David Chung

Meet UCLA senior, David Chung, who is majoring in Applied Mathematics and minoring in Biomedical Research. David was selected to present at the 2021 Harvard National Collegiate Research Conference, the largest student-run conference in the nation. His poster was titled, “Chemogenetic modulation of parvalbumin-positive interneurons to rescue circuit defects in developing somatosensory cortex and tactile defensiveness in the Fragile X mouse.”

David currently conducts research in Dr. Carlos Portera-Cailliau’s lab in the Neurology department at David Geffen School of Medicine.

Read David’s interview with us below:

How did you first get involved in your research project?

Coming into UCLA, I had a number of interests, but I was especially fascinated with neuroscience. Wishing to learn more about this subject, I discovered that one of the most effective ways to learn was through direct exposure, and thus I sought an experience within research. Through the Biomedical Research Minor, I was introduced to Dr. Carlos Portera-Cailliau whose lab researches Fragile X Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. I was not only interested in the neuroscience behind autism disorders, but also drawn to this research due to my family history, as I have a cousin with autism. Because of this intersection of my interests, I joined the lab in 2019, where I continue to contribute to an ongoing project. My work specifically focuses on understanding the network level activity of neurons in a Fragile X mouse model, and how modulating specific groups of cells may produce cellular and behavioral changes.

How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

My research experience at UCLA has been enriching and especially helpful in shaping my future career goals. I discovered a passion for research that I would have never known, had I not taken the first steps to become involved in it. It has taught me a number of technical skills, such as scientific writing, surgeries, and imaging techniques, and most importantly, how to think scientifically and logically. The ideas and concepts we may learn in biology or neuroscience classes become the necessary background material, as research helps me cultivate a more creative approach to solving real world problems. I often thought of what “the real world” may be, and I realized in my experiences in research, this is exactly that. As a future researcher, I will be able to develop ways to understand mysteries in science and tackle new questions that may arise every day. My experience in research at UCLA has been one of the most important factors in defining my future.

What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

The most important aspects of research are a curiosity of the world around you and the drive to answer questions. If you are truly interested in understanding a certain field or answering a certain question, I implore you to first read as much as you can about the topic, then find someone you can learn even more from. The internet is a wonderful place to start to understand the necessary background for a certain subject, and professors are also excellent resources for finding avenues into research. A genuine passion shows clearly, and with that I encourage you to reach out to researchers to ask to talk and learn more about the field you are interested in, and you may find yourself with a great research mentor.

What are your future career goals?

I wish to pursue a career as a physician-scientist. After graduation, I intend to gain more research experience in other fields of study with neuroscience. I then intend to apply to MD-PhD programs, where I hope to obtain a PhD in Neuroengineering or Computational Neuroscience. Eventually, I hope to specialize in Vascular Neurology or Movement disorders as a physician, and lead a lab at an academic institution. Currently, my new interests direct me to research Brain Computer Interfaces, and one day I hope to be able to see the applications of my research in the clinical setting.