Hung-Jen Wu, Ph.D. (’17)

Hung-Jen Wu

DPhil (PhD) Graduate, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

My name is Hung-Jen Wu and I’m a 2017 graduate of the M.S. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program at Georgetown University. Before coming to Georgetown, I studied math and economics as an undergraduate and had planned to become an economist. After taking a cell biology course, I became fascinated with doing wet labs and learning how my computational training can be used to impact global health. I enrolled in Georgetown’s master’s program because it offered graduate-level coursework and research training to students, like me, who had previously studied different disciplines and wanted to have a future career in the biosciences.

While pursuing my graduate coursework, I conducted research in two different labs. For my internship project in Dr. Cynthia Simbulan-Rosenthal’s and Dr. Dean Rosenthal’s lab, I investigated the role of DNA methylation in regulating surface marker expression in melanoma initiating cells. I also published a paper with Dr. Amrita Cheema’s lab, which examined the use of metabolite biomarkers in screening pancreatic cancer patients. While I mainly took courses that aligned with my research in cancer biology, I also took a lab-based fermentation and bioprocessing course which sparked my eventual interest in protein engineering. It felt extremely rewarding for me to learn something new every day and immediately apply that knowledge to my lab work only a few steps away from the lecture hall. Of course, I also forged many rock-solid friendships with my classmates and professors that have lasted to this day.

After graduating from Georgetown, I was able to confidently apply to and receive offers from multiple PhD programs in the U.S. and the U.K.  In the end, I decided to pursue my doctoral studies in a protein engineering lab at the University of Oxford. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I developed a novel virus-like particle platform that will be deployed as part of a betacoronavirus vaccine candidate in a Phase I trial next year. After four years, I successfully defended my thesis and received my DPhil (PhD) in Biochemistry from Oxford. My plan after this is to continue working in research. I’m immensely grateful to this program, especially all the mentors and classmates I’ve had the great fortune of working with, for playing a pivotal role in shaping my career aspirations.