Nick Huynh (AHS '06)
After graduating from the University of St. Thomas in May 2010 with a degree in biochemistry, Robbinsdale Armstrong High School alum Nick Huynh was accepted to the University of Minnesota Medical School—only to learn that he had won a Fulbright grant to work on an HIV vaccine at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.
Q: When and how was your interest in medicine and biochemistry sparked?
NICK HUYNH: I majored in Biochemistry simply because it allowed me to take the chemistry and biology courses I wanted without double majoring. My interest in medicine grew as I gradually became interested in immunology. I became actively involved in immunology research at St. Thomas and began to volunteer in the cardio telemetry unit at Region’s Hospital. My appreciation for both the scientific and emotional aspects of medicine solidified my passion to pursue a career as a physician.
Q: Can you describe the research you are involved in at the Karolinska Institutet?
NH: My current research at Karolinska aims to create a repertoire of broadly neutralizing antibodies that can target regions of the HIV viral envelope protein, thus possibly neutralizing the virus. A few HIV-infected individuals produce antibodies that neutralize the majority of the virus, thus making them essentially immune to it. Our hope is to learn how the human immune system is able to naturally produce these antibodies.
Q: What have you been able to do in your time in Sweden outside the lab?
NH: During my limited time outside of the lab, I've been learning Swedish and making friends. I've also been learning about Swedish history by visiting museums and landmarks. I plan on volunteering with the Red Cross here in Stockholm once I become more independent in the research lab.
Q: I understand there's a spot waiting for you at the U of M Medical School when you return. Do you have a career specialization in mind? Any other details about future plans you can share?
NH: At the moment I'm planning to specialize in infectious diseases and continuing research in HIV virology. But I have been told by countless physicians that medicine is such a broad field that I must keep an open mind about which field I will specialize in.
Q: What K-12 teachers had a particularly strong influence on you?
NH: It's funny—the teacher who had the strongest influence on me also gave me my worst grade in high school. The class was AP Physics taught by Steve White. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake, but I've never struggled so much, even in my toughest college courses. But Mr. White was always helping me with the concepts and providing valuable advice. I can honestly say that without taking Mr. White's AP Physics and mightily struggling in it, I would not have been able to do so well in my college physics courses.
Q: Any particular advice for current district students looking toward advanced study and careers in medical research?
NH: I cannot stress enough how important it is to be prepared for college. AP science courses in high school are the best ways to prepare for the rigorous sciences in college. If you decide to pursue a career in medical research, the key is to find something you are passionate about. For me, science and service became inseparable because everything I wanted to be involved in while I was in college revolved around these two themes, and medicine combined my two passions.