Zachary Valley has had a lifelong dream of becoming a surgeon, and has used undergraduate research as an opportunity to view that dream up close. Becoming involved in a surgical research team has only reinforced his intention by providing a real look at the life he hopes to pursue. By becoming involved in research, Zachary has been able to personalize his undergraduate education outside the requirements that are defined by his major. UROP is pleased to recognize Zachary for the passion with which he has pursued his undergraduate research.

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?

My research is generally involved in the development of novel surgical modalities to improve the quality of life for both oncologic and benign urology patients. Our team primarily focuses on surgical planning related to kidney stone surgery with medical manipulation, surgical technology development, and preoperative medication regimen outcomes. I am honored to work in the Department of Urology at the UCI Medical Center under Dr. Jaime Landman and Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, two highly eminent surgeons in the field of endourology.

2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I became involved in my department relatively recently, in May of 2017 (my third year as a UCI undergraduate). I was fortunate enough to have colleagues involved in urology who encouraged me to apply and introduced me to other students in the department. I was allowed an opportunity to interview with the team and have been a member ever since.

3. How has research enhanced your education?

My research has taught me more about the clinical, medical profession in the first few months than I had ever known in my entire life. I was required to quickly learn all of the current studies and surgical procedures commonly carried out by the surgeons so that I could keep up with my peers. Eventually, I became proficient enough to begin authoring manuscripts, grants, and abstracts, which has allowed me multiple publications in urological academic journals.

4. What has been your favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

My best experience through research has been traveling to the 2017 World Congress of Endourology in Vancouver, BC. Our research team presented numerous abstracts of our own and I had the opportunity to learn about new studies from fellow urologists across the globe. Additionally, I was able to write summaries on novel and innovative abstracts presented at the conference to be published in the online urological journal UroToday.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

Throughout my childhood, I always wanted to be a surgeon. After undergraduate studies, I plan to attend medical school, then pursue a career in surgery. My research has allowed me to get a firsthand glance into the profession and it has done nothing but increase my desire for surgery. I even have the opportunity to attend surgical cases regularly to record intraoperative data, which has been one of the most exciting experiences of my college career.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

I would recommend anyone interested in clinical research to get involved as soon as possible. Research is only as good as what you put into it, and the more time you have to dedicate to master the material and hone your skills, the more successful you will be as a researcher. For those already involved in a lab, make yourself known by taking on multiple projects and foster a strong relationship with your PI; this will allow you to stand out and will be far more rewarding in the long run.

Past Researchers of the Month

Jun. '17 Zachary Valley
May. '17 Julianna Cressman
Apr. '17 Navid Reza Ghaffari
Mar. '17 Martha Arhemi Morales
Feb. '17 Jafar Al Souz
Jan. '17 Joseph Mehrabi