Hooi Hooi Ng has a few simple words of advice for anyone, particularly women, who desire a career in science: “Go for it. Don’t be afraid of failure.”
That fearless attitude has served her well.
Ng arrived at FIU in 2017 after earning her doctoral degree in vascular physiology at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Six months later, she applied for an American Heart Association (AHA) Fellowship. She was rejected, but not deterred.
"I went back to working on my research, developed more data and reapplied the next year," she said. "And I got it!"
The AHA Fellowship now supports 100 percent of her salary. And this year, she is one of four finalists for the AHA's Elaine W. Raines Early Career Investigator Award. Finalists get to present their research at the association's Scientific Sessions Annual Conference to be held virtually in November.
“This is an important opportunity for me to present my work to an international audience and get feedback from the world’s experts in vascular biology,” she said.
Ng received a grant from the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine pilot program to begin her research on vascular calcification. Common and potentially dangerous, vascular calcifications are mineral deposits on the walls of blood vessels. They are most often associated with aging and people with chronic kidney disease, diabetes and hypertension. Calcifications can lead to heart disease, stroke and renal (kidney) failure.
There are no current drugs to prevent or treat vascular calcifications.
“We want to develop a novel (new) treatment that allows us to intervene early in high-risk patients, so they don’t develop calcifications,” she said.
Ng's research is a collaboration across FIU's research community. A postdoctoral associate in the lab of Alexander Agoulnik at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Ng is also mentored by biomedical engineer Joshua Hutcheson from the College of Engineering and Computing. All three scientists collaborate in the Biomolecular Sciences Institute, a multidisciplinary consortium of FIU researchers housed in the College of Arts and Sciences.