My name is Andy Chun, and I’m a rising junior at Davidson. I am one of the current recipients of the Davidson Research Initiative (DRI) fellowship, and I am ecstatic to share about my experience this summer as a DRI fellow!
Before I get into my research experience, I’d like to share some information about me and how I came across the opportunity. I am a Hispanic Studies major on the pre-medical track, and I am involved in volunteer work at the Ada Jenkins Center afterschool program and free clinic. After graduating from Davidson, I would love to attend medical school and eventually be able to serve people as a physician. I’d like to spend a couple of years serving in rural communities while participating in medical brigades with organizations such as Doctors Without Boarders and see where those experiences take me.
As a top liberal arts institution, Davidson has allowed me to fully invest myself in both my pre-medical studies and Hispanic studies major; after two years, I could not be happier with my decision to attend Davidson. One of the great perks about a liberal arts college is the opportunity to build close relationships with professors. I have chosen to do my DRI project this summer with Dr. Rachid El Bejjani, a genetics and cellular molecular neuroscience professor here at Davidson. After taking his intro biology class my first year and hearing about all the awesome things going on in his lab, I took initiative and sought a research position in the lab. Dr. El Bejjani was nothing but supportive and encouraging in my pursuit of research experience, and I have been conducting research in his lab ever since.
The DRI is a fellowship awarded to select Davidson students every summer who take ownership of a research question and write a research proposal that is evaluated by a committee of professors across various disciplines. Thus, I spent the majority of my sophomore year learning the ropes of Dr. El Bejjani’s lab, reading papers, coming up with ideas for my research proposal, as well as gathering data that would help propel me into my summer of research. The big goal of my research project centers around trying to use c. elegans, a microscopic worm, as a model system to study a disease in humans called Gerodermia Osteodysplastica (GO). GO is a genetic disease that causes abnormally weak skin and bones in children and adults, and our lab has gathered data that suggests c. elegans may be an effective system to study the disease. I have been using this summer opportunity to investigate the molecular mechanisms of a gene mutation in the worm that is related to a gene mutation involved in the disease in humans, in hopes that my findings shed light into the mechanisms of GO.
The DRI has definitely enhanced my Davidson experience by providing me the opportunity to dive deep into my research before spending a semester abroad in Spain this fall. I could not be more grateful for Dr. El Bejjani and other faculty who have invested their time in me.
Andy is working this summer in a lab inside the new E. Craig Wall Jr. Academic Center.