Medical Research by philanthropy

Marina Nguyen
Marina Nguyen’s interest in becoming a doctor was strongly influenced by her family. All three of her older brothers are doctors or attending medical school, which has encouraged Marina to pursue her passions within the medical field.

By Trevor Stewart 

Marina Nguyen’s ’18 parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in search of a better life. Since both her parents worked full-time, Marina, the youngest child of four, spent a great deal of time with her three older brothers.  

“My brothers gave me a love for my community and a strong academic drive,” Nguyen said. “They taught me to work hard in order to accomplish my dreams.” 

Her dreams mirror those of her older brothers’ – to go to medical school and become a doctor. Nguyen recalls finding their medical textbooks around the house and curiously reading through them. Two of her brothers are now anesthesiologists. 

UC Davis is helping Nguyen achieve her dream by giving her the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research, which she believes has benefitted her greatly. 

“It’s hard to process the techniques you learn in class without actually using them,” Nguyen said. “Getting the chance to use them myself helps me understand concepts for my classes and it gives me a more well-rounded education.” 

Nguyen developed an interest in radiology working in her first lab with Professor R. Holland Cheng. In this lab, Nguyen has examined how to attach metal nanoparticles to Hepatitis E virus-like particles, which have been involved in cancer targeting. The research focused on metal nanoparticles because they provided better imaging resolution than alternative imaging methods. 

Nguyen’s hard work did not go unnoticed – she was awarded the Schilling Undergraduate Research Award in January 2017, after being nominated by Professor Cheng. The recipients of the award are chosen based on references from faculty, academic achievement and research ability. Nguyen was thrilled to receive this prestigious award and the scholarship that accompanies the honor. 

“I've been very lucky that my parents have been able to help me pay for my undergraduate tuition, but I know it has been a financial strain on them,” she said. “My parents have always been adamant that I focus on my education and research – by receiving the Schilling Undergraduate Research Award, I am able to help financially by assisting my parents with the cost of my tuition.”