Kevin Yum’s outstanding undergraduate career

Kevin Yum graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry. Upon graduation, he received Highest Distinction and the William T. and Lynn Jackson Senior Thesis Award from the Biochemistry department for the research he completed under the guidance of faculty advisor, Dr. Auinash Kalsotra.

His undergraduate research focused on understanding the pathogenesis of Myotonic Dystrophy type 1 (DM1), an autosomal dominant neuromuscular disease that affects 1 in 8,000 individuals worldwide. As an undergraduate researcher, Kevin investigated the role of muscleblind-like splicing factor 1 (MBNL1) and its implications in DM1 liver pathology and misregulation of alternative splicing.

“I enjoyed working with Dr. Kalsotra on the DM1 project, since it is a rare disease caused by toxic RNA gain-of-function that sequesters an essential splicing factor MBNL1. Fully elucidating the mechanism of this disease will not only lead us to devise new therapeutic approaches to treat DM1 patients but also discover other RNA-mediated disease-causing mechanisms and revolutionize the way we think about current diseases.” said Kevin.

Kevin also commented that his research experience at Illinois was truly amazing. He not only learned about the most cutting edge techniques in biochemistry and molecular biology but was able to apply many of those techniques in actual research.

“Since there are such diverse research areas covered by the distinguished MCB/Biochemistry faculty members on our campus, it was easy for me to find the lab that sparked my interest and advanced my understanding of basic science,” he said. “I was able to benefit from attending weekly seminars hosted by the school of MCB, where both graduate and undergraduate students can participate to explore current topics and latest research in the field.”

In addition to receiving the departmental awards, Kevin also won the Outstanding Oral Presentation Award during the campus-wide Undergraduate Research Week as well as the James Scholar Preble Research Scholarship. He believes that these accomplishments could not have been made without the invaluable skills in grant writing and research presentation he obtained from taking senior seminar courses.

Kevin plans to continue working in the Kalsotra lab for the next two years before pursuing a combined MD/PhD degree. His long-term goal is to seek a career in academia in order to teach and motivate the next-generation of students to become scientists.

June 26, 2015 All News