Understanding Lipid Metabolism

Welcome! My name is Josh Nguyen (he/him), and I am a senior in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, I am double majoring in microbiology and the history of art and architecture, with a minor in chemistry and a certificate in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. Outside of scientific research, I am fascinated by contemporary art and its intersection with politics. My interest is driven by my desire to study marginalized stories and understand the histories of traditionally excluded people, challenging preconceived notions and exploring new dimensions of diversity in the process.

For the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship (CURF), I am working under Dr. Alison Kohan in the School of Medicine to study how the absence of apolipoprotein C-III (apoC-III) impacts the transport, secretion, and absorption of triglyceride—a type of fat or lipid—in the intestines. ApoC-III is a protein that transports lipids throughout the bloodstream and regulates triglyceride levels. As such, it plays a critical role in lipid metabolism. Understanding the mechanism of apoC-III has been an area of particular interest due to its clinical relevance. Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, accounting for roughly one-third of adult mortalities in the United States, and apoC-III has been shown to be an independent predictor of cardiovascular disease risk. Additionally, apoC-III has been shown to be elevated in hyperlipidemia and diabetes. While previous studies have investigated how overexpression of apoC-III affects triglyceride metabolism and secretion, there has not been research investigating how the absence of apoC-III will affect similar processes.

Following graduation, I hope to pursue an MD/PhD. Rather than becoming a physician who does research on the side, I want to truly integrate science into my career as a physician-scientist. The dual training will provide me with an integrated perspective that will ground my research in patient interactions and guide me in translating my work to clinical applications. I strive to recognize limitations in making scientific progress clinically relevant and actively work to address them, bridging the gaps between physicians and scientists. The CURF will help me further immerse myself in research and deepen the skills that I have developed through my past three years in the Kohan Lab. Whether that be through practicing scientific techniques, thinking deeply about the questions I hope to answer, or communicating my work to a broader audience, this fellowship will provide me with the opportunities to become a well-rounded researcher. I am grateful for the CURF, and I look forward to continuing this work throughout the semester!

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