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Featured Research Trainee: Q&A With Amarachi Onwuka

Published on April 3, 2024 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 1 month 2 weeks ago
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Featured Research Trainee: Q&A With Amarachi Onwuka

Editor’s Note: Our Featured Research Trainee for April, Diversity Awareness Month, is Amarachi Onwuka. Onwuka is a Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and works in the lab of Nikolaos G. Sgourakis, PhD at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a molecular biology and biochemistry degree with minors in chemistry and studio arts. In this Q&A, Onwuka shares her research and her experiences at CHOP, as well as the importance of celebrating diversity in science.

Amarachi Onwuka
Amarachi Onwuka

What message do you hope people take away from celebrating Diversity Awareness Month this April? 

One of my goals working in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Sgourakis is to use my research as a tool for discovering treatments to improve healthcare. I am particularly driven to investigate topics that affect marginalized communities. By celebrating diversity this month, I hope we all become advocates for underserved communities in biomedical sciences. I believe our diversity informs the way we do science to reach breakthroughs that impact us all.

What is a research project you are working on, and why is it important? 

My current research aims to biophysically characterize interactions between Class I Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC-I) molecules and their vast peptide repertoires. Understanding these fundamental stabilizing interactions may give us insight into elucidating the molecular basis of MHC antigen presentation and T-cell recognition with applications in diagnosis, vaccines, and therapeutics development.

What are some of the most salient training experiences you’ve had at CHOP thus far? 

The most prominent lesson that I have learned in my training experience at CHOP is the importance of community. As a trainee, I am learning how difficult research can be. It takes a great deal of troubleshooting, analyzing, and sometimes just luck. Having a support network has helped with my personal growth and my confidence in the lab.

Aside from research, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment? 

I enjoy helping people find a balance between work and outside passions. Having hobbies not only enriches our lives but also helps exercise our creative muscles which can, in turn, increase our imagination and problem-solving skills in research.

Portrait created and owned by Amarachi Onwuka.

Portrait created and owned by Amarachi Onwuka.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

I am passionate about creative expression in all forms. As a portrait artist, I have learned to transform my interpretations of unique and beautiful faces into new creations. I enjoy creating artwork as much as I love appreciating the work of others. In my free time, I can be found making elaborate music playlists or seeking the artistic beauty in nature.