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K-State Today

May 7, 2013

Achieving excellence: Student from Dodge City earns university honor for research work

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Phuoc Bui

Phuoc Bui is wrapping up his undergraduate career at Kansas State University in an award-winning way.

The senior in microbiology from Dodge City, is the recipient of the University Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Student in Research. The honor recognizes an undergraduate student who has demonstrated excellence in research in any field of study. It includes a plaque and $1,000 award.

Bui has been working with Mark Weiss, professor of neuroscience and stem cell biology in the department of anatomy and physiology, since summer 2010. Bui came to university through the Kansas Bridges to the Future program, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. It recruits underrepresented minority students from community colleges in Kansas who are interested in biomedical sciences, providing them scholarships to attend Kansas State University. Participants are integrated into the university's Developing Scholars Program, which offers traditionally underrepresented students the opportunity to collaborate with faculty members on research projects.

Bui's research focuses on using genetically engineered embryonic stem cells, called ESCs, to create models of human diseases in rats. By this summer, Bui hopes to have attained a model of the pancreatic cancer protein tumor protein-53, Tp53, as well as a K-Ras lung cancer model. Currently, Bui is working on developing a transgenic green fluorescence protein, or GFP, that will allow cells infused with the protein to be tracked throughout cell therapy transplantation.

Bui hopes that the research he has done through Developing Scholars Program, or DSP, will have a tangible effect on the future of cancer treatment.

"I hope that our models can be a catalyst driving forward innovations and discoveries in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment," he said.

Bui credits the Developing Scholars Program and his faculty mentor Weiss with being major factors in his growth during his time at Kansas State University.

"I've really enjoyed seeing how much I've transformed from the time when I entered the program until now," he said. "Dr. Weiss has been involved in my research with DSP from day one. He is truly one who invests in the future."

Weiss said that the work students do with the Developing Scholars Program enables them to develop research skills and experience far beyond the typical undergraduate level.

"Really, at this point, the word undergraduate fails to describe who these people are," he said. "They are scientists. They are scholars."

Reflecting on the impact his involvement in the program has had on him, Bui recalled one of his first days working in Weiss' lab.

"I asked Dr. Weiss if there was anything he wanted me to do," Bui said. "He told me, 'go and open every single drawer and cabinet in the lab. This way, you can get acquainted easier.' My first reaction was 'that's not very scientific at all!' Three years later, I now realize exactly what his purpose was: to help me develop a broad perspective, to be curious and innovative, and enjoy the work I do."

After earning his bachelor's degree May 18 from Kansas State University, Bui will be attending medical school in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the son of Rose Le and Tam Bui, Dodge City.