Inside the ASRC with Jiye Son

Jiye Son

  • Graduate Student in Dr. Rein Ulijn’s Lab at the Nanoscience Initiative
  • Jiye is interested in using self-assembled peptide nanoparticles to deliver organometallic drugs to metastatic tumors
  • Additionally, she works in the laboratories of Dr. Maria Contel at Brooklyn College and in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Heller at Memorial Sloan Kettering as a Tow Pre-doctoral Fellow.
  • Prior to starting graduate school, she received her B.S. in Chemistry from SUNY Stony Brook University and was an employee of the Product Safety and Toxicology Department of The Estee Lauder Companies in Melville, NY
  • In addition to her research, Jiye enjoys promoting science communication and engaging with the NYC start-up community

What is the inspiration or motivation behind your research?

Nanomedicine has the potential to improve selectivity and efficacy of cancer therapy to reduce side effects and increase treatment success. Using self-assembled peptide nanomaterials, we can design a drug delivery platform in which the peptide sequences are tailored to target specific cancer markers. I am interested in an enzyme called matrix metalloproteinase-9 that is known to be overexpressed in triple negative breast cancer and play a key role in cancer metastasis. My goal is to create peptide nanoparticles that can react with this enzyme to transform into nano-fibers that stay localized in the tumor site and control the release of drugs.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in the sciences?

Honestly, there was no ‘a-ha’ moment for me. I enjoy being creative and chemistry satisfies that need by giving me knowledge and tools to design and create new molecules and materials. Knowing that I can contribute to the scientific community and potentially help real people, that’s an honor, and something I hope to accomplish one day.

What makes the Ulijn Lab unique?

The Ulijn Group is a truly interdisciplinary and global research group focused on peptide nanotechnology. We are scientists from various professional backgrounds such as synthetic chemistry, molecular dynamics, biochemistry, pharmacology, polymer chemistry, and molecular biology, and represent 13 different nationalities and other diverse cultures. What brings us together is our passion for designing complex, innovative systems from simple amino acid building blocks. Peptide chemistry allows design of robust platforms that are tunable and responsive in morphology and functionality. We hope to incorporate these biocompatible and environment friendly systems to modern technology in discovering new materials for drug delivery, light harvesting, in-vivo imaging, food and cosmetic ingredients, stem cell research, enzyme mimicking catalysis, and more.

How does the CUNY ASRC enable you to conduct your research?

The ASRC is equipped with state of the art instruments supported by experts who make these powerful tools accessible to a beginner user like me. Equally importantly, the ASRC brings together amazing people who are passionate about research and creating an impact in our society through science. The faculty, staff, and students here inspire me to give my 100 percent every day, motivate me to stay resilient when my research is moving slowly, and help me brainstorm ideas and troubleshoot technical difficulties when I need help.

What does “interdisciplinary research” mean to you?

Interdisciplinary research means bringing experts from multiple disciplines like chemistry, biology, or physics together in a team to work on projects that an individual discipline can’t accomplish alone. This involves sharing your knowledge with your team, asking for help when needed, and supporting each team player in their tasks.

‘Inside the CUNY ASRC’ is a regular monthly series featuring some of the many cutting-edge scientists performing research at the Advanced Science Research Center. Compiled from interviews conducted by the ASRC Explainers, Lehman College and Macaulay Honors College junior Sana Batool and Queens College sophomore Colleen Chasteau, the series showcases researchers from a range of experience levels—from undergraduates to faculty members.