AAPI Heritage Month Spotlight: Lovina Abdi, PhD candidate

Related News Articles


Lovina Abdi is a PhD candidate in the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s (JABSOM) Developmental and Reproductive Biology Department focusing on stem cell biology research. A graduate research assistant in the lab of Dr. Yiqiang Zhang, JABSOM professor, Abdi is also Indonesian-American and has been an advocate for Indonesians studying in the United States. She recently presented at a webinar organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Washington, DC., one of the aims of which is to encourage the number of Indonesian students studying in U.S. higher education institutions.

“Being a minority in science, especially in your workplace, definitely has its struggle. An advice I have for other young, minority students is don’t be afraid to be different! Being different is what makes you stand out. Be proud of your culture and upbringing, because you never know the impacts you’ll bring to your life and to others. Be proud of who you are and don’t be afraid to show the real you!” Abdi said.

Read our Q&A with Abdi, below:

Where are you from?

I was born in a small city in Indonesia called Semarang and although I’ve lived in many different places, that is where I called home.

Tell us more about your educational background.

I earned my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 2020 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and my master’s degree in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine in 2021 from the University of Southern California.

Describe what your current research is about.

My research is currently on the epigenetics mechanisms involved in heart diseases using stem cell models, specifically in diabetes and myocardial infarction.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

I believe that understanding the basic mechanisms and modifications involved in these diseased heart conditions would help with interventions techniques. I hope that with my research I can help find future therapeutical targets for heart diseases.

What motivated you to pursue science?

I’ve always been fascinated with science since I was a little girl. Growing up, my grandpa always showed his cool science books and collections and I remembered asking him about biology or how the human body works. When I started college, although most of my friends ended up in business, my parents encouraged me to pursue my passion in science and it was the best decision I’ve made!

What brought you to the University of Hawaiʻi medical school?

JABSOM is one of the leading research institutions in the world and is well known for its strong community support. The program and research offered also draw me into JABSOM and of course, I wouldn’t say no to living in Hawaii for the next few years!

Why did you choose the UH DRB program?

After my master’s program, I knew I wanted to do research using stem cells model due to its extensive use and benefits. I looked through different programs in UH Mānoa and found that the DRB program is the best fit for me based on my research interest. The classes were smaller making it more interactive and personal. I also love how helpful and supportive my classmates and seniors are, which helps me a lot in my development in the program. In addition, my head of department, Dr. Monika Ward, has been a great mentor and has encouraged me to progress in my development.

What have you found most exciting during your research in Hawaiʻi?

I’m excited about the different techniques I can learn here due to the extensive new technologies offered here in the CCR. I’ve already learned so much being here for a year due to the networking opportunities provided by both the school and the department.

What do you enjoy about your working at JABSOM?

Honestly, everything about the working environment in my research field has been amazing! All the department members and my coworkers are very supportive, especially my mentor, Dr. Yiqiang Zhang, who has mentored me throughout the year. Not only that they helped with my career development, but they also helped me grow in my personal development, critical thinking, and team-working skills. Overall, I am blessed to have all these supportive people around me!

Where is your favorite spot in Hawaiʻi?

My favorite spot in Hawaiʻi would have to be Kakaʻako. There’s a lot of outdoor activities you can do and local events happening all the time. In addition, there’s a lot of good food to try. It’s definitely a blessing to live in the center of Honolulu!

What other interests/hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?

Outside of work, I love to go outdoors and be active! I love to explore new places like the beach, a hiking spot, a new restaurant or just workout with my friends. Recently, I’ve been getting into boxing and crossfit training, which I often do early in the morning before work. Other than that, I also love playing music and would occasionally compose music when I have more free time.