Dang’s accomplished UAB experience culminates with presentation at Posters on the Hill – News
Derek Dang, a UAB graduate with honors, will present to lawmakers at the prestigious Posters on the Hill event, hosted by the Council on Undergraduate Research.
Derek Dang accomplished a lot during his four-year college career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. From being named Outstanding Student in Neuroscience in 2022 to graduating in Spring 2022 with a 4.0 GPA as a double major in Neuroscience and International Studies and an Honors College student at UAB, Dang has fulfilled all the opportunities he could as a Blazer.
One of Dang’s proudest accomplishments is his selection as one of 60 university students from across the country and the only UAB student to virtually present his research, “Hesitant or Resistant: Impact of a Study COVID-19 intervention among undergraduate students”. “Perceptions of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Vaccines,” at the Council on Undergraduate Research Posters on the Hill research contest legislators April 26-27, 2022.
The annual event offers undergraduate researchers and their mentors the opportunity to be heard on Capitol Hill, improve advocacy efforts, showcase their compelling research, and share messages at the federal level about the importance of fund undergraduate research.
“During my time at UAB, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in my passion for research and teaching, in particular to bridge the gap for students between what they learn in the classroom and its connection to the real world,” Dang said. “I am honored to present the results of my research on undergraduate student perceptions of COVID-19 vaccines to Posters on the Hill legislators. This opportunity allows me to help leaders understand the importance of integrating service learning into classroom teaching and highlights community engagement for cutting edge topics. Indeed, this is an incredible opportunity and one that will demonstrate the importance of continuing to support and fund undergraduate research.
Dang’s research, conducted under the mentorship of Samiksha Raut, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biology, and in concert with UAB’s Office of Service Learning and Undergraduate Research, explored undergraduate students’ perceptions of hesitancy and/or resistance in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and, importantly, explored the sources of their scientific information to arrive at this decision.
Key findings from the research revealed that students were generally not hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but were neutral and understood that it would take a group effort to return society to a state of normalcy. Dang’s findings indicated that much of the information students received came from social media and did not always come from reliable medical sources, prompting the idea of inviting UAB experts to talk about the COVID-19 vaccines and the importance of herd immunity achieved through vaccination.
“As we learned more about what students really thought about the pandemic, we felt it was essential to make changes in the classroom to create more positive outlooks,” Dang said. “We hosted different presentations from UAB infectious disease and public health experts to really display and share information with students in an accessible way. We are fortunate to be on a campus with such rich medical expertise, and it was natural to merge them.
For mentors like Raut, empowered students like Dang who value research and its broader real-world application are game changers.
“Derek’s natural drive and dedication to service learning is what you would hope for,” Raut said. “Having the opportunity to mentor students who want to make a difference in society and see the value of undergraduate research is a treat, and being able to support Derek in this capacity has been truly rewarding.”
Explore your passions
A native of Mobile, Alabama, Dang was drawn to UAB because of the university’s commitment to diversity and the range of opportunities available to students on the university medical campus.
“I knew I wanted to get into medicine one day, but I also have a great love for the humanities and research. Where else can you get the chance to pursue whatever interests you? Dang said.
Through UAB Honors College’s personalized pathway program and her connections with faculty and peers in the College of Arts and Sciences, Dang was able to merge many of her passions through a tailored program to get the best from his undergraduate experience. In addition to his double majors, Dang earned a double minor in chemistry and Spanish, his interest in Spanish shaping his future plans as an internal medicine doctor. Dang will begin graduate medical school at UAB’s Heersink School of Medicine in the fall of 2022, with the goal of working and treating diverse populations.
“I really want to pursue a career as a doctor with a focus on medical education and treatment of diverse people, especially Hispanic populations,” Dang said. “I always think ‘how can I apply what I’m learning?’ and the minor in Spanish is a great example of how I can connect directly with patients when treating them in the future.
This spring, Dang is applying her Spanish language and research skills in the field in Lima, Peru, with the UAB School of Public Health as part of the Minority Health Research Training Program. In collaboration with the UAB Institute for Human Rights and Universidad Privada del Norte, Dang assesses access and inclusion for people with disabilities in Lima and the impact of the built environment on the lives of residents , from determining sidewalk fairness to how daily tasks can be accomplished. improved for people with disabilities.
In light of his time at UAB, Dang is convinced that being a Blazer made the difference in his college career and his future.
“If you want it, you have it at UAB,” Dang said. “Any interest you want to pursue – it’s here. Politics, medicine, science: all the opportunities await you at UAB.