San Diego, CA, May 12, 2015 -- Angela Zou has already made her mark at UC San Diego, and that's after just two years as a bioengineering major at the Jacobs School of Engineering. An alumnus of Torrey Pines High School, Zou arrived as a Jacobs Scholar – one of nine incoming freshmen to have been selected for their academic achievement, leadership potential, commitment to community service and diversity activities, and entrepreneurial spirit.
Irwin and Joan Jacobs created the Jacobs Scholar program in order to enrich the student body of the Jacobs School of Engineering with a special group of world-class students who are highly likely to contribute to engineering innovation — and who are also likely to encourage and inspire other students to do the same.
Zou quickly lived up to expectations when she joined the lab of professor Weg Ongkeko in the UC San Diego Department of Surgery and published a paper in the journal RNA that describes two new long, non-coding RNA sequences that are expressed differently in head and neck cancers.
To add to her accomplishments, Zou was awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship this year, created in 1986 in honor of Senator Barry Goldwater to provide highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers who intend to pursue research with scholarship money.
Zou’s current research in the Ongkeko lab utilizes next-generation RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to identify a panel of long non-coding RNAs whose aberrant expression contributes to the pathogenesis of papillary thyroid cancer.
“Angela is the only one to receive this award from UC San Diego this year – one of 260 students nationwide,” said Ongkeko.
According to the Goldwater Scholarship press release, the Foundation has bestowed 7,428 scholarships worth approximately 48 million dollars since its first award in 1989.
|Angela Zou in the Onkeko lab|
“Papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) accounts for approximately 85 percent of thyroid cancer cases in the U.S.,” said Zou. “Despite the evidence that long non-coding RNAs play important roles in cancer, no study has been undertaken to comprehensively profile and compare their regulation in normal and cancerous thyroid tissues.”
As a bioengineering major, Zou says the field of bioinformatics greatly appeals to her.
“The vast volumes of data that RNA-seq generates can now be catalogued, accessed online, and analyzed by individual researchers and laboratories worldwide,” said Zou. “At UC San Diego, I have the opportunity to work with phenomenal mentors and cutting-edge technology that will contribute significantly to our understanding of the pathogenesis and progression of papillary thyroid cancer.”
Zou says she feels honored to be given the Goldwater award, but even more honored to be a part of a school and a lab that facilitates such opportunities.
It just goes to show that you can make a difference while you are in the process of getting your degree, Zou noted.