Hanxi Tang

Hanxi Tang, Undergraduate student, Biology

Studies parent-child conversations

Hometown: Beijing, China
Faculty mentor/advisor: In alphabetical order: Jodie Plumert, Ph.D, Professor, Starch Faculty Fellow; and Toshihiro Kitamoto, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Anesthesia, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Pharmacology
What is your degree program and expected graduate date? B.S. in Biology (minors in psychology and chemistry), expected May 2021
Please describe your research: In the Hank Virtual Environments Lab, our research focuses on factors that mitigate children’s risk for unintentional injuries. We are especially interested in parent-child conversations about safety, and how parents use these conversations to help their children better navigate potentially dangerous situations. For example, we look at parent-child conversations while crossing roads together in an immersive virtual environment.
In the Kitamoto Neurogenetics Lab, using a model organism, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, I am studying gene-environment interactions that affect the severity of neurological defects caused by genetic mutations. In particular, my project aims at understanding how dietary lipids modify neuronal development and behavior in fly mutants displaying increased “pain” sensitivity and seizure-like phenotypes.
In simple terms, why does this research matter? For my research in the Hank Virtual Environments Lab: Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death and disability during childhood and adolescence. Our work on parent-child conversations about safety provides important information that can be used for future interventions aimed at developing parent-based strategies for reducing unintentional childhood injuries.
For my research in the Kitamoto Neurogenetics Lab: Thanks to technological advancements of genomic research, a number of human mutations have been identified as being causative for certain neurological disorders such as epilepsy and pain syndromes. However, it is difficult to predict the extent and severity of these genetic disorders solely from the identified mutations because disease symptoms are significantly affected by various environmental factors. I expect that my basic science research will contribute to a better understanding of gene-environmental interactions important for human neurological disorders.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I started working in the Hank Virtual Environments Lab during the first semester of my freshman year. I started working in the Kitamoto Neurogenetics Lab during the second semester of my freshman year.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Getting involved in research allowed me to meet and work with top notch professors who are expert scientists and kind mentors in their fields. They helped me to grow not only as a student, but also as a person.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I hope to pursue a Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D degrees after graduation.

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