Kevin Lu, Ph.D. Candidate in Cellular and Molecular Biology, Yukiko Yamashita lab
Hometown: Ames, Iowa
Degrees: B.S. in Biochemistry and International Studies, University of Iowa
Hobbies: Besides barn dances and cow-tipping (you know, the typical Iowa pastimes that all the kids were into back in the day), I grew up enjoying two things: eating (a lot) and Ultimate Frisbee. Usually those two hobbies balance each other out, but in the last few years the scales have tipped in a certain direction and it’s tending to show it on my waistline…
Research: Stem cell aging and how that can manifest as organismal aging. We use the fruit fly as a model system, and look specifically at germline stem cells.
What sparked your interest for this research?
I must confess, I never imagined I would be doing my Ph.D. work in either stem cell biology or in flies. This became more of an accident after I developed a fondness for my PI, Yukiko. I became interested in learning more about intrinsic mechanisms of stem cell aging after I realized there was this gap of knowledge in the field, as well as a glut of information in other fields just waiting to be synthesized and applied to stem cells.
What do you plan to do in the future?
After I leave the LSI, I plan to go back to medical school to finish the remainder of my M.D./Ph.D. and begin residency training. Ultimately, after the next decade or so of training is over, I’d like to continue to work in an academic setting.
What is your biggest concern about the future of biomedical research careers?
I’m worried about the effort it takes to set up one’s own research enterprise in this day and age, whether that’s a lab in an academic setting or otherwise. It’s really hard to get an independent position, even harder to build a lab from the ground up, and harder still to sustain productivity throughout one’s career golden years. As a result, I’m afraid that scientists and researchers trade the creativity of their ideas in for survival, and that we’re building a “creative brain drain” in future generations of researchers. And let’s not even talk about the demands on practicing physicians, and whether or not it’s even possible to be a “true” physician-scientist anymore.
What ideas do you have that could potentially improve these issues?
In this case, Biggy was wrong: Mo’ money, does not equal mo’ problems. Other than that, call me in ten years once I’ve had more of a chance to experience the problems of modern day biomedical research firsthand.