KGI Academic Experience Update

Hello Stress Benders!
I hope all is well.
I can go in an extreme amount of detail, but I guess I will save that for when we meet in the near future.
Let me begin to update you with the academics I am involved in here at KGI.
The two science courses I am taking include: molecular biotechnology and a class called in vitro diagnostics. In molecular biotechnology, we talk about how molecular biotechnology impacts the world and we explore the realms of synthetic biology. We have discussed case studies of biotech companies and laboratories and the science involved in their technologies. We have worked so far on cleaning up crude oil spills using biologically engineered/genetically modified organisms (bioremediation) and now we are discussing the same ideas but in solving radioactive contaminations. At the graduate level, we discuss the importance of these concepts, but it really helps if you have a firm understanding of molecular biology principles.  Now, I am in a position where I get to collaborate with people that can actually change the world.
In this course, there is great emphasis on reading scientific journals and analyzing the data. Fortunately, 2.7 years of Cardullo Laboratory at UCR has prepared me for such a task. There I was at UCR reading Cell and Nature articles for fun. And now, I have an opportunity to really make an impact. The molecular biotechnology course is unique in that there is a slight business emphasis as well as the scientific principles. Being at an MBS program means that I can do the science to actually impact society in a direct manner while learning the business and accounting principles at the MBA level. I never thought I would live to see the day when a scientist like myself could indulge in a complete study in the business side of science and biotech companies. However, I admit, the power and the field of scientific business is really attractive and tempting, but I have promised myself that although I can always be willing to learn the general aspects of business to get a good idea and also ensure that my ideas do not get taken advantage of, I will not fall deeply in the business side of things while abandoning science. I have devoted my life to science and I will make sure I remain that way. However, I am at a win-win situation here because I enjoy learning anything and everything. Besides, to keep my ears closed at the business side of things would foreshadow a deep regret and a waste of a learning opportunity.
Oh, let me tell you about my in vitro diagnostics class. Of course, having the medical theme to this program means that this course focuses on devices that utilizes biomarkers to diagnose disease while providing a prognosis for that disease in the long run. Being the MBS program, again, although this course is 97% science, there are aspects to it that deal more with the clinical regulatory affairs. For example, we would talk about the science behind any given device and how a specific biomarker works but shift gears and talk about how these advancements have contributed to the treatment value in the clinical setting. Another aspect we focus on is the actual procedure that the technicians must go in order to run the test. This is truly a versatile experience for me, as well as a valuable one. The beauty of this class however lies in this team project that we have. Roll your eyes not, this is no ordinary team project! Gone are the days where you simply research a topic and regurgitate it onto a powerpoint. No. No way. This project set me up with 7 other team members, 2nd year mentors as well as professor/advisors to design a novel biomarker/in vitro diagnostic device for the early detection of tuberculosis in HIV patients. Yes, the emphasis here is  the world “novel.”  In order to conduct this research, the team must take a multidisciplinary approach and merge the basic science behind the function of disease with new engineering marvels, software design and marketing. Of course, we can design the best device out there but if we fail to understand the market, then it is essentially useless. The beauty is that once this project is completed, we can present it in front of our colleagues but it does not stop there. We can pursue it independently so that we can have bio biotech and IVD companies invest in our technology/IP. We can file patents on our research and discovery proposals! If this were to happen, and we got more money to conduct research, there is no telling what could truly be accomplished. Really, I am working on science that can change the world with people that can change the world. However, I find it hard to balance being overly ambitious with being realistic. I have played it off by saying that my enthusiasm injects itself into my mind to mask the possibility of failure with sheer passion. But again, being in a group with 7 others means that we have a checks and balances approach to our progress. So I will be realistic, but always dream big.
This is the mission statement I came up with for our group:
“The purpose of this collaboration is to further society by scientific advancements, in particular, the area of diagnostic devices for TB in patients with HIV. To effectively approach this problem, we hope to obtain more information about existing biomarkers, while keeping our minds open for new potential biomarkers. We understand that in order to address such a question, it must be approached using a wide diversity of disciplines in order to achieve an effective result. To make progress, we are committed to taking risks in order to make mistakes in the right direction so we could learn from them. However, we plant our foundation firm on the principles of past discoveries and errors to prevent making the same mistakes over again.”
In addition to these courses, I am taking a course on finance and accounting principles. Of course, I am no accountant, and I have no intentions to be, but taking this course will mean that I will be at least conversational in the language of business and understand the big decisions made by big pharma and other companies. I never took a single business course at UCR, and I only discussed money briefly in macroeconomics. “Invisible Hand” was literally all I knew. And boy did I talk about that a lot in conversations!
But to be a scientist learning how to put together a balance sheet and an income statement… it is humbling, although novel and challenging. I am having so much fun.
Another course is a course on strategy and market assessment. In this course, we use the Harvard School of Business’ case study book and read cases about what makes big biotech corporations and the people involved successful (or destined to fail). This course is rather interesting because it makes me realizes how science is not the only factor in determining the success/direction of a company. There are so many marketing principles involved as well. To get such an insight to the real world is really amazing and what can I say? I am amazed! Exploring such cases makes me even more passionate about certain developments and taking risks, while at other times, makes me fearful of failure.
But if there is one thing that I have promised myself, I vow to take risks when proposing new scientific concepts and researching them. You know, to be mentally foolish at times to allow wacky thoughts to take over the status quo of thought. Having being stressed so much at UCR at times, I have also vowed to enjoy myself and really, I feel as though if there is nothing to lose. I will take risks in order to make mistakes in the right direction. However, I will not make mistakes that arise from my failure to investigate past failures and the repetition of past mistakes will be avoided at all costs.
I am truly enjoying life. To be able to continue my studies and challenge my creativity is truly a gift. I am driven mainly by the pleasure to learn and discover, for I know that “success” is just a mere byproduct of this process.
But if I am truly enjoying myself because I get to do more science and learn new concepts by the hour, haven’t I truly “succeeded?”
Bend your stress
-Kevin Kim

About the Author: Kevin Kim

I have devoted my life to science and rational thinking. As a student in life's classroom, I am striving to learn something new every day. Graduate of UC Riverside, Class of 2012. Graduate Student at Keck Graduate Institute, part of the Claremont Colleges. Class of 2014 with a Masters in Bioscience. The track is pharmaceutical design and development with the ultimate goal of becoming a pharmacist who can also contribute scientifically through research. I hope that through my postings, people will no longer be crippled by stress and anxiety. Fight on! Fight Strong!

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