Lauren Koch - University of Arizona

Hello, my name is Lauren Koch, and I am a junior dual majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology. After I graduate in May 2017, my current goal is to become an optometrist and perhaps also pursue a PhD in ophthalmology. For now, though, I am interested in participating in research and volunteer work on campus. I had my first experience with research this summer in a lab studying lung diseases, and look forward to continuing and expanding my knowledge through scientific research.

As an out-of-state student from Detroit, Michigan here at the University of Arizona, this was my first summer in Tucson. While it has been the hottest summer of my life, it was more than worth it thanks to what I’ve learned from my principal investigator, Dr. Kwang Chul Kim. Dr. Kim’s research has implications for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is the third leading killer in the United States with no known treatment. Another relevant application of Dr. Kim’s research is fibrosis, predominantly idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which also has no known cure.

I am not a member of the Undergraduate Biology Research Program (UBRP) through the University; however, Dr. Kim created his own new personal laboratory program. As a part of his new program, I took on a project in which I tested fibroblast cells for gene and protein expression of MUC1, an anti-inflammatory lung mucin whose overexpression or under-expression may play a role in the development of these lung diseases. Three other students participated in the program as well: two worked on a similar project with macrophage and inflammasome cells, and the other worked to test small molecules that work to inhibit MUC1 expression for future potential drug development. The Kim lab hopes to hire more student researchers in the future to continue this research and develop new projects.

Overall, my summer research experience was very rewarding. I was able to get a glimpse at the research world and how scientific thinking actually works. I love my courses in both Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, but some things cannot be taught in a lecture hall or a structured lab course. I developed many laboratory techniques and learned how to conduct research and ask questions. I’m thankful to have been given this opportunity and look forward to continuing research and learning new techniques, skills and approaches to scientific thinking.