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Luu received her medical degree at the University of Tübingen, Germany, followed by a doctoral degree in medicine from Tübingen Hearing Research Center. She is a postdoctoral fellow at Eaton Peabody Laboratory at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School. Luu’s 2017 Emerging Research Grant is generously funded by The Estate of Howard F. Schum.

Ménière’s disease is an inner ear and balance disorder currently diagnosed according to patient symptom reports that vary and may mimic other hearing and balance diseases.
My work in the lab of Albert Edge, Ph.D., a member of HHF’s Hearing Restoration Project, is to help physicians diagnose more quickly and accurately. Our research group is developing a novel classification based on imaging of the vestibular aqueduct, the bony canal that connects the inner
ear to the skull and which has a strikingly different structure in Ménière’s patients. Our precise technique may reduce the time it takes to finalize a Ménière’s diagnosis.

I was first exposed to scientific research in high school when my teacher enrolled me in an additional experimental biology class. My chemistry teacher later encouraged me to start my own school laboratory that focused on infrared spectroscopy, a technique used to identify and study
chemicals. I conducted research and wrote my first small research thesis about making homemade acetaminophen and using infrared spectroscopy to test its purity.

It was after my first mouse ear dissection that I decided I wanted to research the ear, nose, and throat. I was fascinated by the shape and size of the inner ear and the ossicles (bones) of the middle ear, especially the stapes, the tiny bones that resemble the stirrups of a saddle. I also saw there’s no better way to impact patient care than by aiming for a significant contribution through science and research.

I cook to unwind. Everything related to preparing meals is relaxing to me: food shopping, researching international ingredients, composing creative meals from limited seasonal offerings, and finally making even picky eaters happy. Strolling through supermarkets was always the first thing I did after exams in medical school. I also enjoy snowboarding, writing, art, and playing the piano.

Finding colleagues who are not only passionate about their work but also trustworthy, collaborative, and enthusiastic makes me so thankful. I hope to one day lead my own inner ear research group while remaining a practicing clinician as well as a wife and mother. This means I will keep working hard on essential skills in work, life, and sleep management!

Ngoc-Nhi Luu, Ph.D.’s grant is generously funded by The Estate of Howard F. Schum, and was awarded for innovative research that will increase our understanding of the inner ear and balance disorder Ménière’s disease.