Meet Anna Nguyen, a Recent Graduate of Loyola University Maryland and Winner of a Fullbright Fellowship
A: The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards grants to students who are interested in pursuing a research project, a course of study, or an English Teaching Assistantship in countries outside of the U.S. Dr. Sutherland first introduced me to the Fulbright Grant in my second year at Loyola, and I was immediately interested in the idea of conducting research abroad and collaborating with scientists from other parts of the world. After receiving sponsorship from the Institute of Pathology, I began drafting my grant proposal and Fulbright application in the summer of 2011. After many drafts and revisions, I submitted the application in October. I learned I passed the first round in January, and finally received the good news that I was awarded the grant at the end of April 2012.
Q: Why Switzerland?
A: During the summer of 2011, I had one of the best experiences of my life while participating in a summer undergraduate research program at the University of Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland. I spent eight weeks researching at the Department of Experimental Pathology at the Institute of Pathology, and really wanted to continue my experience, so I applied for a Fulbright Grant to conduct a year-long project in Switzerland. Furthermore, Switzerland is an ideal place of study for my research, which focuses on sarcomas, because sarcomas are among the most commonly operated cancers in Lausanne. Since my lab is directly affiliated with a hospital in Lausanne, located right across the street, I will have access to sarcoma tissue samples for my research. It’s an amazing opportunity to have access to such resources.
Q: What will you be working on at the Institute of Pathology?
A: I will be investigating a new technique for identifying cancer stem cells by their functional criteria. In particular, my research will focus on cancer stem cells taken from sarcomas, which are malignant tumors of the bone and soft tissues. The prognosis for patients with sarcomas is poor, largely due to the fact that the cancer's biology is not well understood. To identify targets for treatment, I will study mechanisms of sarcoma initiation and development.
Q: Do you expect to face any difficulties researching and working in a foreign country?
A: I don’t expect too many difficulties researching and working in Switzerland. There are so many different countries represented in the lab, so the working language is English. Meeting and working alongside scientists from around the world is a really amazing experience that truly makes me feel like I’m engaged in the global scientific community. Especially in a field like cancer research, it’s very moving to see, and be a part of, people of different backgrounds working together in the global fight against cancer.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about this opportunity?
A: I am most looking forward to getting nine months to work on my research project. After spending so much time working on the grant proposal and talking about my research, I can’t wait to finally carry it out. I’m really hoping that my work can contribute to a better understanding of sarcomas. Of course, I’m also very excited about spending 9 months in a country as beautiful as Switzerland.
Q: You also just graduated from Loyola, and now you’ll be spending a year abroad. What’s next for you?
A: After my Fulbright experience I plan to take a year off to work and prepare my applications for M.D.-Ph.D. programs in the United States.
Q: Any advice for other aspiring women in science?
A: Pursue your curiosity. If something interests you, actively look for opportunities to learn more about it—you never know where the opportunities may lead you! Sometimes it can be as easy as searching Google for internships or talking to professors about working in a lab. Either way, take advantage of your free time (whenever you have it) to learn or explore something new. Life is more fun that way!
Written by: Laurette McIlwee