Yiwei Gong had found that her undergraduate research experience has given her insights into careers she might pursue after college. By joining a lab working in a field of great interest to her, Yiwei has been able to see what the life of a researcher is like. She has also appreciated the synergy she has found between her coursework and work in the lab; each has strengthened what she has been able to learn from the other. UROP is pleased to highlight Yiwei for demonstrating the impact research experience can have on an undergraduate education.

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

I assist research in the Longhurst Laboratory, with Dr. Stephanie Tjen-a-looi as my PI. Our lab is dedicated to studying cardiovascular physiology, with careful focus on hypertension mechanisms, some even related to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). We study peripheral and central neuronal pathways involved in blood pressure regulation, as well as new treatment methods that we believe will exhibit fewer side effects than current anti-hypertension drugs.

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

I joined the Longhurst Lab in the spring quarter of 2017, during my junior year. Introduced by a friend who was already working in the lab, I became familiarized with the labís general research interests. I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of those interests encompassed the neurobiological study of TCM. The idea of being a part of this area of research felt quite meaningful to me, which ultimately motivated me to join this lab.

3. How has research enhanced your education?

My research experience thus far has strengthened both my practical skills and my foundation in physiology. I have accrued expertise in both chronic and surgical research and built a personal comprehensive understanding about the sympathetic nervous system, a valuable experience I believe I could never have learned from physiology courses alone. I also now have a taste for what a life in research would be like, which helps to gauge what future careers I may gravitate toward.

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

My most unforgettable experience so far actually took place not long after joining the lab, during the summer of 2017, when I got to take part in my first experimental design. Since that started, I have gradually taken charge of the chronic area of study in my lab. My PI and I discovered that the treatments and drugs of which we proved to be effective on moderate hypertension, all failed on our chronic study on sustained severe hypertensive models. My PI informed me that we had to devise new treatments to test in very limited amount of time given... (an impending deadline for our study?), which was a great stress. Over that month, we tested two other clinical anti-hypertension drugs in combination with our previous used treatments, which still failed. In the final 2Ė3 weeks, we finally stumbled upon a completely new sort of alternative treatment after looking into our past chronic and surgical studies, as well as reading for what seemed like hundreds of papers. It took us an extra week to explain our own ideas, question each otherís opinions, and we finally reached an agreement to test an existing drug to see if it could work for cases of severe hypertension. The results of our study proved that it was a good choice in the end. This was my first time contributing to an experimental design of a serious scientific study. The experience made clear to me the intricate details and difficulties, such as expense, that I needed to consider when turning an idea into an actual experiment. It also showed me the mindset I needed to become a good scientist, as well as let me experience the sweet taste of achievement when our research turned into success.

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

My interests currently lie within drug development. I also plan to apply for Masterís and PhD programs, and eventually build my career in either academia or industry.

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

First of all, your own research interest is the most important thing to consider when joining a lab, because it determines your passion, which further helps to determine how far you may want to pursue on that route. Moreover, itís very crucial to have a strong foundational knowledge about the topic your lab is focusing on, because it will determine whether you can critically think about your work, and determines how much you can contribute.

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '19 Aneesah Syeda Akbar
Nov. '19 Jennifer Fong
Oct. '19 Amanda Woodworth
Sep. '19 Yvette Sanders
Aug. '19 Amber Marie Obenshain
Jul. '19 Gurleen Samra
Jun. '19 Yiwei Gong
May. '19 William Gerald Smith
Apr. '19 Emeizmi Mandagi
Mar. '19 Whitney Zhang
Feb. '19 William Agnew
Jan. '19 Sarah Mahoney