Undergraduate Research

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STUDENT PROFILE

Stefany Hernandez

Headshot of researcher Stefany Hernandez
Major:
Chemical Engineering
Graduation Year:
Spring 2017
“Being a part of the research setting allows students to think outside of the box, ask intriguing questions, and come up with solutions that are not easily discovered.”

Stefany’s undergraduate research projects focus on developing a better understanding of the human immune system.

Faculty Supervisor: Dr. Isaac Sanchez, Chemical Engineering, and Dr. Jenny Jiang, Biomedical Engineering

Briefly describe your research project.
My two research projects focus on developing a better understanding of the human immune system by studying B cells and T cells from individuals with malaria and HIV, respectively. In order to gain as much information as possible, my research lab takes apart these cells in order to sequence the genomic DNA contained within the cells to identify any mutations resulting from the infection. This information allows us to identify the repercussions of the infection and identify the lineage associated with each disease in order to potentially produce a vaccination. 

How did the Independent Inquiry flag play a role in your research?
My project within my Independent Inquiry class (ChE 473K) required me to research and use my critical thinking skills to come up with a solution to a problem. Being a part of the research setting allows students to think outside of the box, ask intriguing questions, and come up with solutions that are not easily discovered. I was able to use all of these traits to research my project within my chemical engineering courses and become a stronger researcher through this process. 
  
Describe the tasks you engage in as part of your work.
My work specifically focuses on breaking apart the cells obtained from infected individuals, purifying the distinct sequences within the cell (DNA, RNA, miRNA), and amplifying the RNA to produce cDNA. Once I have an amplified region of cDNA, my lab is able to ship these samples to be sequenced in order to identify any mutations within the strands as a result of infection.  
 
Describe what you thought college might be like before you came to UT. Did you consider research when thinking about college?
Coming into college, I was very worried that I would not be able to handle studying, working jobs, and having a social life as well. However, time management skills came in handy when juggling my responsibilities and making sure all of my work was produced with the best of my ability. I had been in a research position in high school so I knew that I wanted to be in the research aspect within UT Austin but I was very selective in which lab I joined. The lab was very important to me since I wanted to be passionate about the work I was doing and be in a lab that I could stay in for the remainder of my college career. 
 
How did you get involved with your research project?
I used the UT EUREKA system, which allows students to search different topics of interest to identify professors who are involved with researching similar areas. Once I narrowed down a few prospective professors, I reached out to each professor to set up a meeting time in which we could speak about my potential role within their lab and the time commitment associated with each position. 
  
What advice would you give to a student who was thinking about research?
A major piece of advice that I would give students is to not be afraid of going up to any professor and asking if they have any available research positions open. Always make sure to research topics that you are interested in and seek out advise from the professors who are currently involved in that topic. Always be confident that your skills are valuable and do not be afraid to ask questions about your research topic. 
 

Research Week showcases the exciting work of undergraduates across campus and highlights opportunities for students interested in getting involved. Co-sponsored by the Senate of College Councils and the School of Undergraduate Studies, Research Week takes place in the middle of April each year. Take a look at the online schedule of events to find out more about Research Week events.