I was born in Seoul, South Korea, but spent most of my childhood in the Pennsylvania countryside after my family emigrated to the United States. I am a first-generation college student and attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA on full financial aid and scholarships. I was one of those kids who had no idea what to study in college until I stumbled on to a research project that examined the cell cycle in brewer's yeast. When I saw that replacing a mutant yeast gene with a healthy human gene could rescue cell division deficits, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I graduated from Dickinson in 2001 with a B.S. degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. After graduation, I moved to Connecticut, where I worked as a Research Associate at a biotech company. Here, I helped create methods to modify the yeast and mouse genomes for the purposes of drug discovery. After two years of gloomy New England weather, I headed south to attend graduate school at Duke University in Durham, NC where I completed my Ph.D. in pharmacology in 2009. My Ph.D. work examined growth factor signaling in the developing brain, and I completed this work with Michael Ehlers, who is currently the Head of Research and Development at Biogen, Inc. I then moved a few miles down Tobacco Road and became a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I began my time in Chapel Hill in the laboratory of Klaus Hahn, where I learned the basics of protein engineering and design. I then applied these methods to uncover how disease-linked mutations impact UBE3A function during brain development. This work was completed with Mark Zylka, who is currently the Director of Neuroscience at UNC. I joined the faculty of the Department of Neuroscience at the Washington University School of Medicine in January, 2017.
Selected Honors and Awards
- Ruth K. Broad Biomedical Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship
- Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics Postdoctoral Fellowship
- F32 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award
- Simons Foundation Bridge to Independence Award
- Brain and Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Young Investigator Award
- Whitehall Foundation Research Award