Cady Chen

Undergraduate Student, Columbia University
  • People
  • United States of America

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Leadership & Research Scholar


Columbia University

Laidlaw Cohort Year


Research Topic

Biological Sciences Medical Sciences

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:


I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes



Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

Jun 30, 2023

Hi Kelly! I remember how one regret I had after finishing my first semester at Columbia was not having joined an identity-based group/formed a community that shared my cultural traditions and practices and allowed me to maintain them even when I was thousands of miles away from my family. As such, I really do resonate with what you've concluded about the motivation behind students' involvement in identity-based clubs and hope to continue searching for this same sense of cultural community as I go into my sophomore year! I'm also very intrigued by the fluidity of your leadership—one that involves both steering the conversation and knowing when to step back—and appreciate your efforts at allowing student perspectives to shine through in your research!

Jun 22, 2023
Replying to Aleena Garrison

1. A challenge that I’ve encountered is defining the word diva. Part of my research is finding toys and products from the 2010s that embody or promote diva-ness. This has allowed me to reexamine what being a diva means, and investigate what “type” of diva has been pushed towards certain generations versus others. Initially, this portion of the project was challenging for me because I was only searching for toys, ads, and other media and products for things that explicitly stated diva. There wasn’t much to go off of, so I had to redefine what diva actually meant. In the 2010s, being a diva was about being sassy and chasing fame, which is a stark difference from the definition in the 90s where being a diva meant owning your individuality, being outspoken, and embracing diversity. Using this, I was able to find more products and media that related to diva-ness, but didn’t explicitly state diva in them. Instead, they had many qualities of being a diva, as their products and ads boasted buzz words like “stardom”, “sassy”, and “fashionista”. This has shaped the larger picture of my research because not only am I getting to relive my childhood by examining girlhood in the 21st century, but I am really exploring the deeper meanings behind the shift in the word and nature of divas, and how that has shaped an entire generation of young women. Being a diva has become something negative when it used to be empowering. 

2. I have found Google Scholar to be particularly useful.

Aleena, I think it's fascinating how you've used your background readings and own experiences to expand the scope of the word "diva" and in doing so, inadvertently uncovered shifts in the word's connotation over the decades! I'm curious about what sort of diva-related toys/products from the 2010s you've found, especially since you mentioned that the word "diva" has morphed into a more negative stereotype in more recent decades. On top of that, it seems like your challenge really highlights the importance of search terms when searching literature (and in your case, physical products and media). I've definitely hit dead ends because I've been using the wrong terms!

Jun 21, 2023

1. The focus of my research has changed dramatically over the course of these past weeks, as I’ve realized how long it takes to develop and execute an analysis pipeline for a single dataset, as well as how many different angles I have to examine a potential finding from before accepting it. Moreover, for every choice I make in my analysis, I have to be able to defend it scientifically. Consequently, I’ve spent these past four weeks focusing on a single question regarding tumor proliferation in response to neuronal activity, and only now, am I starting to pivot to my original research plan to investigate the role of microglia in the tumor microenvironment. In some ways, due to the unexpected time I’ve spent on glioma proliferation, the scope of my research has expanded to explore the role of neurons, on top of microglia, in tumor progression and has shown me just how complex the tumor microenvironment truly is.

2. The figures and methods sections of various in-field papers have proven particularly useful in helping me understand how other researchers have analyzed similar datasets and what tools/procedures they have leveraged in doing so. I’ve also been relying heavily on open source programming forums like Github and Stack Overflow to solve coding problems I’ve run into! 

Jun 15, 2023
Replying to Dongfang Linda Qu

1. I hope to at least produce an annotated bibliography by the end of these months, a paper of some sorts by the end of summer if at all possible. I'd like to continue my project into the year and write up something more substantial by next summer, in hopes of being able to deliver what I've learned through research to more people. Quite frankly, I've learned a lot more about myself than my topic of research so far; in other words, this research experience has given me a taste of the research life and a chance at self-evaluation. Going forward, I'll be approaching research with more grounded resolution among other aspects of mind, and I'm grateful for the time that Laidlaw has given me to reflect.

2. By investigating the astrological mantic arts in medieval Europe and Middle Period China, I examine how monarchs and emperors uses future divination to affirm their right to rule, framing my reading with postmodernist frameworks such as semiology. I think it's important to recognize the ambiguity of written materials of the past in genre – in the case of ancient China, a document could simultaneously carry attributes of "history" and "literature" and even "philosophy“. These documents are all narratives with intentions, products of close readings of the natural and political phenomenons of their times, the course of events carefully tailored in order to build a claim to power. We could never fully reconstruct the skies of Northern Hemisphere nights in 1400s, but we could piece together parts of the truth by cross-referencing records from different civilizations that observed the same nights and deduce what phenomenons each party has elevated or put down. This way, we can reconstruct parts of the original starscape that the ancients interpreted and interpret their interpretations with a modern interdisciplinary outlook, probing at their anxieties through the way they saw the stars. I hope that if anything, my research would remind you that "literature" and/or "literary text" doesn't have to limit itself to black prints lined, bounded, collected in white sheets, and that interdisciplinary studie is perhaps not a novel idea after all but a recent revival of a past tradition. 

Hi Linda, I am fascinated by the broader purpose you've put forth for your project! It reminds me of the conversations my LitHum class had about what we consider "masterpieces of Western literature" and encourages me to remain open-minded about what literature looks like, comprises, and does. I also really appreciate how your work challenges the Western bias that has shaped traditional attempts at reconstructing our scientific past by highlighting ancient Chinese interpretations of the heavens and cannot wait to read your (potential) paper!

Jun 13, 2023

1. My research is just one part of a much larger project investigating the crosstalk between neurons, microglia, and tumor cells at the tumor margin. I have spent the majority of my time thus far studying how sensory stimulation changes the expression of specific receptors in microglia and tumor cell replication, but there remain numerous unanswered questions—for example, does microglial activation promote or suppress tumor growth? What are the specific signaling pathways involved? As such, the scope of this project transcends my time & tasks in the lab. Nevertheless, I hope that the data I collect and analyze will help the lab start to answer these questions and inspire new questions for further investigation. Although I am not sure if I will have generated enough data/findings to write an entire paper, I do hope to formally communicate the results of my project in some manner, be it through attending a conference or writing a smaller paper or something else altogether.

2. By focusing on the interactions between neurons, microglia, and tumor cells, my research seeks to understand the role of the immune system in tumor development. I’m particularly interested in this question due to its clinical implications, for it may help researchers develop new drug targets (i.e. if microglia activation due to a specific receptor encourages tumor proliferation, researchers can develop a drug to block that receptor). Moreover, a greater understanding of what environmental/physical factors (i.e. sensory stimulation) may encourage tumor development will be incredibly important for developing best practices to prevent aggressive tumor growth in patients.

Jun 07, 2023
Replying to Kayla Pham

Though I am working in a science lab that does not deal with any living subjects, there are still a plethora of ethical concerns in Materials Science - the main being ethical issues associated with sourcing certain materials. Many elements used in Material Sciences research (aluminum, copper, graphite, and much more) can be, and have been, sourced with child labor, low working standards, and unsafe conditions. Thus, it is incredibly important to understand where the materials I work with comes from. I am currently studying a material made in another lab at Columbia. It is additionally important to question the accessibility of the research I am conducting - whether it would be equitable or if it would disproportionately help one group of people. As I continue my investigation, I continue to look at my research through the intersection of Chemistry and Physics. Allowing my research to fit in multiple fields and not have rigid descriptors has been incredibly insightful to allow my research to take on multiple shapes and forms.

Thank you for bringing up these very important points! I think it's very easy for researchers in STEM fields not dealing with humans/biological specimens to conclude that there are limited ethical concerns to worry about, but your comment about the ethics of sourcing materials reminds us of just how present ethics are in every facet of our work. From where our raw materials are being obtained from (i.e. are my mice bred in humane conditions?) to unintended ramifications/applications of our research (i.e. can a bad actor create bioweapons with my findings?), there are so many ethical questions to consider as we go about our work. Many of these ethical concerns—i.e. where your materials are sourced from—have been overlooked for so long, and it is definitely up to us researchers who use these materials to call out these abuses when we recognize them and attempt to reform these blatant human rights violations.

Jun 07, 2023

1. My research heavily relies upon animal models. More specifically, it involves introducing brain tumors in mice and studying the resulting changes in protein expression and cell proliferation. It’s important for me to keep in mind that although these mice are critical to making scientific advances and discovering therapies that may be applied to human patients, they too are sentient creatures who can feel pain & suffer. Unlike human experiments, which may only proceed if participants consent to the experiment at hand, mice don’t have the option to consent to the studies being performed on them. As such, it is the researcher’s (my) responsibility to minimize suffering in our mice and treat them with as much care and respect as possible. For example, this could mean following proper anesthetic protocols when doing surgeries, ensuring they are fed and comfortable in their cages, and euthanizing mice who appear to be visibly suffering.

2. Yes! A lot of my research these two weeks have been focused on identifying potential confounding factors & further exploring them to figure out if they are true confounders or if they are unrelated to my results. It is a frustrating, yet necessary process, to consider all possible explanations in attempting to arrive as a scientifically-rigorous and biologically-founded result. In doing so, though, I feel as if I have expanded my own understanding of my research topic and begun to understand the true complexity of biological systems. Any number of external, intrinsic, and situational factors may play a hand at explaining some biological phenomena. Thus, it becomes very difficult (as well as reductive) to attribute a particular phenomena to just one variable.

Jun 01, 2023
Replying to Kayla Pham

Being exposed to a variety of research topics in different disciplines has been incredibly insightful. I foremost have a greater appreciation and understanding of topics outside of the immediate field I am studying. Having this exposure prompts to me look at my research question in a plethora of different ways. Instead of always approaching STEM problems from a pure Physical Chemistry perspective, I try to employ creativity and unconventional methods to go about solving a problem. Being in an interdisciplinary program puts me out of my comfort zone in the ways that I approach researching a specific question or topic. This type of interdisciplinary problem solving has been incredibly useful, especially when feeling "stuck" or when an experiment hasn't gone the way I hoped. 

As I focus more on my individual research project this week, I've been focusing specifically on the resources that were discussed during the librarian roundtable. I've been utilizing Columbia's databases and other resources to be able to access relevant literature to better contextualize my research. There are so many resources available to students that the struggle has actually been narrowing them down. Thus, I plan to use refining and filtering strategies to find literature that best suits my research needs. 

100% agree with you Kayla! Talking with humanities/social science scholars has inspired me to be a lot more creative with how I approach and present my data. Especially when I'm feeling stuck/limited to a set of specific analyses, it's been super helpful to challenge myself and find an alternative way to analyze my images. I also resonate with your second response—I've realized how much background knowledge I am missing for my project and have been trying to use Columbia's databases to put together a reading list of essential brain tumor-related papers/book chapters to get through!