Alumni Story: Ani Nguyen '08

Chemistry and Biochemistry
Ani Nguyen '08
Yafeng Li '08 is enrolled in a Chemical Biology PhD at Harvard University. Her advisor is Timothy J. Mitchison, Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School.

Interested in understanding mind, brain, and behavior, I first started pursuing a special major in Psychobiology at Swarthmore. Due to evolving interests, I eventually ended up with a double major in Biochemistry and Economics.

For my honors thesis research in the field of Biophysical Chemistry, I worked with Prof. Kathleen Howard to figure out how a channel protein opens and closes within a lipid bilayer membrane. From my cross-disciplinary studies I learned an important lesson: theoretical formalizations of the behavior of molecules and the behavior of human beings share strikingly similar themes and principles.

In order to understand the behavior of any individual-be it a molecule, a cell, an organism, or even an idea or thought, one must examine it within its spatial and temporal environment. Another important lesson I learned is: communication of our understanding is extremely hard-especially between disciplines.

As a result of all the lessons I learned from my research experience at Swarthmore, I am currently in a Chemical Biology PhD program and work in a Systems Biology lab, constantly trying to bridge the gap of understanding between mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, chemists, and biologists.