Hend Al-Kaylani

Hend Al-Kaylani, Undergraduate student, Biomedical Sciences

Improves life after cancer

“Hend’s skills in organization, diligent work, and interpretation of findings is far beyond what a typical undergraduate student is capable of.  This was especially true in her abilities to present her research findings to a variety of different audiences.” – Peg Nopoulos, Paul Penningroth Professor of Psychiatry

Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Ellen van der Plas, PhD and Dr. Peggy Nopoulos, MD
What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Biomedical Sciences B.S.; May 2022
Please describe your research:  I get to research cognition in two ways. In the van der Plas lab, I identify methods to support people who had childhood leukemia by studying their academic performance. In the Nopoulos lab, I investigate how brain development relates to behavior in children with Huntington’s Disease.
In simple terms, why does this research matter? In the 1960s, acute lymphoblastic leukemia was a fatal diagnosis; today, 95% of children survive! This progress in leukemia treatment created a new, growing population of young adults who have their whole lives ahead of them. It is essential that we continue supporting them long after their cancer is cured. So, by understanding how they perform academically, we can identify ways to improve treatment so that each patient can thrive.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I dove into research during my second semester at Iowa. I believe the outstanding support from professors here, as well as the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates, gave me the tools I needed to start early.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Research has added a new dimension to my education and expanded my self-concept immensely. It has also challenged me to be a risk-taker; for example, I learned how to code in R, which I never imagined myself doing!
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After earning my bachelor’s degree, I plan to attend medical school. My research experiences have motivated me to pursue academic medicine. Working as a clinician, a scientist, and a teacher, all at the same time, is thrilling to me.

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