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Harrison Li

Hi, I'm Harrison

I am an AEP URS Scholar and TRELS Scholar. I recently received the Churchill Scholarship for research I conducted as an undergraduate at UC San Diego. I'm a fourth year Marshall student majoring in Bioengineering: Biotechnology. My pronouns are he/him/his.

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UC San Diego AEP undergrad scholar

The Churchill Scholarship

The Churchill Scholarship and Kanders Churchill Scholarship provide funding to American students for a year of Master’s study at the University of Cambridge, based at Churchill College. The program was set up at the request of Sir Winston Churchill in order to fulfill his vision of US–UK scientific exchange with the goal of advancing science and technology on both sides of the Atlantic, helping to ensure our future prosperity and security.

Many Churchill Scholars describe their year in Cambridge as the best year of their lives since it allows scholars to form friendships with their future colleagues from around the world, to attend the only college at Cambridge that is focused on STEM subjects, and have an opportunity for independent research (often leading to publications) that Churchill Scholars will not find again until well into their PhD programs.

Why did you decide to apply for the Churchill Scholarship?

I decided to apply for the Churchill Scholarship so I could pursue research in computational biology full time as part of a graduate program. In UCSD, I was working in the lab of Dr. Weg Ongkeko on computational analyses of large-scale genomics data. In numerous projects, I was given the opportunity to design, plan, and execute bioinformatics programs to uncover the secrets of cancer biology hidden beneath the billions of numbers in genomics data from cancer patients. As I worked with the increasingly large and diverse datasets, I found myself fascinated by the power and utility of bioinformatics tools in transforming our understanding of diseases. Through data-centered research, we can transition from understanding the function of individual cancer genes to being able to computationally analyze large, multi-scale networks incorporating both genetic and environmental signals. I realized that computational biology could transform descriptive and statistical observations in biology and medicine to quantitative and programmable concepts. With the aid of computer power, cells and tissues may be engineered ever more precisely to perform specialized functions for treatment purposes. By applying for a Churchill Scholarship, I believed that I could learn more about bioinformatics applications to cancer on the basic science level so that in the future, I may conduct research utilizing bioinformatics programs to alter the course of diseases.

My Future Plans

My career goal is to be trained as a physician scientist and engage in a career that is primarily research focused. I wish to pursue a master’s degree followed by an M.D. or M.D./Ph.D. degree because I believe that the research and medical degrees will complement each other to give me a more complete insight into how research methodologies can be applied to solve unmet clinical needs. Specifically, I want to make contributions to cancer research in the areas of new treatment strategies or biomarker discovery for diagnosis and treatment. I would like to utilize bioinformatics and system biology approaches to elucidate cancer mechanisms. I wish to focus my future research on the basic science aspects of cancer bioinformatics, particularly the generation and processing of large-scale molecular profiles, integration of these profiles to elucidate pathogenesis mechanisms, and analysis of biological pathways and networks implicated in cancer. I am interested in using computer science, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing, to achieve computational modeling and prediction of biological processes. I also wish to perform translational research, so I can test discoveries from computational studies in a clinical setting. Eventually, my goal is to establish my own research laboratory in an academic setting.

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