Heewon Kim

Health disco OG image
Heewon Kim

Heewon Kim

Health disco academic program
Public Health
healthy disco cohort year


Hi, my name is Heewon Kim, a first-year public health major student with a pre-med option, and I participated in the URSA Engage program as an undergraduate intern in Dr. David Dallas’s lab this year (2023-24). Dallas Lab is a part of the OSU College of Health and focuses on research about biology of human and animal milk. I got to participate in a mini project under my mentor’s supervision. My mentor, graduate assistant Md Atikur Rahman, has been working on his research titled “Antimicrobial Activities of In Vitro Digested Human Donor Milk Peptide” this year, and I mainly learned wet lab skills while assisting him with his experiments. Later, I was given the opportunity to do experiments on my own as well.

Traditionally, the URSA program begins during winter term, and that’s what my mentor and I did as well. We started with having me familiarize myself with lab settings, and Atik assigned me readings and videos after each meeting to make sure I was prepared for the next step and seeing the big picture of the experiment as a whole. Then, in the beginning of each meeting, he would answer any questions I had and show me a demo of lab skills. Outside the lab, I did a few presentations, including my research proposal and progress at Dallas Lab weekly meetings. I presented at the Spring Poster Symposium as well, which was a requirement for the URSA program.

My project was like a simplified version of Atik’s research. Mine had fewer numbers of donor milk samples and bacteria, which I will explain soon. The idea of the research was to determine which conservation method of donor milk, between freezing and pasteurization, would be more effective in terms of antimicrobial activities for preterm infants.

The first step was conducting in-vitro digestion performed in a test tube, not an actual baby, on donor milk samples because digestion would be the general route for infants to obtain donor milk peptides. Gastrointestinal juice was modeled to have higher pH than usual as preterm babies’ digestive systems are not fully developed. The digested samples underwent an array of experimental stages to have peptides left without fats, proteins and sugars/salts. The extracted peptides were then diluted with water to proper concentration, and their antimicrobial activities were analyzed via oil diffusion (the common image of a petri dish filled with jelly-like substance with bacteria growing on it) and microbroth dilution (diluting the peptide into diverse concentrations and determining the minimum inhibitory concentration).

Overall, I really enjoyed working in the Dallas Lab and getting to do experiments on my own. The experiences I had were wonderful, and I really appreciate Dr. Dallas and my mentor Atik as well as the URSA program for giving me the opportunity to take a step into the professional lab setting as a non-pro without any past lab experience. I’m planning to continue working as an undergrad intern next school year and can’t wait for fall term!

Why did you choose the College of Health at OSU to pursue your studies?

Being a pre-med student, I was actually a College of Science student upon the time of admission. I was a biochemistry major then switched to public health in the College of Health. It’s not that I thought one major is superior to another, but I learned I wanted to pursue my undergraduate degree in public health based on health careers classes I took in high school. Although it is true that I have to take pre-med science classes separately from my major requirements, I love my current major and am 100% satisfied with my decision.

What sparked your interest in health?

Honestly, I don’t remember why I got interested in health in the first place. I know it sounds a little silly, but I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was young. Even after exploring many other fields and interests as I grew up, I decided medicine and health is what I wanted to pursue in future.

Why are you interested in research?

On top of the fact that I’ll need this for med school admission, I wanted to have some experience with a wet lab environment. The only experience I had before this were labs in AP chemistry and biology classes, and I definitely wanted to utilize the research opportunities here.

What research will you be working on and with whom?

I’m working on “Antimicrobial Activities of In vitro Digested Human Donor Milk Peptide,” mentored by Atikur Rahman in the Dallas Lab.

What are your future career and/or academic plans?

As previously mentioned, I want to attend a medical school after undergraduate years and become a doctor. I have no idea what specialty I want to do yet, but I hope to figure it out as I explore the field.


The Healthy Discoveries undergraduate research program is made possible with the generous support of the Patricia Valian Reser Fund for Experiential Learning.