Meet undergraduate student Keiona Khen

Keiona Khen
Keiona Khen

As a first-generation college student, nutritional sciences major and College Ambassador Keiona Khen has immersed herself in the college experience as an FYE (First Year Experience) mentor, WiMSE (Women in Math, Science and Engineering) member and Vietnamese Student Association public relations executive board chair. She’d love to work as a registered dietitian in her own practice, perhaps consulting for long-term care facilities or school districts. Read more about Keiona’s experiences as a UConn student.

What attracted you to UConn? I was attracted to UConn because it was close to home and more affordable for me. However, it’s a beautiful campus and the great didactic program was what really sealed the deal for me.

Why did you choose your particular major? There were MANY reasons I chose this major. I first wanted to learn something that I could use every day, because I always liked being able to apply whatever I learned in my life. Nutrition is something that everyone is using every day of their lives. In high school, I was interested in living a healthy lifestyle and in holistic medicine, though the prospect of medical school and how long I would have to be in school was intimidating enough for me to look for another path.

Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why?  My fellowship through the Bridging the Gap program has been my most memorable experience. Going to college, I had no intention of doing any research whatsoever, so this opportunity was quite unexpected for me. I had started research my spring semester of freshmen year in Dr. Yangchao Luo‘s lab, and that following summer I continued it during the program. This was the first time I was able to observe the full process of the research I had been doing in a lab alongside a graduate student. While working in the lab full time, I finally understood all the experiments—why I was doing them and what their results meant in the context of the question we were asking. At the conclusion of the program, I had to present my research alongside the other REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) students. I learned a lot from the research and the grad students I worked with and by presenting that work to peers and faculty.

Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. Two other experiences that have enriched my studies are the McNair Scholars Program and being in WiMSE. McNair has helped because it has been preparing me for what is to come and focusing my studies on what I find interesting and being a part of different clubs. I found empowerment and inspiration from the girls I met in WiMSE. With our current social environment, I can only find an increased appreciation for who these girls are and what they continually contribute to the STEM community.

What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? My biggest challenge in my UConn career has been balancing everything in my life and prioritizing what is important to me.

When do you expect to graduate? What then? I expect to graduate May 2019. I’m currently not certain of what I will be doing after that. I would like to either go on to get a master’s degree in dietetics or go into an internship. I am pursuing the path to become a registered dietitian, and a lot depends on if I get into any of the internships or graduate programs I apply to.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? The graduate student I was working with in Dr. Luo’s lab was able to publish the research we did. He was nice enough to include me as one of the authors of the work, so I’m published and SUPER stoked about it!! I’m also a first-generation college student.

By Kim Colavito Markesich