Karen Garcia

Meet Karen Garcia, a 3rd year Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology student. Karen was kind enough to give us a little insight on her research endeavors and experience as an undergrad. As a member of the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program, she recently attended the 2022 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) conference where she presented her work on “ToxiOmics: Using Chemogenomics to Understand the Impact of Environmental Chemical Exposures on Genes and Diseases”. Her work with Dr. Yang was so impressive that she was awarded the Presentation Award in Computational & Systems Biology. When she’s not working on her research, Karen keeps herself busy as a member of SACNAS at UCLA and a board member for Hermanas Unidas de UCLA.  Keep up the great work!


1. How did you first get involved in your research project?

During my first year, I participated in the programs PEERS and BISEP which taught me about the various ways I could get involved in research. I looked into different labs that aligned with my interests and was fortunate enough to join the lab of Dr. Xia Yang. Since then, I have been working on our ToxiOmics project where we have been developing a tool that can be used to understand how environmental toxicants are linked to human diseases at the molecular level.

2. How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

My research experience has been incredibly rewarding. I have received excellent mentorship from both my graduate student mentor and PI and have gotten to work with people with whom I share similar goals. Being exposed to new challenges has also helped me gain skills I never would have imagined I could achieve. I am really glad to be a part of such a great lab where there is always an opportunity to learn and grow.

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

Take advantage of every opportunity you can! Whether it’s participating in different programs that can help you get started in research or learning a new skill once you’re already in a lab, don’t be afraid to take a chance. Always keep an open mind, you never know where these opportunities will lead you.

4. Can you describe your experience on preparation and presenting for a conference?

I was fortunate enough to attend the ABRCMS conference this past November. Since it was my first conference, I was quite nervous but also very excited. When preparing my poster I looked at different resources to get an idea of the key things I should include and then I ran it by my mentor and PI to make sure I was on the right track. During the poster session, I treated my presentation to the judges as more of a conversation which helped me answer every question they had more comfortably and with enthusiasm.

5. What are your future career goals?

I plan on pursuing a career in translational research as I have always been fascinated by how science can be used to benefit human health.