Where are you from?
I am from Taiwan. I was born in Maryland, then went back to Taiwan with my parents when I was 5 years old.
Why did you choose UB?
When I was choosing a school, my first consideration was the professors in the program. I was impressed by Dr. Jonathan Lovell’s work, which is the main reason I selected UB. When I came to campus, I really enjoyed the life here, including the studying environment in the library and the nice fitness classes in the gym.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
As an undergraduate student, my major was life science. While I wasn’t a particularly strong student in biology during high school, I was fascinated with biology experiments and was eager to learn how to generate new ideas for research design. Moreover, I wanted to challenge myself and believe that hard work pays off. Later, I chose to pursue biomedical engineering for a PhD because I hope that my background in biomedical science research can help me contribute to the field. I also liked that it is an interdisciplinary research program that combined nanotechnology, biology and engineering, which is a perfect fit for me.
What do you like most about engineering at UB?
I particularly like and appreciate the professional workshops provided by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. They’ve allowed me to absorb additional knowledge other than my research, and given me a chance to meet new people.
What is your favorite place on campus?
I love the group fitness classes at UB so I’d have to say Alumni Arena.
What are you working on right now?
My main focus is to develop and modify liposomal vaccines for infectious disease. Currently, in addition to research at UB, I work closely with multiplex Biotech company on vaccine development
What else do you do on campus and in the community?
I’ve had the opportunity to take part in the NAVIGATE Project, which is a program that provides women in STEM degree programs with mentorship and professional development to support them and increase their career success. Through this, I was lucky to meet amazing professional women and gain wisdom and lived knowledge from speakers they’ve had. I also applied and got selected to attend the Society of Women Engineers’ Collegiate Competition in Salt Lake City, where I had a chance to present my PhD work in front of groups of people.
I also love outdoor activities and building new hobbies. Buffalo is a beautiful place in the winter and I’ve learned how to snowboard during my time here. To be honest, the first year wasn’t fun at all (I broke my wrist), but I improved a lot and now I love snowboarding so much. Tennis is another hobby I’ve explored recently. During this pandemic, it is a good sport for keeping social distance and enjoying the fresh air.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
I’m proud that I was able to publish a paper on malaria vaccines in Nature Nanotechnology in 2018. This work was done in collaboration with the Malaria Vaccine Initiative at PATH, a nonprofit organization that drives transformative innovation to save lives and improve health. During the research process, I was able to build up my knowledge in the vaccine field by getting the opportunity to meet professional researchers in malaria research. The paper was the culmination of a three-year process, during which I learned a lot, including experimental organizing, research presentation and handing stress while things are not smooth. And the most valuable thing is that I believe one day, our liposomal vaccine technology will positively contribute to the world.
After my publication in Nature Nanotechnology, I was invited to write two online articles on The Conversation and Nature Research Community, both of which were great experiences and allowed me to introduce my work to other people that had no biology research background.
What are you passionate about?
I have a lot of passion for my research, which I hope one day my work can have inspired someone. I believe that our liposomal vaccine has a lot of potential to move into clinical trials in the future and positively contribute to the world.
What faculty member has been formative during your time at UB, and how so?
Jonathan Lovell, my advisor in BME, has been very inspiring to me. His motivation and passion for science deeply encourage me and it is truly a great honor to work and study under his guidance.
What is your advice for prospective students?
My suggestions are: time management is important and don’t be too harsh on yourself. The road to the PhD is long so work hard and play hard.
Wei-Chiao Huang received the Dean’s Graduate Achievement Award in 2020.