Hanna Hoang

Meet Hanna Hoang, a 4th year undergraduate at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. Hanna is currently a part of the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP), a scholarship program that supports students conducting a research project with a UCLA faculty member. Her work was published earlier this year in Neuro-Oncology, the official journal of the Society for Neuro-Oncology. We had the chance to interview Hanna about her research experience at UCLA:

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

My first year at UCLA was online, but I still wanted to get involved in research. I found out about CURE, or Collaboration in Undergraduate Research Enrichment early on in my freshman year. It’s a club that gives students looking to get into research at UCLA mentorship resources and workshops on how to get their foot in the door with research. So, whilst taking remote classes, I was able to write cold emails to several different labs that I was really interested in. I was super lucky to get placed in the lab that I’m currently in: the Vlashi Lab. I always knew I wanted to explore the field of cancer research, and I am nothing but grateful to be a part of this lab, where I get to do exactly that! Coming into the lab as a sophomore, I was completely new to research. But, under the guidance of my PI and mentors in the lab, I saw myself growing as a researcher, improving not only my technical skills, but also my critical thinking.

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

I would say that my time in conducting research at UCLA has been a rich, and truly immersive experience, one that truly allowed me to experience what the world of research was like. It was truly invaluable to be able to talk to so many people and glean as much knowledge as I could from them. I loved hearing about the diversity of motivations that people had for pursuing careers in science, which in turn made me even more excited to pursue a career in this field as well! Being a research-heavy university, I truly feel that UCLA provides so many opportunities for students to get involved in research, whether its through free informational workshops, or scholarship programs.

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

I would say that it’s very easy—and normal—to feel overwhelmed by the myriad of laboratories and distinguished professors engaging in such fascinating and important research, especially when you are an undergraduate looking to get involved. But my number one piece of advice is to remember that you don’t have to know everything. No one expects you to know how to culture cells or perform a Western blot perfectly on your first try. And when you’re applying to labs, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have much (or any) research experience at all. Most labs want to see your willingness to learn and grow. As long as you have that, the rest will follow!

4. Have you had your work published? Can you talk about what that process was like?

My work recently was published in Neuro-Oncology as part of the publication “M2 isoform of pyruvate kinase rewires glucose metabolism during radiation therapy to promote an antioxidant response and glioblastoma radioresistance.” It was a long, but immensely rewarding, experience, especially for the senior members of my lab. On my end, it required repeating experiments many times to ensure our results were consistent and publishable. After the paper was submitted, we all felt a wave a relief. However, waiting to hear back from the journal was the most nerve-wracking part. When we finally got the news that our publication was accepted, it was such exciting, yet relieving, news! One of my favorite moments was when our lab celebrated with a potluck in the Botanical Gardens afterwards.

5. What are your future career goals?

It took me a while to solidify my career path, but I ultimately plan to pursue a PhD after graduating. The precise subject I plan to study is still undecided, but it will definitely have to do with translational research involving potential therapeutic applications for diseases such as cancer.