Christian Dang Wins Prestigious Fellowship

Honors Program student Christian Dang has won a prestigious fellowship at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and will spend the year following his graduation in December 2022 conducting biomedical research at the main campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

Competition for the fellowship, the Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award, is intense and only 24 percent of applicants were selected over the past year, according to the NIH.

Christian will work in the Muscle Energetics Laboratory led by Dr. Brian Glancy within the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This lab studies the function and development of mitochondrial networks within skeletal and cardiac muscle and how energy distribution is mediated during contraction.

“I think this fellowship will be a great opportunity to gain experience in basic and/or translational research in medicine,” Christian said. “The NIH is the hallmark of bench-to-bedside research, and the experiences I will gain from the fellowship will better prepare me for a potential career as a physician-scientist. I envision that I would be able to run my own lab in addition to seeing patients related to my research. Learning to conduct independent hypothesis-driven research is a key skill for this type of career.”

Christian has been part of the Honors Program for four years as he pursued a Biology B.S. and minors in Chemistry and Sociology. He credits Biology H206: Genetics, taught by Dr. Saul Honigberg and Dr. Scott Hawley, as key to his studies.

“I would say taking honors genetics is an extremely useful class for someone aspiring to a career in biomedical research. This class solidified my interest in wanting to understand the mechanisms of diseases and why incorporating genetics is such a useful starting point to expand our knowledge of diseases in the hopes of developing new therapeutics,” he said.

Christian recently participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunities (SUROP) Poster Symposium, where he presented his project, “A Self-Directed Mutagenesis Approach for Examining the Drosophila Tribbles Recognition Degron in the C/EBP Transcription Factor Slbo.” His research was supported by a SUROP grant provided by the UMKC Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Scholarship. Dr. Leonard Dobens of Biological Sciences in the School of Science and Engineering was the faculty mentor for Christian’s project.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to work in Dr. Dobens’ laboratory throughout my time as an undergrad,” Christian said. “I learned new techniques in genetics/developmental biology and experienced firsthand the process of conducting hypothesis-driven research.”

Dr. Dobens said Christian was an important part of his lab. “It has been a pleasure to have Christian in the lab during his undergraduate studies and both his preparation in the Honors Program and financial support from funding mechanisms like SUROP has assisted his contributions to our ongoing project to understand how protein turnover contributes to cell function. “

What advice does Christian have for Honors students who want to get a NIH fellowship?

“I would recommend applying as far as six months in advance of your proposed start date to increase your chances of landing a position. Many of these labs are looking for applicants with experience in research, whether it’s benchwork or clinical,” Christian said. “If this fellowship is something you are interested in after graduating, I would recommend getting involved in research as soon as you can. Consider reaching out to a research mentor to apply for a SEARCH/SUROP grant, which are a great source to fund your proposed projects and help you gain experience in drafting a research proposal.”

During his years in the Honors Program, Christian volunteered as a peer mentor. He also is a student reviewer and the marketing and design coordinator for Lucerna, the UMKC undergraduate research journal produced annually by the Honors Program.

After he completes his fellowship, Christian plans to apply to medical school, and he hopes to return to the Midwest.