2014 Equity Intern: Jennifer Zhu

Zhu_Jennifer_150Jennifer Zhu is not new to the field of research. As a student at Occidental College, she has worked with a research faculty on the enantioselective synthesis of the (S) form of the antidepressant, Cymbalta. Through her work she has learned a great deal about organic synthesis reactions as well as becoming well -versed in the use of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, gas chromatography, and polarimetry.

Jennifer values the opportunity to acquire essential laboratory skills as an undergraduate student, as she focuses her efforts on getting accepted into medical school. As the first person in her family to attend an American university, Jennifer knows that working toward her goal of becoming a general practitioner is a long journey.  She is thrilled to be part of this year's Summer Equity Internship cohort.

"The guidance of a mentor would be beneficial to my career goals. Medicine is such a wide field with many sub-disciplines, so having a mentor would expose me to the field, help me narrow down my options, and help me create a clearer perspective of my future," she says.

At the academically rigorous Occidental College, Jennifer has earned excellent grades, while also staying involved in sports and other activities. She is on Oxy's NCAA All-Academic American Team, competing in track and cross-country. As part of a work-study program, she is a Conference Services Coordinator, responsible for writing contracts, updating financial records, and requesting venues on campus. Being able to balance sports with a part-time job and a full load of courses is testament to Jennifer's organizational and time management skills. 

"After I graduate, I plan to work for a biotechnology or pharmaceutical company for a couple of years before I apply to medical school. My research experience will make me a better doctor because I will have an understanding of where the treatments I am prescribing my patients came from," she says.

Here at OHSU, Jennifer is working with Damien Fair PA-C, Ph.D., in the Fair Neuroimaging Lab. She also has the opportunity to shadow Mark Garzotto, M.D., in the Urologic Oncology Department. In the Fair Lab, she is working on a neuroimaging research project using fMRI data to determine if different emotional contexts affect the baseline resting state neural activity of a typical population.

"We obtained our fMRI data through having participants do an impulse control task that included three social cues – happy, fear, or calm faces – and the three emotional contexts," she says. "We are determining the community networks of the brain that are activated during task performance. Lastly, we would like to be able to predict the task performance of an individual through knowledge of a population's neural activity."

Jennifer says that she has learned a great deal from the internship in the imaging lab. She appreciates the opportunity to gain hands-on experience involving coding and programming.

"Not only am I learning a lot about neuroscience, but I am also gaining skills about working in a professional environment with people of all ages and backgrounds," she says. "I am learning what it is like to be at such a great learning and research institute as OHSU. I am figuring out what areas of research and medicine I would like to focus on."

"I know that my experience through this internship will be useful going into my future."

To learn more about the Summer Equity Internship Program, contact David Martinez, Manager of Student Recruitment and Retention.

Posted on July 8, 2014. Photo and write-up by Maileen Hamto.