Faculty of Science

Kwangjin Park receives Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

September 24, 2015

Congratulations to Kwangjin Park, a PhD student in SFU's Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, who received a prestigious three-year Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship in 2014/15.

Until the 1990s, most scientists did not think that the cilia, or hair-like structures on mammalian cells, had any function. In just the last two decades, researchers have linked ciliary defects to a number of human diseases, including polycystic kidney disease, retinal degeneration and many other genetic disorders.

Kwangjin Park’s doctoral research will investigate the ciliary function of a novel protein which is associated with epilepsy in humans. Despite the fact that epilepsy is a very common human disease, there is no known cause for 70% of the cases of epilepsy. If Kwangjin can discover a connection between ciliary function and epilepsy, his research has the potential to help thousands of epilepsy-afflicted people around the world.

At SFU, Kwangjin is working with Dr. Michel Leroux, who has discovered various genes implicated in human disorders caused by ciliary dysfunction, such as Bardet-Biedl syndrome, Joubert syndrome and polycystic kidney disease. Kwangjin has shown such proficiency in his research that he is more than capable of carrying out multiple studies concurrently, helping his supervisor to keep his lab on the forefront of global research on cilia.

The ability to excel when entrusted with large amounts of responsibility was no doubt honed during Kwangjin’s time with the Korean Army — in the Republic of Korea, all males must perform two years of military service. Kwangjin used his service as an opportunity to improve his leadership skills, working with the US Army in the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA). Over those two years, Kwangjin was awarded five separate accolades from the US Army, culminating in an Army Commendation Medal. This award is given to American and foreign military personnel who have “distinguished themselves by acts of heroic, extraordinary achievement, or meritorious service”.

Kwangjin hopes that he can help others with his research and mentorship. “I have a particular interest in sharing my knowledge and ideas with other people,” he says. 

Kwangjin Park is a PhD student in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University. He is one of six students at SFU in 2014/15 to receive a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, which are granted to graduate students studying in Canada based on their academic excellence, research potential, and leadership contributions.


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