Kelly Huang

Meet UCLA junior, Kelly Huang, who is majoring in Biology. Kelly recently had her abstract accepted and will be presenting at the California Society of Plastic Surgeons 2021 Symposium. Her abstract is titled, “Developing the Psychosocial Growth Chart: Prospective Longitudinal Psychosocial Functioning of Children with Craniofacial Anomalies.”

Kelly currently works in the lab of Dr. Justine Lee, at David Geffen School of Medicine, who specializes in Plastic Surgery and Pediatrics.

Kelly is also currently a part of the URC-Sciences’ Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP).

How did you first get involved in your research project?
I was shadowing in the operating room during the summer after my freshman year when I serendipitously observed a surgeon repurpose abdominal tissue to perform a breast reconstruction for a woman who had a mastectomy due to breast cancer. I became fascinated with the potential of reconstructive surgery to transform someone’s quality of life and started looking for opportunities to learn more about the field. Fortunately, during my study abroad at Yonsei University in South Korea, I had the amazing opportunity to shadow a reconstructive surgeon at the Severance Hospital. After learning more about the specialty, I returned to UCLA and reached out to Dr. Justine Lee at the David Geffen School of Medicine to study the intersection between surgical care and psychosocial functioning. It has been a transformative experience working under Dr. Lee’s guidance alongside supportive and inspiring medical students to evaluate the longitudinal psychosocial development of children with craniofacial anomalies to improve their standard of care.

How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?
Conducting research at UCLA has been essential in shaping my understanding of science and medicine and my career aspirations. I’m always thinking of how lucky I am to have such opportunities to work with amazing mentors and peers, many of whom have been important role models in my decision to pursue medicine and research. I have also learned so much from these experiences that extended beyond technical lab skills to other crucial skills like teamwork, communication, and critical thinking. It’s also incredibly enriching to explore the wide range of research activities, such as attending conferences, mentoring younger students, and receiving professional guidance.

What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?
Find a topic you’re really passionate about, and don’t hesitate to reach out to the researchers in the field. It’s extremely important to be personally invested in the research you’re doing, as it helps you realize why it’s worth spending so much time working to discover novel mechanisms and solutions. It’s not always an easy process, but it’s a valuable experience that will drive you to grow both personally and professionally.

What are your future career goals?
I’m still exploring different career paths, and my current research has been a wonderful opportunity for me to immerse in the intersection between science and medicine. In the future, I would like to continue conducting research to improve quality of life and medical treatments, as well as directly provide these treatments to others.