People Profiles

Suckjoon Jun, PhD, Physics

October 13, 2015

According to Microsoft's co-founder, Dr. Suckjoon Jun is a young scientist with big ideas.

Jun is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Diego's Department of Physics. In 2013, he was named a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by The Pew Charitable Trust, which recognizes the US's most enterprising researchers. During the same year, Jun was given $1.6 million by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in recognition of his potential to make major discoveries. He completed a Doctoral Degree in Physics at SFU in 2004. 

Jun's research applies his ground-breaking entropy model to examine the relationship between growth and the cell cycle in bacteria. By understanding this process, Jun hopes to generate new understandings about diseases caused by the misregulation of growth and the cell — such as happens in cancer.

“Many fatal diseases such as cancer are related to control of growth and cell cycle. If we can use this model to better understand the fundamental relationships underlying cell growth we may be able to better understand how to influence that process,” says Jun.

The model at the heart of his practice was first introduced to the scientific world in a controversial paper he co-authored with Dr. Bela Mulder. Though a theoretical physics researcher by training, the paper challenged one of the dominant concepts of biology by suggesting that entropy influences how cells operate — particularly in the case of E.coli chromosomes.

“The biological community probably thought I was crazy. There was a strong reaction because the proposed idea was very unconventional — people either really liked it or hated it but either way they cared,” says Jun.

Despite initial critique, Jun explains that his idea is now recognized as one of the decade's biggest breakthroughs.

“There are just a few major models in my field in the last 10 years and this was one of them. It is now known as one of the pioneering physical models,” he says. 

Jun credits the training he received at SFU as helping him develop the rigor and risk-taking at the heart of his practice—particularly the support of his supervisor, Dr. John Bechhoefer.

“John taught me how to think and approach a new problem, how to keep going with it until I find an answer. He always kept pushing the standard of our science — something that I now try to do in my own work,” he says.

Author: Jackie Amsden

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