Driving forward with Lizzie Chung
When Lizzie Chung started the academy program at Ohio State Lima, she didn’t drive herself to school. She couldn’t. In Ohio, middle school students can’t get a driver’s license.
Her mom and her grandparents made sure the 14-year old got to and from campus and the high school sports she continued to play in her first years in Lima.
"They are a huge part of my success," Lizzie said.
Now, several years later, she is two semesters from graduating from high school at Delphos Jefferson and earning her Bachelor of Science in Biology from The Ohio State University.
Irrespective of her former driving status, Lizzie Chung has a lot of drive. She plans to earn both her MD and PhD before she is 30 and has been putting the work in to make it happen. Testing out of her high school classes and enrolling at Ohio State Lima was her first step.
“Lizzie never takes no for an answer,” said Courtney Roeder, Lizzie’s academy advisor and the student success director at Ohio State Lima. “If someone tells her she can’t, she will find a way that she can. She understands that being successful means going beyond academics and has built relationships with her faculty members since day one. She is always looking for ways to increase her knowledge and is not afraid to try something new.”
From a personal development standpoint, Ohio State Lima offered the chance for Lizzie to stretch herself intellectually, something she knew she was ready for. From a family perspective, she knew the more flexible college schedule would allow her to help care for father, who was suffering from progressive multiple sclerosis. Sadly, her dad did not get to see his youngest daughter start college, but he continues to motivate her every day.
“I think my dad would be really happy,” Lizzie said. “I wish I could have found a cure for MS before he passed away, but I think it sets a lot of things up for me with my passion.”
That passion to cure a disease that so altered her family has put Lizzie on a path of intellectual curiosity and interdisciplinary cooperation.
With the end goal of an MD and PhD from the Harvard Medical School in mind, Lizzie has been careful to seek out every opportunity that moves her forward into the future she is meant to find in the sciences. First up was the International Genetically Engineered Machines, or iGEM, competition team housed on the Columbus campus. While working on projects on biocontainment mechanisms using genetic circuits for the international contest team, she came across a researcher at MIT doing work in cellular reprogramming. She made the connection and landed an internship. Lizzie’s work with MIT involves math modeling and coding as it applies to biology.
Each new experience led to more information, more contacts and a broader base of knowledge to store away. While not everyone is interested in biophysics, genetic engineering and math modeling, Lizzie’s approach applies broadly to her fellow students.
“I really think that it is important that people look for opportunities. You should not just wait for things to come your way,” Lizzie said. “You should be actively searching for things and not only that, I think you need to make good relationships with your professors.”
Lizzie just finished up a summer program in biostatistics and computational biology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The undergrads took a myriad of COVID-19 data sets, put them together and produced graphs to demonstrate to the public how different vaccination rates and different policies around the world influence the spread of the virus.
Lizzie’s curiosity extends far beyond her major and her research areas. She has started a podcast called DocTalkWithLiz that lets her explore and promote all the STEM fields. One of her favorite professors, Ohio State Lima’s Dr. Sabine Jeschonnek, was her first guest. They talked about theoretical nuclear physics. Since then, the guest list has expanded to include scientists working on immunology, art therapy, neurobiology, immuno-oncology, neurodegeneration and MS, and cell biology.
One of the things she has learned from her guests is to be open for inspiration from wherever it comes.
“MS is what I really want to research, but I've talked to a lot of people, even through my podcast listening to them, and they say ‘Don't get tunnel vision about one topic. You need to explore everything,’” Lizzie said. “They’ve told me that there are so many different things that are going to influence your thinking on this. You need to study everything.”
So far, so good.