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Strengthen the cooperation between GFRIs
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Like an Exosome Carrying Hope and Courage

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  • Registration Date : 2019-06-25
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Reflections on Teaching

Like an Exosome Carrying Hope and Courage

Professor Yang Yoosoo (UST-KIST School)

Cells in the human body are constantly releasing a stream of tiny parcels called exosomes. These nanoparticle sized pockets encapsulate various cellular substances such as RNA, proteins and lipids and transport them all over the body, acting like delivery boxes. Recently, scientists have become interested in the study of exosomes and their intercellular signal delivery properties for the early diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer. In other words, they want to capture exosomes in the bloodstream to inspect whether they are carrying cancer metastatic materials, or bind them with therapeutic substances to be sent where they are needed. In May, Professor Yang Yoosoo was awarded the grand prize for research innovation selected by the National Research Council of Science & Technology, precisely for her achievements in exosome engineering research. Specifically, she developed technology for delivering membrane protein using exosomes, presenting a whole new methodology for anticancer treatment and immunotherapy.

Handling Conflicts Between Professor’s Hopes and Student’s Desires

Professor Yang is a young professor and member of the KIST Theragnosis Research Group. Theragnosis is a portmanteau of the words ‘therapy’ and ‘diagnosis’, and is a field of research that aims to perform early diagnosis and targeted therapy simultaneously through molecular imaging, molecular diagnosis and nanomedicine.

“I was always in awe of work related to saving lives. But I wasn’t confident enough to go into medicine, which directly deals with life and death situations. I chose to study life sciences instead because I thought it might be a way to contribute to the lives of even more people.”

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After graduating from Sungkyukwan University, and completing her post-doctoral degree at Iowa State University and KIST, Professor Yang joined the Theragnosis Research Group in 2014. In the fall of the following year, she began teaching as a professor at UST. She made this decision out of gratitude to her own academic advisers, thinking it was her turn to pay it forward to the next generation of students.

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“I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I see students who didn’t even know how to hold pipettes in the beginning, learn to write good papers and produce beautiful research data as the years go by.”

Teaching is not always just a rewarding experience. Professor Yang says she finds it most challenging when her research direction comes into conflict with her students’ desires. More often than not in research, time and patience are key as things don’t always go your way. However, students tend to go for short term goals and visible achievements as they have to graduate and look for jobs.

“Need to Fill Myself With Positive Energy”

“Although I do wish they would be more patient, I understand their anxiety. So I try to look at things from the students’ perspective as much as possible, to work out a compromise.”

Perhaps because she is a young professor who can better relate to students, she is always occupied with a stream of students coming to her for advice. Juggling her many roles as hardworking researcher, academic adviser and counselor, Professor Yang’s days can be very demanding. This is why she makes a conscious effort to separate work and rest these days.

“Being a little bit of a workaholic, with poor time management skills, I have experienced burnout both mentally and physically. I realized that I myself have to be happy and fulfilled first, in order to continue my research long term, as well as to counsel and encourage more students.”

Listening to Professor Yang, the thought suddenly occurs that she herself is like an exosome, her field of research. Just like exosomes that travel all around the body to share their contents, Professor Yang will continue to deliver hope and courage to UST students for many years to come.

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