Written by Svetlana Dotsenko
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Thomas Hwang is in his final year at Harvard, pursuing a self-directed Special Concentration in Biomedical Innovation. His research interests include: the scientific, business, and regulatory aspects of the innovation ecosystem for life sciences; infectious and neglected tropical diseases; and pharmacoepidemiology. Previously, he has worked at the White House on U.S. health reform, tuberculosis drug policy at the World Health Organization, and in the private sector (Blackstone, Goldman Sachs, and biotech). He has published two peer-reviewed papers.
How did you get started in research?
‘I first fell in love with research -- and the uniquely satisfying ability to design, execute, and interpret original, independent studies -- in secondary school. I had the opportunity to work with a professor at Columbia University Medical Center on Alzheimer’s disease research. And the summer before college, I worked in the R&D arm of a public-private partnership for drug development. These two experiences - from the lab bench to the bedside - were definitely formative in shaping my intellectual and personal interests. I realized I was passionate about the clinical trials enterprise and the delivery of novel therapies to patients.’
What advice would give for students interested in starting research of their own?
‘I’m still on this journey myself! One piece of advice that I’ve taken to heart is - have a good eye for interesting questions when reading published literature. Is there a gap in the knowledge? Has an important consideration been overlooked? Also, research - as in business or politics - is, by and large, a collaborative endeavor, and relationships matter. Having a mentor who can guide and support your work, who is personally interested in your growth, and preferably shares some of your research interests is a tremendously powerful catalyst for success.’