a position as long as you are enthusiastic and passionate about their area of research. The application process is difficult, but being part of a team that helps you progress as a researcher is a very rewarding experience. If you have any questions or concerns about applying to research positions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me!