Cindy Phung has been a research assistant in Dr. Anshu Agrawal's laboratory at the University of California, Irvine since September 2021, where she received her Bachelor's of Science in Biological Sciences in 2023. She received scholarships from the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). During her time at UCI, she investigated the effect of IL-21 on human lung fibroblasts on activating cell-mediated immunity. Her work focused on providing insight into the mechanisms by which IL-21 causes fibrosis in aging lungs since IL-21 levels in sera are increased in these subjects. She identified upregulated expression of CD36, a lipid importer, HLA-ABC, a CD8+ T cell signaling molecule present on all nucleated cells, and MMP-2, a matrix metalloproteinase secreted in response to acute exposure to IL-21 by culturing the MRC-5 cell line, flow cytometry, and sandwich ELISAs. Additionally, she was involved in other projects where isolated PBMCs from human blood samples were exposed to irradiated SARS-CoV-2 virus to assess age-related differences in early immune activation of T-cells and dendritic cells. In 2023, Mrs. Phung presented her work at the Excellence in Research Symposium and was awarded Excellence in Research. 

In 2023, she joined the Translational Immunology Section (TIS) at NIAMS as a postbac trainee under the supervision of Dr. Massimo Gadina. In this role, she is involved in cellular immunophenotyping by using traditional and spectral multicolor flow cytometry as well as p-STAT phospho-flow assays to support clinical studies investigating inflammatory diseases.

Research Statement

Ms. Phung is currently involved in developing flow cytometry panels to phenotype immune cell populations in patients with Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) carrying an IL-6 Receptor single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) as part of a collaboration with Dr. Peter Grayson.


University of California, Irvine 
B.S., Biological Sciences (2023)


Undergraduate Researcher
University of California, Irvine (2021-2023)

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