Meet Thao Nguyen, an Undergraduate Student at Wichita State University.
Please Introduce Yourself!
My name is Thao Nguyen and I am from Wichita, Kansas, where I attend Wichita State
University. I am majoring in Biology with a Biomedical / Pre-Medicine emphasis and
graduate in Fall 2020.
Why did you choose to join a research lab and what has the research, benchwork,
or specific techniques taught you about a career in science?
Having worked in the emergency department, I had seen firsthand the difficulties of
managing and treating patients who struggled with a variety of chronic illnesses. During
shifts, I would always find myself searching online to know more about the diseases,
their underlying causes, the different options for treatment, and the current research.
This interest led me to pursue an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates)
funded by the NSF and was so happy to have been accepted for the SURF Program at
Scripps where I spent the summer in the lab of the amazing Dr. Candice Contet. Here, I
was given the opportunity to participate in research on the neurobiological mechanisms
underlying alcohol use disorders.
What have you learned from the lab and how has your role contributed to the field
My role in the lab was to carefully prepare samples of mouse brain tissue and perform
immunohistochemistry with subsequent fluorescence microscopy to identify areas of
designer receptor expression in mouse brains from a chemogenetic alcohol drinking
experiment. During my time in the lab, I learned a great deal regarding current research
on alcohol use disorders and what is still not known. The more I learned, the more I was
aware that my work was but only a small contribution to the research that Dr. Contet
and many others spearhead - research that hopes to better elucidate and provide richer
understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms that mediate symptoms of alcohol
use disorders, an understanding that is crucial to developing targeted therapies for
those who suffer with alcohol use disorders.
What are your career goals and how has your undergrad research experience
helped with this?
I hope to one day become an internal medicine doctor and work in hospitals treating a
variety of patients with their own unique story and needs. This research experience has
given me a deep appreciation for the sheer amount of hours researchers spend inside and outside the lab in the pursuit of furthering knowledge in the many forms that it
takes. I am indebted to my mentors in the Contet lab, Drs. Candice Contet and
Giovanna de Macedo, who taught me daily, by example, the importance of effective
communication, organization, and simple kindness in the world of academia.
What is the most exciting aspect of the lab you are in? What is the future
application of this? What is something that a non-scientist would find
interesting/should know about?
Although I am no longer working in the Contet lab, I am most excited for the
development of targeted treatments for those who suffer with alcohol use disorders -
given that there are not too many treatments available or easily accessible currently. I
think that many do not know how prevalent alcohol use disorders are and that is likely a
reason it is not discussed enough. 16 million people in the US alone are affected by an
alcohol use disorder. That is twice the population of New York City!