Jeffrey Pham is an undergraduate student at UCSB majoring in Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology in MCDB and is an undergraduate researcher in the Pruitt Lab. His hometown is Boston, Massachusetts, and chose UCSB to pursue his educational goal of earning a B.S. degree and plans to pursue a Ph.D. after he graduates.
I knew going into university that I really wanted to contribute and impact the health science field and hence I chose to be a biology major. I came to UCSB for two main reasons. Firstly, UCSB is an R1 university and as a Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology major, I was really interested in conducting research at an esteemed research setting and learning more about what this career path is and has to offer. Secondly, as an Asian American from Boston, I came over to California seeking to better understand myself and my identity in an environment that would better promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. And this brings me to my favorite aspect of UCSB which has been the people I have been able to surround myself with and of course the beautiful beach scenery!
What is your Area of Research?
My project aims to create a model system that utilizes optogenetics, or light, to manipulate major signaling pathways to push stem cells towards a desired cell fate lineage. In order to derive this model system, we will be utilizing iPSC to produce cardiomyocytes by controlling the Wnt signaling pathway using light and analyzing the development and characteristics of these cardiomyocytes to see if they accurately reflect those found within the body. The results from our study will serve as the foundation for our model system and allow further understanding of the complex inputs required to produce more in-vivo like cell types.
What are the highlights of being in a research lab?
I believe that the lab culture of the Pruitt Lab is one of the highlights of being a part of this group. Speaking from experience, not only have my graduate mentor as well as my PI been extremely supportive and encouraging of me but every member of the lab has been so friendly and has helped and mentored me throughout my time here at UCSB. I think it is really special to be in a group that makes everyone feel seen and acknowledged.
What do you find rewarding about your research?
I have someone in my family suffering from a serious heart disease. And personally, when I conduct research, especially since my research pertains to Cardiac Development and Disease, I feel as though I am contributing to solving this problem that not only affects my family but many other families around the world and that I’m not standing still and doing nothing. My research gives me hope, and I think that’s the most rewarding aspect for me.
Tips for anyone pursuing research?
I know it can be very intimidating as an undergraduate but my best advice is to put yourself out there. Find a lab that you’re truly interested in, prepare, and put your best foot forward. Form a meaningful connection with your mentor. In my opinion, your mentor-mentee relationship is vital in your undergraduate research experience. This is the person that will always be in your corner and continually challenge you to strive for more. I am very grateful for my mentor and cannot imagine my research experience and success without his support.
Awards and Honors?
Some honors and awards I received are the Gene and Susan Lucas Undergraduate Research Fund in 2020 as well as two internships: the Gorman Scholar Internship at the Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships (CSEP) and the California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI) at UCSB and the Stanford Summer Research Program (SSRP) – Amgen Scholars Program.
What are your hobbies?
I love to be active so some of my favorite hobbies are going to the gym and playing football with my friends!