Meet Our Lab Heroes Awards™ 2022 Winners: Lillian Truong
We’re delighted to introduce the first of our Lab Heroes Awards™ 2022 winners, Lillian Truong!
Lillian was chosen by our panel of judges after receiving a wonderful nomination from Dr Yong-Xiao Wang at Albany Medical College, USA. She was praised for consistently going above and beyond her responsibilities in the lab, and for dedicating a great deal of time and care to her colleagues, both inside and outside the lab.
As a PhD candidate in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Albany Medical College (AMC), New York, Lillian’s work has focused on the role of nicotine and cigarette smoke in the development of pulmonary hypertension in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In her project, she has worked to develop a novel animal model to study the underlying mechanisms involved in COPD-associated pulmonary hypertension. Throughout her studies at AMC, she has been twice recognized for her research receiving the Dean’s Award for Research Excellence to celebrate the outstanding students from the annual poster day. She has also written a number of review articles and has contributed work that resulted in tertiary authorship. Lillian is working towards her thesis defense in the coming year and is very excited for what the future holds.
We spoke to Lillian about her career so far, her thoughts on effective teamwork and her advice for younger scientists…
Congratulations, Lillian! How did it feel when you found out you had been chosen as one of our Lab Heroes winners?
I was overjoyed to be nominated by my mentor and I am absolutely thrilled to have been chosen for the award. It feels amazing to be honored and shows how my efforts in the lab are recognized and appreciated by my mentor and colleagues. This is an amazing way to end the year and promises great things for the New Year to come!
Why do you think it’s so important to celebrate life science researchers, and what more could be done to show life scientists recognition?
I think it is very important to celebrate researchers of all fields. Scientists work hard to answer some of the most difficult questions – translational research paving the way for clinical treatments and therapeutics. We are behind the scenes trying to “save the world”. More outlets to highlight important work done by life scientists are needed. If it’s not highly broadcasted by big news, some people wouldn’t even know about some of the great scientific discoveries made recently.
What are you planning to use your Hello Bio vouchers and career development grant for?
The voucher and career development will go a long way as I am preparing my manuscript for publication and planning to attend a conference as a senior graduate student. Using the Hello Bio voucher, our lab can purchase the necessary reagents such as antibodies for our final Western blots. The career development grant will help fund my trip to a conference in California in April 2023.
Did you always want to be a scientist when you were younger, and if so, why?
My enthusiasm for science really sparked in high school during chemistry class. I had a great teacher who made learning fun using a hands-on approach to science instead of just reading out of a textbook. My undergraduate studies really solidified my desire to be a scientist after volunteering at the institution I’m at now for my graduate work.
What do you enjoy most about working in STEM?
We get to meet and work with such a diverse group of people – everyone is so knowledgeable and curious about different areas of research. It’s amazing that we can collaborate with people from all around the world trying to answer questions about the things we’re interested in. The enthusiasm that everyone shows for their own work and for others is unmatched. We are a very supportive group of people – always trying to help others thrive.
Your mentor describes you as ‘a true team player’ - what are your tips for effective teamwork in the lab?
Communication is key for effective teamwork – without talking to each other (your mentor/PI, post-docs, fellow students), everyone can get lost in their own work. Everyone is busy with their own things, but together, we can work to be efficient and happy with our work, publications, and as people outside the lab.
Can you tell us a bit more about what you’re working on in the lab at the moment?
My work in the lab focuses on nicotine (the major active component in cigarette smoke) and how it plays a role in the development of pulmonary hypertension, the major cause of death in COPD patients. We have found that nicotine affects vascular remodeling of the pulmonary artery in mice through inflammation and DNA damage signaling.
What does a typical day in the lab look like for you?
My day typically starts off with a cup of coffee at my desk and planning out my day with a list of things I would like to accomplish for the day or the week. I work on my experiments while also handling general lab maintenance such as managing our mouse colony and lab supplies. I also keep an eye on our visiting physician scientist and our postdoc fellow. I’ll have lunch with some friends from other labs, and go on another coffee walk in the late afternoon before I head home.
What key piece of advice would you give to a younger scientist just starting out in their career?
For students just starting out in their career – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s about quality, not quantity. Find a mentor and lab that is supportive and encouraging, who cheers you on even on your toughest days. And most importantly - take coffee breaks, you deserve it!
How do you see your career developing in the future/where do you see yourself in 10 years?
With my PhD, I hope to get away from the bench work and explore the world of science writing. I love writing and it’s a great way to communicate big science to the general public – i.e., how do we explain what we do so that everyone can understand it? Coming from an immigrant family, I have learned how to effectively explain what I do so my parents aren’t completely bored and lost when I speak. I would like to extend that into other fields of work.
And finally… what’s your favourite science joke?
Q: How did the hipster chemist burn his hand on the beaker?
A: They picked it up before it was cool.
Thank you so much for speaking to us, Lillian! And congratulations once again on being one of our Lab Heroes winners for 2022! We look forward to keeping in touch with you and following your career as it progresses.
Connect with Lillian:
- LinkedIn: Lillian Truong
- ResearchGate: Lillian Truong
And you can meet our other Lab Heroes AwardsTM 2022 prize-winners here.
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