CURF Introduction: My journey to the world of translational research

Hi everyone! My name is Zeyu “Ward” Liu. I come from Qingdao, a beautiful coastal city in China! I am currently a junior studying microbiology, and I am thrilled to share my personal research experiences with you all!

A little about me, I first got into the world of basic/translational science research about 10 months ago. I reached out to a couple research PIs at the School of Medicine and expressed my research interest. Then, magic happened. I was lucky enough to get into the group I am currently working at in the department of surgery school of medicine.

I first started purely as a curious observer. I spent my free afternoons throughout the semester shadowing postdocs who work in the lab with various basic research techniques. Research to me was for a while not so attractive mainly because I do not understand what is going on! Suppose you are considering getting into research and happen to be reading this blog. I am delighted to tell you that, “Be patient with science! It will get interesting!” Indeed, it did! After months of observing, pipetting, and reading research papers, I started to get into the flow of research. That is when I picked up and developed my research project with my mentors, which I will introduce you guys to in a second.

My research focuses on vascular injury under Type 2 diabetes. As the world is seeing a skyrocketing increase in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes due to obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, it draws our concern to diseases highly correlated with T2D onset. This includes coronary artery disease, peripheral arterial disease, and cerebrovascular disease, all of which are tied to atherosclerosis, in which T2D patients have up to five times the risk of developing these diseases compared with the general population. It has also been widely shown that T2D patients tend to have a more concerning outcome over the general population post-surgical operations like angioplasty and stenting, the two most commonly performed treatments for atherosclerosis-related diseases. However, during these surgical maneuvers, the catheter/wire is prone to irritate and cause damage to the endothelium layer of the vessel wall; as a result, the vascular smooth muscle cells are exposed with platelet, which might contribute to the promotion of neointimal hyperplasia that leads to lethal consequences arising from immunothrombosis and vessel thickening. Therefore, my mentors, Dr. Roberto Ivan Mota Alvidrez and Dr. Matthew D Neal, and I developed the project to investigate the interaction/synergism between smooth muscle cells and platelet under diabetic vascular injury background and to examine whether HMGB1, a protein that is known to be heavily involved in the inflammatory response, plays a role in this process.

After my undergraduate career, I am planning to matriculate into either an MD program or an MD/Ph.D. program. Either way, I think I will be working as a physician-scientist in the future to keep my science career going. To me, addressing part of the current worldwide crisis and investigating a potential cause of a particular disease in this crisis is fascinating and rewarding. I think CURF provides an incredible opportunity and invaluable experience for undergraduate researchers to practice developing a research project, drafting research proposals, and exploring what real-world research is like.

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