Palo Alto, CA — At the end of summer 2020, Jennifer Vu, a fourth-year undergraduate student, shared her final presentation for the Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program (USRP). The aim of the Bio-X USRP is to give undergraduates the opportunity to perform hands on research with a Bio-X faculty mentor that exposes them to interdisciplinary research that can influence their scientific pursuits at Stanford and beyond.
Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D, vice chair for research and associate professor of ophthalmology, was Vu’s mentor.
He said, “In order to train our undergraduates to become the best scientists in the country, we have to show them how different scientific disciplines are interacting. Thanks to Bio-X, thinking in terms of collaborations across disciplines is becoming the new normal.”
Vu joined the lab in the fall of 2019 and began working on a project to understand the molecules involved in eye infections and inflammation. After the COVID-19 outbreak, all undergraduates were asked to leave campus. She continued her work from home in Albany, New York. Vu received great support and guidance from Dr. Mahajan and lab team member Gabriel Velez, Ph.D.
Dr. Mahajan said, “Jen is a creative, resourceful, hardworking student who was not slowed down by COVID safety protocols. I’m very proud of what she was able to accomplish remotely.”
In her presentation titled, “Utilizing Personalized Proteomics to Improve Diagnosis and Treatments for Vitreoretinal Diseases,” Vu summarized her 10-week summer project that was supported and funded by Stanford Bio-X. She used biocomputational tools to identify vitreous protein biomarkers for several diseases including lens-induced uveitis, autoimmune retinopathy, and macular holes. In an effort to expand the scope of personalized proteomics, Vu also analyzed datasets of tear fluid.
Despite the entirely remote experience, USRP provided ample opportunities for students to gain valuable research-related skills. Bio-X hosted weekly faculty talks, peer journal club presentations, and workshops on wet-lab techniques. Vu was involved daily with Mahajan lab members via zoom videoconferencing and electronic communication.
In her senior year, Vu looks forward to continuing remote research and synthesizing her research into a Human Biology honors thesis.