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Two More Cross-generation Collaborative Labs Open
< President Sung-Chul Shin (sixth from the left) and Professor Sun Chang Kim (seventh from the left) at the signboard ceremony of KAIST BioDesigneering Laboratory > KAIST opened two more cross-generation collaborative labs last month. KAIST BioDesigneering Laboratory headed by Professor Sun Chang Kim from the Department of Biological Sciences and Nanophotonics Laboratory led by Professor Yong-Hee Lee from the Department of Physics have been selected to receive 500 million KRW funding for five years. A four-member selection committee including the former President of ETH Zürich Professor Emeritus Ralph Eichler and Professor Kwang-Soo Kim of Harvard Medical School conducted a three-month review and evaluation for this selection to be made. With these two new labs onboard, a total of six cross-generation collaborative labs will be operated on campus. The operation of cross-generation collaborative labs has been in trial since March last year, as one of the KAIST’s Vision 2031 research innovation initiatives. This novel approach is to pair up senior and junior faculty members for sustaining research and academic achievements even after the senior researcher retires, so that the spectrum of knowledge and research competitiveness can be extended to future generations. The selected labs will be funded for five years, and the funding will be extended if necessary. KAIST will continue to select new labs every year. One of this year’s selectees Professor Sun Chang Kim will be teamed up with Professor Byung-Kwan Cho from the same department and Professor Jung Kyoon Choi from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering to collaborate in the fields of synthetic biology, systems biology, and genetic engineering. This group mainly aims at designing and synthesizing optimal genomes that can efficiently manufacture protein drug and biomedical active materials. They will also strive to secure large amounts of high-functioning natural active substances, new adhesive antibacterial peptides, and eco-friendly ecological restoration materials. It is expected that collaboration between these three multigenerational professors will help innovate their bio-convergence technology and further strengthen their international competitiveness in the global bio-market. Another world-renowned scholar Professor Yong-Hee Lee of photonic crystal laser study will be joined by Professor Minkyo Seo from the same department and Professor Hansuek Lee from the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology. They will explore the extreme limits of light-material interaction based on optical micro/nano resonators, with the goal of developing future nonlinear optoelectronic and quantum optical devices. The knowledge and technology newly gained from the research are expected to provide an important platform for a diverse range of fields from quantum communications to biophysics. (END)
Professor Sang Gyu Kim Receives Yeochon Award for Ecology
Professor Sang-Gyu Kim from the Department of Biological Sciences was selected as the winner of the 12th Yeochon Award for Ecology presented by the Yeochon Association for Ecological Research. The award was conferred on August 13 in Jeju at the annual conference co-hosted by the Ecological Society of Korea and the Yeochon Association for Ecological Research. Professor Kim received 10 million KRW in prize money. Professor Kim was recognized for his achievements and contributions in studying herbivorous insects ‘rice weevils’ and their host plant ‘wild tobacco’, especially for having explored the known facts in traditional ecology at the molecular level. His findings are presented in his paper titled ‘Trichobaris weevils distinguish amongst toxic host plants by sensing volatiles that do not affect larval performance’ published in Molecular Ecology in July 2016. Furthermore, Professor Kim’s research team is continuing their work to identify the ecological functions of plant metabolites as well as interactions between flowers and insect vectors at the molecular level. In doing so, the team edits genes in various plant species using the latest gene editing technology. The Yeochon Award for Ecology was first established in 2005 with funds donated by a senior ecologist, the late Honorary Professor Joon-Ho Kim of Seoul National University. The award is named after the professor’s pen name “Yeochon” and is intended to encourage promising next-generation ecologists to produce outstanding research achievements in the field of basic ecology. Professor Kim said, “I will take this award as encouragement to continue taking challenging risks to observe ecological phenomenon from a new perspective. I will continue my research with my students with joy and enthusiasm.”
New Members of KAST and Y-KAST 2019
(Professor Eui-Cheol Shin from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering) Professor Eui-Cheol Shin from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering became a new fellow of the Korean Academy of Science and Technology (KAST) along with 25 other scientists in Korea. He is one of the top virus immunologists in Korea and has published a review article in Nature Reviews Immunology. Meanwhile KAST selected and announced 26 young scientists under the age 43 who have shown great potential and the creativity to carry out next-generation research. The list of Y-KAST (Young Korean Academy of Science and Technology) includes six KAIST professors: Professor Ji Oon Lee from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, Professor Mi Hee Lim from the Department of Chemistry, Professor Shin-Hyun Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Professor Jung-Ryul Lee from the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Professor Hyunjoo Jenny Lee from the School of Electrical Engineering, and Professor Yeon Sik Jung from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. KAST conferred their fellowships and Y-KAST membership during the New Year Reception.
Professor Jeong-Ho Lee Named the KAISTian of 2018
(Professor Jeong-Ho Lee (right) poses with President Sung-Chul Shin) Professor Jeong-Ho Lee from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering was selected as the KAISTian of the Year of 2018. The award was established in 2001 and recognizes the most outstanding scholars who have made significant research and scholastic achievements during the year. Professor Lee was awarded during the New Year ceremony held in the auditorium on January 2. Professor Lee has investigated mutations arising in the brain for decades and has published in renowned journals such as Nature, Nature Medicine, and Cell. Last August, Professor Lee reported breakthrough research on glioblastoma in Nature, giving insight into understanding how the mutation causing glioblastoma starts and suggested novel ways to treat glioblastoma, which was thought to be incurable. (Click for more) Professor Lee’s Translational Neurogenetics Laboratory lab is investigating innovative diagnostics and therapeutics for untreatable brain disorders including intractable epilepsy and glioblastoma. To commercialize his technology, he established the tech-startup SoVarGen and now works as its CTO. Professor Lee credited all his lab colleagues and staff. “I know all of this research would not have possible without their sweat and effort. I am happy to receive this honorable award on behalf of them.” Remembering the beginning of his career at KAIST in 2012, Professor Lee said “KAIST seemed to be a very high and formidable barrier for me, after completing my medical education in Korea. I thank my department professors and colleagues who led me to focus on the research path that I really wanted. They provided everything for my research environment to help make good results.” “I will continue to strive for promoting the well-being of humanity by addressing various incurable diseases as well as developing novel therapeutics. That will be the way to promote the stature of KAIST at home and abroad,” he added.
Professor Ju, to Receive Grants from HFSP
(Professor Young Seok Ju) Professor Young Seok Ju from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering was selected as a young investigator to receive research funds from the Human Frontiers Science Program. The Human Frontiers Science Program (HFSP) was founded in 1989 with members of the G7 and European Union to stimulate innovative research in the field of life sciences. Professor Ju placed third out of the eight teams that were selected from 158 applicants representing 60 countries. He is now the fourth Korean to receive a research grant as a young investigator. Professor Jae Kyoung Kim from the Department of Mathematical Sciences also received this prize last year, hence KAIST has produced grant recipients for two consecutive years. Professor Ju is a medical doctor specializing in cancer genomics and computer biology. He has been studying somatic mutations and their functional consequences in human cancer in a bioinformatics way. He has published papers in international journals including Nature, Science, Genome Research, and Journal of Clinical Oncology. With a title ‘Tracing AID/APOBEC- and MSI-mediated hyper-mutagenesis in the clonal evolution of gastric cancer,’ Professor Ju will receive 1.05 million dollars for three years along with Professor Bon-Kyoung Koo from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at Austrian Academy of Sciences, and Sinppert Hugo from University Medical Center Utrecht. Professor Ju said, “As a young investigator, it is my great honor to receive this research fund from this organization. Through this internationally collaborative research, I will carry out groundbreaking research to understand the pathophysiology of cancers at a molecular level.”
Professor Gou Young Koh, 2018 Laureate of Ho-Am Prize
Distinguished Professor Gou Young Koh from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering was appointed a 2018 laureate in medicine of the Ho-Am Prize by the Ho-Am Foundation. Professor Koh is a renowned expert in the field of tumor angiogenesis by exploring the hidden nature of capillary and lymphatic vessels in human organs. He was recognized for demonstrating the effective reduction of tumor progression and metastasis via tumor vessel normalization. This counterintuitive study result is regarded as a stepping stone for a drug discovery to prevent microvascular diseases. Besides Professor Koh, Professor Hee Oh from Yale University (Science), Professor Nam-Gyu Park from Sungkyunkwan University (Engineering), Opera Singer Kwangchul Youn (The Arts) and Sister Carla Kang (Community Service) received awards. The Ho-Am Prize is presented to individuals who have contributed to academics, the arts, and social development, or furthered the welfare of humanity, and commemorates the noble spirit of public service espoused by the late Chairman Byung-chull Lee, who used the pen name Ho-Am. It was established in 1990 by Kun-Hee Lee, the chairman of Samsung. Awards have been presented to 143 individuals worth a total of 24.4 billion KRW.
Two Professors Receive the Asan Medical Award
(Professor Ho Min Kim and Chair Profesor Eunjoon Kim (from far right) Chair Professor Eunjoon Kim of the Department of Biological Sciences and Professor Ho Min Kim from the Graduate School of Medical Science & Engineering won the 11th Asan Medical Award in the areas of basic medicine and young medical scholar on March 21. The Asan Medical Award has been recognizing the most distinguished scholars in the areas of basic and clinical medicines annually since 2007. Chair Professor Kim won the 300 million KRW award in recognition of his research in the mechanism of synaptic brain dysfunction and its relation with neural diseases. The young medical scholar’s award recognizes a promising scholar under the age of 40. Professor Kim won the award for identifying the key protein structure and molecular mechanism controlling immunocytes and neurons. He earned a 50 million KRW prize.
Professor Jin Woo Kim Wins the 14th Macrogen Scientist Award
Professor Jin Woo Kim of the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST received the 14th Macrogen Scientist Award at the 2017 KSMCB International Conference held in COEX on September 12, 2017. The award is given by the Korean Society for Molecular and Cellular Biology (KSMCB) and sponsored by Macrogen, a service provider of genome research. The award was established in 2004 to recognize biological scientists who have accomplished excellent performance in the field of basic life sciences. Professor Kim has achieved outstanding research performances on nerve development, such as identifying the cause of senile retinal degenerative disease and finding retinal nerve cells that distinguish light and darkness in dark conditions. Recently, he discovered intercellular communication, which controls the development of retinal neurons. His findings have contributed to addressing the principles of maintenance and regeneration of retinal neurons. Since joining KAIST, he has presented approximately 20 papers and published in numerous international journals including Cell Reports, Genes and Development, and EMBO Journal. Moreover, he delivered special lectures at international conferences, universities, and institutes around the world.
Professor Dae-Sik Im to Head the Science, Technology and Innovation Office at the Ministry of Science & ICT
(Professor Dae-Sik Im of the Department of Biological Sciences) Professor Dae-Sik Im of the Department of Biological Sciences, a renowned molecular cell biologist, was named to head the Science, Technology and Innovation Office in the Ministry of Science and ICT on August 31. He will be responsible for the oversight of national R&D projects as well as budget deliberation. Joining the KAIST faculty in 2002, he led the Creative Research Center of Cell Division and Differentiation at KAIST. Announcing the nomination of Professor Im, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-Hyun said, “Professor Im will be the best person to lead the innovation of the research infrastructure system for basic research studies. We believe that his expertise and leadership will make a significant impact in enhancing the nation’s science and technology competitiveness. This vice minister position in the Ministry of Science and ICT was newly created in an effort to enhance national science and technology initiatives by President Moon Jae-In. Professor Im said at the news conference, “I would like to make a sustainable, as well as credible, system ensuring the ingenuity of scientists in Korean labs. To this end, I will make every effort to enhance Korea’s innovative research environment in a way to maximize research achievements.”
Professor Won Do Heo Receives 'Scientist of the Month Award'
Professor Won Do Heo of the Department of Biological Sciences was selected as the “Scientist of the Month” for April 2017 by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the National Research Foundation of Korea. Professor Heo was recognized for his suggestion of a new biological research method developing various optogenetics technology which controls cell function by using light. He developed the technology using lasers or LED light, without the need for surgery or drug administration, to identify the cause of diseases related to calcium ions such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. The general technique used in optogenetics, that control cells in the body with light, is the simple activation and deactivation of neurons. Professor Heo developed a calcium ion channel activation technique (OptoSTIM1) to activate calcium ions in the body using light. He also succeeded in increasing calcium concentrations with light to enhance the memory capacity of mice two-fold. Using this technology, the desired amount and residing time of calcium ion influx can be controlled by changing light intensity and exposure periods, enabling the function of a single cell or various cells in animal tissue to be controlled remotely. The experimental results showed that calcium ion influx can be activated in cells that are affected by calcium ions, such as normal cells, cancer cells, and human embryonic stem cells. By controlling calcium concentrations with light, it is possible to control biological phenomena, such as cellular growth, neurotransmitter transmission, muscle contraction, and hormone control. Professor Heo said, “Until now, it was standard to use optogenetics to activate neurons using channelrhodopsin. The development of this new optogenetic technique using calcium ion channel activation can be applied to various biological studies, as well as become an essential research technique in neurobiology. The “Scientist of the Month Award” is given every month to one researcher who made significant contributions to the advancement of science and technology with their outstanding research achievement. The awardee will receive prize money of ten million won.
Professor Joonho Choe Appointed as the President of the KSMCB
Professor Joonho Choe of the Biological Sciences Department at KAIST has been elected the 25th president of Korean Society for Molecular and Cellular Biology (KSMCB). His presidency will last one year, beginning on January 1, 2016. Established in 1989, the Society has served as the largest academic gathering in the field of life sciences, holding an international conference every fall. It has more than 12,400 fellows. Professor Choe served as the vice president of KSMC as well as the editor of its journal, Molecules and Cells. He said, “The 2016 International Conference of the KSMCB will take place on October 12-14, 2016 at the COEX Convention and Exhibition Hall in Seoul. This year, we are preparing 20 symposiums and will invite four international renowned keynote speakers in the field including a Nobel Laureate. We hope many people, students and young researchers in particular, from academia and industry will join the conference.” Professor Choe received his doctoral degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) after graduating from Seoul National University with his bachelor and master’s degrees.
Professor Jeong Ho Lee Receives the 2015 Pediatric Epilepsies Research Award
The award identifies leading scientists worldwide and funds their cutting-edge research in epilepsy. The Citizen United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) announced on September 7, 2015, that Jeong Ho Lee, a professor of the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST, will be awarded the 2015 Pediatric Epilepsies Research Award. The Pediatric Epilepsies Research Award is given annually to a researcher who has conducted novel, innovative research projects that address severe, intractable pediatric epilepsies as well as collaborative, interdisciplinary projects that explore new approaches to find a treatment for pediatric epilepsies. Lee was recognized for his leading study in the field of intractable epilepsy. He is the first Korean who has ever received this award, securing a research grant of USD 250,000 for two years. Lee has conducted research on brain somatic mutations as the novel cause of childhood intractable epilepsy. Pediatric epilepsies account for approximately 70% of all cases of epilepsy. Established in 1998, CURE is a non-profit American organization based in Chicago, Illinois, which is committed to funding research and various initiatives that will lead to breakthroughs to cure epilepsy. Since its inception, CURE has been at the forefront of epilepsy research, raising more than USD 32 million to support researchers and scientists worldwide. It has also awarded more than 180 cutting-edge projects in 13 countries.
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