Student Chapters

Science and medicine: Connecting the known and the unknown

Adriana Bankston
Aug. 24, 2020

Tian “Sally” Zhang got an early introduction to scientific publishing. When she was a high school junior working as a research assistant at the University of British Columbia, she studied how efficiently a peptide killed biofilm bacteria. The research was published in 2016 as a first-author paper in PLoS One. Through this work, Zhang said she “began to be interested in biology,” leading to her subsequent college major and interest in medicine as a career.

Zhang-Sally-445x510.jpg
Tian “Sally” Zhang

Now a senior at Emory University majoring in biology and minoring in physics, Zhang is the president of the school’s American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Student Chapter, which she worked to start in fall 2018. The following spring, the chapter surveyed students on trends related to career development, started a mentorship program, and engaged members in outreach and science advocacy initiatives.

The chapter’s advocacy activities focused on a letter-writing campaign urging policymakers to fund research and science, technology, engineering and math programs. A volunteer outreach program sent undergrads to local elementary schools to demonstrate chemical reactions by combining an acid and a base to propel a plastic bottle modified to look like a boat. The mentoring program matches grad students and students in the school of medicine with undergrads to discuss career development and various educational paths.

After the COVID-19 outbreak, the Student Chapter slowed its activities, but members engaged in a few virtual events last spring. They plan to continue hosting new activities online in this school year, Zhang said. “We have been working to implement novel policies … to serve the student population in a remote format.”

With all her Student Chapter activities, Zhang has not neglected her research. Working in the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases at Emory, she was an author on a paper about protein interactions in Alzheimer’s disease, using proteomics to study human brain tissue. During an internship at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, she worked on a clinical report about a rare disease in infants.

Over time, these experiences led Zhang to think about becoming a physician. “Medicine makes a connection between what is known and what is unknown,” she said, adding that she enjoys the “interactive nature of patient care.”

While shadowing a clinician as part of her Alzheimer’s research , Zhang said she saw how much a physician can do for patients by using personalized treatment strategies and being empathetic. Examining clinical trials data during her Harvard internship, she saw inside the patient–physician dynamic and really enjoyed it.

Zhang’s goal is to become an academic physician. She plans to attend medical school, become a doctor and potentially run her own laboratory someday. Ultimately, she would like to pursue a career where she can both see patients and do bench research.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Adriana Bankston

Adriana Bankston is a principal legislative analyst at the University of California Office of Federal Governmental Relations. She is also chief executive officer and managing publisher at the Journal of Science Policy and Governance. This post represents the writer's personal views and not the views of their employer.

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in People

People highlights or most popular articles

Understanding protein dynamics to design better drugs
Research Spotlight

Understanding protein dynamics to design better drugs

Sept. 21, 2022

C. Denise Okafor is an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State and recipient of an NSF CAREER award.

Computation is the new experiment
Annual Meeting

Computation is the new experiment

Sept. 20, 2022

This symposium, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Structural Biology, Drug Design and Systems Biology. will be part of #DiscoverBMB 2023 in March.

Kuriyan to take over as dean;  Johnson wins Pew scholarship
Member News

Kuriyan to take over as dean; Johnson wins Pew scholarship

Sept. 19, 2022

Awards, promotions, milestones and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.

'Keep developing your expertise'
Interview

'Keep developing your expertise'

Sept. 16, 2022

Anand Balakrishnan is a biochemist at Enanta Pharmaceuticals. He leads a team that has worked on respiratory syncytial virus, SARS-CoV-2 and hepatitis B virus.

Society news briefs: September 2022
Society News

Society news briefs: September 2022

Sept. 15, 2022

If you’re a member, you should be in the know. Find out everything that’s been going on lately with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Pipette grant for Whitham; STEAM scholarship for Gandhi
Member News

Pipette grant for Whitham; STEAM scholarship for Gandhi

Sept. 12, 2022

Awards, promotions, milestones and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.