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Cell-Size Control and its Evolution at the Single-Cell Level

2/28/2013

Cell-Size Control and its Evolution at the Single-Cell Level

2/28/2013

Investigator: Dr. Suckjoon Jun
Position: Assistant Professor of Physics and Molecular Biology
Institution: University of California-San Diego
Project Title: "Cell-size control and its evolution at the single-cell level."
Award Amount: $1.6 million

How did you wind up in this particular area of research?
A few years ago we developed a micro device to isolate and physically manipulate individual genetic materials. It turned out that we can use the same device, now known as the "mother machine", also to follow the life history of thousands of individual bacterial cells for hundreds of generations. We looked at the growth patterns of the cells very, very carefully, and realized that there is something really special about the way the cells control their size.

What are you aiming to achieve by the end of your ADI grant cycle?
Two things: I hope to have a glimpse of how the "algorithm" (the cell uses to determine its size) has evolved to its current "version." Equally important, hopefully, post-docs and students supported by my ADI grant will discover new research directions I did not envision previously, and continue their own journeys in science.

How might your research contribute to answering some of the biggest questions in science today?
I guess "interdisciplinary" is the keyword. To tackle long-standing questions in science, sometimes we might need to step back and look at the problems from multiple, complementary angles.

What are some of the hurdles you and other pioneering researchers face today?
One, the current funding scheme tends to support projects that are "safe" and likely to make an immediate impact. Two, a very small number of scientific journals have too much power and determine the fate of hardworking scientists. Somehow many of us are trapped in this vicious circle and spend too much time writing grants rather than doing science. So I feel extremely lucky to have the ADI award. We should teach and support the basic sciences.

What can you say to motivate young students to go into the sciences?
To begin with, science is a lot of fun. It's really cool to understand how things work. As a bonus, it also helps people from curing diseases to building things. Several superheroes know that, like Iron Man, Spiderman, and Batman.

"I am hoping to develop tools and methods that will ultimately help us answer some of the most fundamental questions in biology. I am deeply grateful to the Paul G Allen Family Foundation for believing in young scientists pursuing big, but risky, questions." Dr. Suckjoon Jun

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