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Nick Sugiarto '23 on Collaborative Hands-On Research and a Love of Laughter

Jun 14, 2023   |   Dartmouth Admissions

Nick Sugiarto '23 (he/him/his)
Hometowns: San Diego, CA & Jakarta, Indonesia
Major: Biomedical Engineering; Senior Fellowship: Computational Biology

At the Wang lab at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine. (Photo by Don Hamerman)

Lately, Nick Sugiarto '23 has been spending most of his time in a cancer lab at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine. He's completing a senior fellowship in computational biology under the supervision of Assistant Professor of Molecular and Systems Biology Xiaofeng Wang. "As a senior fellow, I pursue research full-time in lieu of taking classes. My goal is to one day complete an MD-PhD," Nick explains, noting that the two-degree program trains students in both medicine and research. "Hands-on research with a faculty mentor who's in the lab with me every single day is the best preparation I could have for what I want to do."

The members of the Wang lab are using next-generation sequencing data, which is used to determine the kind of genetic information carried in a DNA segment, to better understand cancer biology and potential treatments, Nick says. "We're studying the mechanism behind the mutations of a molecule called SWI SN. Understanding that mechanism could provide possible drug targets for cancers that are mediated by SWI/SNF." The implications of the work are wide-ranging. In fact, Nick is a co-author on a study produced by the Wang lab that was recently published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

As a junior, Nick won a Goldwater Scholarship, one of the most prestigious national scholarships for undergraduates interested in careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, or engineering. The grant allowed him to deepen his lab work with Wang, with whom he's partnered since his first year at Dartmouth. "We have this relationship that goes beyond the work," Nick says, noting that he and Wang have hiked local trails together, often accompanied by other labmates. "The Wang lab is highly collaborative. I really love being in an intellectually curious environment where people still want to have fun."

Outside of his research, Nick has found a way to relax and unwind—and to help others to do the same—by trying his hand at stand-up comedy. Despite having no prior experience in comedy, he saw Dartmouth's on-campus performance spaces as a safe place to try—and occasionally fail at—new things. "Hearing laughter from the crowd solidified for me that Dartmouth was the place to try this," he says of his first open-mic night. He later became president of the Dartmouth Comedy Network and editor of the Jack-o-Lantern, Dartmouth's comedy publication.

One day, Nick hopes to draw on his love of laughter and fun as the principal investigator of his own lab to create a close community just like the one he's experienced at Dartmouth.

"Fostering a tight-knit research circle through comedy and laughter—I think that's how I see the research and comedy experiences that Dartmouth has given me playing a pivotal role in my life."

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