wun•der•kind – one who succeeds in a competitive or highly difficult field or profession at an early age.
By all accounts, Daniel Kim, Ph.D., fits the dictionary’s definition, and with scientific flair.
The up-and-coming scientist, who at age 29 already holds a remarkable record of achievement, received his doctoral degree from the City of Hope Graduate School of Biological Sciences last month. Like the other increasingly talented ranks of researchers graduating from the school, he leaves with close ties to working scientists, and the potential to take their scientific legacy even further.
|John Rossi, left, raves about hyper-achiever Daniel Kim during recent graduate school commencement ceremonies. (Photo by Darrin S. Joy)|
Kim moved to California from his native Orlando, Fla., in 1997 to attend the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, having passed on applying to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He felt Caltech was a better fit for his aspirations as a biologist.
“Both are great schools, but Caltech had more of an emphasis on the life sciences than MIT,” he explained. “Plus it’s warmer.”
After his graduation from Caltech, Kim took a research position at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he contributed to studies of new methods to prevent HIV from entering and infecting cells. The work piqued his interest in HIV/AIDS research, and he began looking for a place to continue his scientific education with a focus on the disease.
Kim learned about City of Hope’s graduate school because of ongoing collaborations among Caltech and City of Hope scientists. With a few clicks on the school’s Web site, Kim came upon the laboratory of John Rossi, Ph.D., Lidow Family Research Chair and professor in the Division of Molecular Biology.
Rossi’s research into RNAi, which uses small pieces of genetic material to interfere with HIV infection, fit perfectly with Kim’s interests. And Rossi was impressed with Kim’s Caltech education, experience and passionate interest in biomedical research. Kim soon enrolled.
“Daniel’s quietness belies the high level of passion he has for his work,” Rossi said. “We were really impressed not only by his education and experience, but by his great attitude. He’s an excellent student and scientist.”
That attitude has paid off both for the student and his mentor. In his four years of
study, Kim has contributed to an extraordinary seven published journal articles, with one more currently in review, and two book chapters. Kim is lead author on seven of those papers.
Now that he has graduated, Kim has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard
University. While there, he will study epigenetic methods of silencing genes.
Epigenetics involves processes that change how genes are expressed and that can be inherited, but that are not a part of the genetic code itself. Recent developments in the field have led to a number of potential therapies for life-threatening diseases such as cancer and HIV.
Kim intends to use the lessons he will gain at Harvard to build on his experience in RNAi control of HIV. “It’s similar to what brought me to City of Hope,” said Kim. “RNAi was just beginning to really take off, and that attracted me. I think epigenetics is in that same place now.” Kim hopes his studies will lead to new
therapies for HIV infection.
Rossi expects nothing less. “Daniel has been such a great contributor in our lab,” he said. “We’re going to miss him, but I have little doubt we’ll be hearing about him in the future.”