Han Kang

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
I am working on two independent, but related, research projects culminating in separate theses for the Campuswide Honors Program, Excellence in Research Program in Biological Sciences, and the Honors Program in Social Sciences. One project, under the guidance of Professor Hung Fan in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, explores the biology of heterosexual transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the causative agent of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)—a disease that has devastated the world since the first identified case in 1981. Results from this project can be used to construct HIV vaccines. The other project, under the mentorship of Professor Lois Takahashi in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, involves a case study of public policies related to the procurement and distribution of HIV/AIDS drugs. With this particular project, I hope to address issues of affordable drug access in the face of growing demand and finite resources.
2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

In June 1996, I received the Youth Science Fellowship from the American Cancer Society and Rockwell International to pursue cancer biology research. For three months, I worked directly with Professor George Chandy in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the College of Medicine on a project characterizing a specific protein found on white blood cells. Results from this project would guide drug development for autoimmune disorders. This experience undoubtedly influenced my decision to attend UCI, beginning in September 1997. After pursuing a national-level internship with the American Red Cross in summer 1998 and taking the AIDS Fundamentals course in fall 1998, HIV/AIDS became a central issue that has been the focus of my research.

3. How has research enhanced you education?

My academic and research interests are diverse and quite complementary: the multidisciplinary nature of my dual HIV/AIDS projects necessitates a strong background in the biological and social sciences. Hence, I am pursuing three degrees at UCI: Biological Sciences (specialization in Microbiology), Global Peace and Conflict Studies, and Epidemiology and Public Health. From my research, I have acquired data handling methods and analytical skills essential for some of my most crucial coursework at UCI.

4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

I enjoy the opportunities of talking about my research, such as presentations at conferences or even informal, but engaging, conversations at a coffee shops. In December 1999, I received the Rural Minority Health Scholarship from the National Rural Health Association and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. As part of this scholarship, I attended and participated in a national health conference in Denver, Colorado. At this conference, a local radio station interviewed me about my research and public service. I also had lunch with the Honorable Richard Lamm, a professor at the University of Denver and former Governor of Colorado. I am grateful that through my research, I have met many bright scholars and practitioners, who have reinforced what I study and what I plan to do in the future.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

Because of my research, my post-baccalaureate and career plans have dramatically transformed. After graduating from UCI, I intend to study abroad on a Rhodes, Marshall, or Fulbright Scholarship. When I return, I intend to earn dual graduate degrees in public health and public policy. The concurrent pursuit of both degrees will prepare me to work toward health improvement by taking account of new scientific knowledge and technology, organization and funding of health care, and evolving patterns of health care demand. In addition, the two degrees will enable me to find new ways of strengthening national and institutional capacities for health policy implementation. These are issues that I am beginning to explore in my research projects, which have solidified my goal of leading global change as a health policymaker.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

Based on my experiences, I would offer the following advice to any prospective student researchers:

- Take advantage of the academic incentives that UCI offers for undergraduate researchers.
- Maintain a positive relationship with faculty and staff mentors.
- Work on a substantive project that meets your needs and interests.
- Approach a research experience with the proper frame of mind.
- Meet like-minded people who support your research efforts.

Now…most important of all: discover more, think big, and have fun with your research experience!

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '99 Gina Rappleye
Nov. '99 Maria Rendon
Oct. '99 Scott Avecilla
Sep. '99 Peter Krutzik
Aug. '99 Raj Gopalakrishnan
Jul. '99 Christina Rahn
Jun. '99 Catharine Larsen
May '99 Han Kang
Apr. '99 Bonnie Pau
Mar. '99 Sharla Meeks
Feb. '99 Simin Bahrami
Jan. '99 Catherine Le
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