What made you choose Davis?
I majored in veterinary medicine and was trained as a veterinarian in South Korea, so I knew UC Davis is the top school in my field. But the main reason I decided to join UC Davis was its family-friendly environment, academic and cultural diversity, and collegiality.
What inspires you?
The complexity of life. “The most incomprehensible thing about life is that it is comprehensible” (modified from a famous Einstein quote). But, as we understand better, we come to realize that there is a lot we don’t understand yet. In a disease context such as cancer, it becomes more complicated. Then, our strategy to cure disease becomes even more complicated. This is a big challenge for clinicians and basic scientists. We need to start from the understanding of this disease, and then we can come up with a new strategy to cure the disease.
What research are you currently working on? What makes it unique?
I study cancer biology, particularly studying genetic and epigenetic changes of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is the most deadly human malignancy. In the U.S., it is currently the third leading cause of cancer-related death. However, it will become the second ranked soon if we don’t do a better job. I use genetically engineered mouse models (mice that were engineered to develop pancreatic tumors similar to human pancreatic cancer patients) and recently developed “pancreatic organoid” models to study the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic cancer progressions. In organoid culture models, we can grow normal pre-cancerous cells and cancer cells (both mouse and human patient samples) in vitro and study many different aspects of pancreatic cancer biology. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to test our idea quickly.
When not in the classroom or conducting research, what do you like to do?
I would spend my time with my kids, playing video games or any sports (like soccer) together.
Have you found your favorite place on campus yet?
My office is in Briggs Hall; I love my office and laboratory space.