By Darla Martin Tucker
Jennifer Yoo was one of the lucky ones. At age five, the diagnosis of a rare illness by an insightful physician saved her from potentially devastating health problems. The experience also sparked her interest in the field of medicine. Yoo, who graduated in June from La Sierra University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical science, is a Cancer Research Training Awardee with the National Cancer Institute. She recently recalled her childhood ordeal with Kawasaki disease, a form of vasculitis involving inflammation of the blood vessels, which left unchecked can cause significant heart problems in children. The illness, for which there is no specific test, relies on physicians’ intuition and knowledge for a timely and accurate diagnosis. “Without that doctor’s help, I may have had serious health complication or not even be here today,” Yoo said. “She gave me my future and I would like to do the same for others.”
Yoo, who has won multiple honors and awards during her college career, is on the fast track to becoming a physician and researcher. She applied in February for the Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award at the National Institutes of Health, of which the National Cancer Institute is a part, and was accepted as a research training awardee in April. She completed her biology degree course requirements at La Sierra in March, participated in La Sierra’s commencement in June, and presented research at the American Society of Virology 38th Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, where she was one of three undergraduate poster awardees. In June, Yoo flew to Maryland to begin training at the NCI, where she is currently working with Dr. Wei-Shau Hu on characterizing the mechanism by which HIV replicates.
The Postbaccalaureate Cancer Research Training Award Program provides recent college graduates who are planning to apply to graduate or professional school an opportunity to perform full-time biomedical research working side-by-side with some of the leading scientists in the world, according to a description of the program.
Under Dr. Hu’s direction, Yoo is studying genomic ribonucleic acid, or RNA, packaging into HIV-1 virus particles as well as the mechanism by which a particular viral protein drives the packaging of the HIV RNA into virus particles. “The study of the retroviral life cycle, specifically the transfer of viral genetic information, has profound implication for questions that are fundamentally important to HIV replication [which] can lead to the generation of new strategies to block the spread of HIV,” she said.
Yoo grew up in Irvine, California, and enrolled at La Sierra in 2015, attracted to its biology program. “I knew when applying for college that I wanted to be a physician, and from others’ anecdotes I knew La Sierra University could help me get there,” she said.
Read the rest of this story online at lasierra.edu.