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Materials Scientist Awarded Schmidt Science Fellowship

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Wonjun Yim, who earned a PhD in materials science at the University of California San Diego, is one of 32 researchers selected from the world’s leading science and engineering institutions to receive a 2024 Schmidt Science Fellowship. The prestigious postdoctoral scholar program, launched in 2018, harnesses an interdisciplinary approach as a way to break down silos among scientific fields in order to solve the world’s biggest challenges and support future leaders in STEM.

Wonjun Yim
Wonjun Yim, who earned a PhD at UC San Diego in the lab of nanoengineering Professor Jesse Jokerst, will apply materials science to the field of cancer diagnostics.

As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Yim will apply materials science to cancer diagnostics, integrating nanotechnology with medical devices to develop a new biomedical chemical imaging tool with the goal of improving the early detection of cancer. 

The fellowship is supported by Schmidt Sciences, a philanthropic initiative co-founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy, in partnership with Rhodes Trust. The fellowship aims to equip the next generation of scientists and engineers to collaborate across disciplines by funding training for the scientists and their research. 

As a Ph.D. student at UC San Diego, Yim studied in the lab of Jesse Jokerst, a professor in the Department of NanoEngineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering, focused on developing nanomaterials made out of a class of chemicals called phenols, for biomedical applications. Now a postdoctoral scholar at MIT, Yim plans to develop novel nanosensors for early-stage cancer diagnostics in a clinical setting.

“Specifically, I work with single-walled carbon nanotubes, functionalizing them with polymer libraries to detect cancer biomarkers,” said Yim. “My primary objective is to integrate nanotechnology into medical platforms for cancer diagnosis. By incorporating nanosensors into medical devices, I aim to create a powerful imaging platform to significantly advance the current state of cancer diagnosis.”

While at UC San Diego, Yim learned that context and understanding the broader impacts of research is key.

“UC San Diego holds a special place in my heart,” he said. “I met my amazing advisor, wonderful colleagues, and friends. I vividly remember the moment when I published my first research paper on disinfection methods for respirators, a project that made a positive impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. This memory ignited my passion for biomedical research to improve global human health. In the final year of my Ph.D. I was honored to receive the Gareth Thomas Materials Excellence Award. During the ceremony, I made a promise to myself and the committee members to continually ask myself 'why' questions in pursuit of scientific breakthroughs. I remain committed to this promise, striving to push the boundaries of knowledge and make meaningful contributions to science.”

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