Hannah Kim: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Research Methods
Hannah Kim has a natural ambition that emerges from her genuine passion for the work that she does. From her important contributions in scientific research to her community-building within her school at Temple, Hannah has always been ready to take on the next challenge.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you describe your degree program, and the path that lead you to studying at Temple?
My degree program is the PhD in Bioinformatics. I previously received a BS in Chemistry and a MS in Computational Biology from Carnegie Mellon University and had been working at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for two years as a bioinformatics analyst and software engineer before I decided to come to Temple for my PhD to become a more serious researcher in my field.
What is your research about and what impact do you hope it has?
In my research, I am developing and applying evolutionary models to investigate selection, one of five mechanisms of evolution. I am working with my PI, Dr. Sergei Pond, to capture the evolution-induced patterns in genomic sequences. While at Temple, I had the opportunity to be in three different lab rotations. Spending a year on rotation means that you spend either half or one full semester in a lab to see if you want to work on a project there. I met a lot of researchers in other labs during lab rotation, including those from the CIS department; it’s a great opportunity to meet and work with people in other fields who you might not meet otherwise. In my other two rotations, I have worked on preterm birth prediction using gene expression data and developed methods using single-cell data respectively. My goal in research is to find meaningful signals in data using computational methods. With this information, I hope to understand important biology and be able to contribute to the prevention and cure of diseases.
What are some of your achievements while at Temple, relating to academia or your field?
In Spring 2022, I earned 2nd prize in the CST Three-Minute Thesis competition. In this competition, after you rise to candidacy, you can present your thesis for three minutes using one single slide, with no animations. It was a great way to challenge myself to explain scientific research without using too much jargon that the average viewer won’t understand. My presentation discussed the ways we can track and understand the changes in genomic sequences of viruses like SARS-CoV-2. This competition got me thinking a lot about scientific communication and interdisciplinary environments in the context of research and education, and how we can make our research accessible for people who don’t have the same background.
What kind of community do you find at Temple and in Philadelphia?
Because of my interest in interdisciplinary research, I co-coordinated a journal club at Temple, which is a seminar in which graduate students and faculty (as well as guests from other universities) get together to read, present, and discuss existing academic papers. I found it is especially challenging to do this when the class is interdisciplinary, and I wrote a paper on this interdisciplinary experience which was accepted into The Journal for Research and Practice in College Teaching and will be published in December. I also volunteer as a science fair judge for grades 6-12; it’s so impressive what kids are capable of, and I find it’s a great opportunity to interact with the Philly community as well. Additionally, I am on the board of the CST Graduate Student Organization, where we try to create an interdepartmental community in the CST. Recently we hosted a Fall Social, which was very well attended.
What advice might you offer to potential graduate students at Temple?
Graduate school is an opportunity to explore. Everybody in grad school is passionate about what they do, so it’s a great time to be surrounded by people who understand you and your interests. When you conduct research, it’s all about finding something new and unique – and you will learn a lot about yourself along the way too.