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Shandra Truong

Hometown: Des Moines, IA
Major: Biology

Why did you choose Iowa State University?

I chose Iowa State University because of its campus atmosphere, strong academic programs, and commitment to innovation and research. The combination of excellent faculty and numerous opportunities for research and extracurricular activities made it the perfect fit for me.

How did you become interested in your major?

Science has always intrigued me, and pursuing Biology as my major felt like the most natural choice. Whether it be looking up "at-home science experiments" as a kid, participating in my middle school's science fair, or taking AP Biology in high school, I have always been drawn to this field of study. Iowa State has fostered my passion and helped me refine my interest in cellular/molecular biology.

What are your current goals following graduation?

After graduation, I plan to apply to medical school. In the future, I hope to incorporate my passion for teaching into my career and become a clinician-educator devoted to lifelong learning and compassionate patient care.

Campus Acitivities: I have engaged in peer mentoring opportunities. Last semester, I was a peer mentor and helped facilitate a class of first-year Biology and Genetics students (BIOL 114X). We went on lab tours around campus and did lab activities to develop their interest in cell biology research. I have also been a peer mentor for the Multicultural Vision Program, where I provided guidance and academic support to fellow first-year scholarship peers. These experiences have not only allowed me to make meaningful connections, but also to foster a sense of community on campus.

In addition to this, I have pursued teaching opportunities. In my sophomore year, I was a tutor through the Academic Success Center and facilitated small-group tutoring sessions for students who needed help in Biology and Chemistry. Last semester, I took on the role of an undergraduate teaching assistant for BIOL 313 (genetics lab). Building connections with students and contributing to their academic and personal development is incredibly rewarding, and has reinforced my passion for teaching.

Research experience:  Since the spring 2023 semester, I have worked as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Mohan Gupta's lab. Our lab focuses on the differential regulation of microtubules, which play a critical role in chromosome segregation. My project has focused on introducing phosphoregulatory point mutations in proteins within the cohesin complex in S. cerevisiae using the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technique. Creating these mutants allows us to analyze the functional significance of attachment and tension-mediated cohesin regulation.

My time in the lab has been invaluable. It has offered a unique and enriching learning experience that has deepened my understanding of scientific methodologies and principles. Working closely with Dr. Gupta and my graduate mentors in the lab (Vaishali Todi and Abesh Bera)has been such an important part of my undergraduate experience, and I look forward to what we will accomplish in the future!

Internships:  In the summer, I received the LAS Dean's High Impact Award for Undergraduate Research and an internship from the GDCB department to work full-time in Dr. Gupta's lab. I learned so much through this experience and gained the confidence to carry out experiments and contribute to the lab's goals. The generosity of Dr. Gupta and the Dean's High Impact Award have allowed me to continue my project through the following semesters.

Other Involvement:  As a first-generation college student, I have been lucky enough to have the support of the STEM Scholars Program, the Bright Foundation, and the Multicultural Vision Program. These programs have equipped me with the resources I need to be successful, and I am very grateful to be a part of them.

What are a few things you love about your major and department?

Apart from the courses required by the major, you can tailor your curriculum to align with your specific interests. I have chosen classes geared towards cell biology and genetics, but if you are interested in plant biology/ecology, you can cater your 4-year plan toward that, too! This flexibility allows students to craft a four-year plan that resonates with their academic passions and career aspirations.

How would you fill in the blank for high school students interested in your field?

“You’re going to love studying the sciences at Iowa State because ….”

"'ll love studying the sciences at Iowa State because of the vast opportunities offered to undergraduate students. Whether it be research, teaching, clubs, or volunteering, you can get involved in many ways to enhance your experience and learning."

Last comments:

My best advice for new students: Burnout makes almost anything you do unproductive. Take care of yourself, make time to do what you enjoy, and put yourself in a position (both mentally and academically) to reach your goals!