Seung K. Kim

Born: September 5, 1963 | Seoul, KR

Seung K. Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea, the oldest of three boys. The family immigrated to the United States when Kim was about three. He attended Harvard University, where he found inspiration in a biochemistry class taught by Mark Ptashne, Tom Maniatis, and Douglas Melton. Kim talks about his college laboratory experience with Richard Goldstein; the process of writing; and his tutelage under James Rheinwald at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. After graduation, Kim enrolled in the MD/PhD program at Stanford University, and worked in Dale Kaiser's biochemistry laboratory studying cell signaling during development. He discusses his experiences in the MD/PhD program at Stanford; his interest in oncology; and his residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Kim accepted a fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, then did a postdoc on pancreas development in Douglas Melton's lab. He then took a position at Stanford University in developmental biology and set up his lab. Kim concludes his interview with lessons he has learned; his reasons for becoming a principal investigator; and the qualities of a good scientist.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0614
No. of pages: 96
Minutes: 500

Interview Sessions

Robin Mejia
9 and 16-17 March 2006
Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

Abstract of Interview

Seung K. Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea, the oldest of three boys. His father had escaped North Korea at the beginning of the Korean Conflict, and he eventually became a doctor. His mother was from a large family in Seoul; she was a pharmacist, owning her own pharmacy. When Kim was about two his father took a job in a hospital in Johnson City, New York; he then accepted a position at the University of Pennsylvania. The family arrived when Kim was about three. They were intending to return to South Korea when Kim's father finished his radiology training, but visa uncertainty due to the Vietnam War caused them to decide to stay here. Kim began school in a Roman Catholic school in Philadelphia, but the family moved back to Johnson City when Kim was in second grade. They spent two years there before moving to Vestal, a suburb of Binghamton. Kim was, he says, obsessed with baseball, playing and reading about it. He also began to go fishing with his father, who had liked to fish in Korea. Fishing also provided Kim with an experiment for his seventh-grade science class. His teacher for that class was influential, by taking Kim seriously and by encouraging him. Mr. Jason, the science teacher, even told Kim's father that he thought Kim could go to Harvard, which was, as Kim says, "the Everest" of colleges in his father's mind. A friend who went to Phillips Exeter Academy told Kim about the school at Thanksgiving, and Kim spent the rest of the school year persuading his parents to send him there and then having to go through the application process. He was accepted and began three of his happiest years when he was a sophomore. He had finally found an academic atmosphere that suited and challenged him, and he loved it. He especially loved math and his math teachers, but he also began to discover experimentation, one summer designing for himself a chemistry experiment to work on when he began school in the fall. He talks here about a number of his teachers who were excellent and whom he still remembers by name. He entered Harvard University, which he found large, anonymous, and somewhat disappointing after Exeter, until he had a biochemistry class taught by Mark Ptashne, Tom Maniatis, and Douglas Melton. Here Kim talks about his college laboratory experience with Richard Goldstein; the process of writing; and his summer tour-guide job in Paris, a job that showed him how much he liked to lecture. He describes his tutelage under James Rheinwald at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; his exposure to the literature and history of his field of research; and his decision to pursue a career in medicine. Kim applied to medical school and became discouraged by the interview process. Urged by Goldstein, he accepted a late interview invitation from Stanford University, where he met Stanley Cohen. He found California beautiful and decided to attend Stanford. There he entered the MD/PhD program and worked in Dale Kaiser's biochemistry laboratory studying cell signaling during development. He discusses his experiences in the MD/PhD program at Stanford; his interest in oncology; and his residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital. On his first day as an intern he met the woman who became his wife. He accepted a fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and then he did a postdoc on pancreas development in Douglas Melton's lab. He goes into great detail about his wife's career, also in medicine. Next he talks about his collaboration with Matthias Hebrok and his research on pancreas development. He accepted a position at Stanford University in developmental biology and set up his lab. He explains his laboratory management style and his role in the laboratory and goes on to talk about his administrative duties; the personnel make-up of his lab; and how he sets the research agenda of his laboratory. He continues with a discussion of his current research using three model systems to study pancreas development and function and insulin production; the practical applications of his research; the issue of patents; balancing family and career; the percentage of women and minorities as graduate students and principal investigators; and the process of writing journal articles. Kim concludes his interview with lessons he has learned; his reasons for becoming a principal investigator; and the qualities of a good scientist.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1985 Harvard College BA Biochemical Sciences
1992 Stanford University MD
2017 Stanford University PhD Biochemistry

Professional Experience

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

1992 to 1994
Residency, Department of Medicine

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

1994 to 1998
Fellowship, Department of Medicine

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

1995 to 1998
Postdoctorate, with Dr. Douglas Melton

Stanford University

1998
Assistant Professor, Departments of Developmental Biology and Medicine (Oncology Division)

StemCells, Inc.

2002 to 2005
Scientific Advisor and consultant

Honors

Year(s) Award
1981 to 1985

John Harvard Scholarship and Harvard College Scholarship

1984 to 1985

Josephine de Karman Fellowship in Humanities, Harvard College

1985

L.J. Henderson Prize for Honors Thesis in Biochemical Sciences, Harvard College

1985

Thomas T. Hoopes Prize for Honors Thesis in Biochemical Sciences, Harvard College

1987 to 1992

Medical Scientist Training Program, Stanford University

1999 to 2000

Citation of excellence from the Committee on Courses and Clerkships, Stanford University Medical School, for instruction in Surgery 21 9A

1999 to 2000

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University School of Medicine Junior Faculty Award

1999 to 2001

Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Foundation Award

1999 to 2001

SmithKline Beecham Junior Faculty Award

1999 to 2003

Pew Charitable Trusts Biomedical Research Scholar

1999 to 2003

American Diabetes Association Career Development Award

2000 to 2001

Citation of excellence from the Committee on Courses and Clerkships, Stanford University Medical School, for instruction in Developmental Biology 206

2001 to 2002

Citation of excellence from the Committee on Courses and Clerkships, Stanford University Medical School, for instruction in Developmental Biology 206

2002

A.L. Chapman Keynote Lecturer, University of Kansas School of Medicine, Student Research Forum

2002

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Award for Excellence in Preclinical Teaching Stanford University Medical School

2002

Guest Professor, University of Ulm School of Medicine, Ulm, Germany

2002 to 2003

Citation of excellence from the Committee on Courses and Clerkships, Stanford University Medical School, for instruction in Developmental Biology 206

2002 to 2004

Verto Institute Research Award

2002 to 2005

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International Research Award

2002 to 2005

Stanford University School of Medicine Program in Molecular and Genetic Medicine Interdisciplinary Translational Research Award

2002 to 2006

Program Project Grant, Larry L. Hillblom Foundation Research Network

2003 to 2004

Stanford Cancer Council Award

2003 to 2006

Riva Foundation Research Award

2004

Living and Giving Award, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Northern California Chapter

2004

Randall-Dewey Family Endowment, Stanford University School of Medicine

2004 to 2007

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Program Project Grant

2004 to 2007

Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation, Research Award

2005 to 2007

The Stephen and Caroline Kaufer Fund for Neuroendocrine Tumor Research

2005 to 2007

Stanford University Technology Incentive Research Award

2005 to 2008

Snyder Foundation Research Award

Table of Contents

Childhood, High School, and College
1

Family background. Parents. Move from Korea to the United States. Childhoodinterests and experiences. Early schooling. Baseball. Influential junior highschool teacher. Attends high school at Phillips Exeter Academy. High schoolexperiences. Attends Harvard University. Defining moment in a course taughtby Mark Ptashne, Tom Maniatis, and Douglas A. Melton. College laboratoryexperience with Richard Goldstein. Process of writing. Summer job in Paris. Tutelage under James Rheinwald at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Exposureto the literature and history of his field of research. Decision to pursue a careerin medicine.

Medical and Graduate School, Residency, and Postdoctoral Work
30

Applies to medical school. Meets Stanley N. Cohen. First impressions ofCalifornia. Decision to attend Stanford University. Impact of attending HarvardUniversity on professional life. Enters the MD/PhD program. Works in DaleKaiser's biochemistry laboratory studying cell signaling during development. Experiences in the MD/PhD program. Interest in oncology. Residency atBrigham and Women's Hospital. Meets wife. Fellowship at the Dana-FarberCancer Institute. Wife's career. Postdoctoral fellowship on pancreas developmentin Douglas Melton's laboratory.

Finishing Postdoctoral Research and Starting a Laboratory
47

Collaboration with Matthias Hebrok. More on research on pancreas development. Accepts a position at Stanford University in developmental biology. More onwife's career. Setting up lab. Laboratory management style. Role in thelaboratory.

The Life of a Scientist
68

Administrative duties. The personnel make-up of lab. Setting the research agendaof his laboratory. Current research using three model systems to study pancreasdevelopment and function and insulin production. Practical applications ofresearch. Patents. Balancing family and career. Percentage of women andminorities as graduate students and principal investigators. Writing journalarticles. Lessons learned. Reasons for becoming a principal investigator. Qualitiesof a good scientist.

Index
79

About the Interviewer

Robin Mejia