Kayla Chun
It is exciting to work at an intersection of many disciplines as it opens up more possibilities for my research.

After graduating from the University of California, San Diego with a degree in molecular biology and physics, Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BIOE) Ph.D. student and California transplant Kayla Chun (they/she) worked in the biotech industry before deciding it was time to get back into the classroom to further their career. 

Today, Chun is a rising fourth-year student in BIOE professor William Bentley's Biomolecular and Metabolic Engineering Lab. The aim of their work is to investigate communication in bacterial systems and leverage their signaling dynamics in therapeutics and diagnostics. This work consists of utilizing network modeling to simulate these systems as well as experimental approaches for testing and validation. 

“It is exciting to work at an intersection of many disciplines as it opens up more possibilities for my research,” said Chun. “I hope to return to industry working in biotech or switch to an adjacent data science position.”

Chun advises those interested in pursuing a bioengineering Ph.D. to find programs that provide the opportunity to work with multiple people of different backgrounds. Chun also recommends reaching out to students to get further insight. 

“The lab you join dictates your experience during graduate school, so make sure you can see yourself working there for at least half a decade,” they said. 

When Chun started the Ph.D. program, they attended a few University of Maryland oSTEM events. The UMD chapter of oSTEM is a student organization dedicated to fostering the professional and personal growth of LGBTQ+ students in STEM fields. 

“I think having oSTEM holding space on campus is good for the community and those who need support navigating their journey in STEM,” Chun said. “I appreciated their efforts in planning events from professional networking to game nights.”

Chun voiced that the university can better support the community and educate allies by implementing programs that not only uplift queer voices but that also enact actual material change for people looking for career opportunities and financial scholarships. 

Outside of research, Chun enjoys outdoor activities such as backpacking, cycling, and rock climbing. These activities ground them and help them escape what they described as the academia bubble. They also enjoy cooking and pursuing do-it-yourself (DIY) endeavors.