Convergence of Fields Brings Innovation
Convergence of Fields Brings Innovation
  • Assistant Professor Junmin Lee (MSE)
  • 승인 2024.05.22 11:00
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Assistant Professor Junmin Lee (MSE)
Assistant Professor Junmin Lee (MSE)

About the smart biomaterials design research our lab is conducting

  In our Smart Biomaterials Design Lab, we are conducting a research that integrates biomimetic materials, microfluidics/bioreactor technologies, and cell biology to develop ex vivo models and microdevices that mimic human physiological and pathological states in the fields of tissue engineering and organ-on-chip devices development. In tissue engineering, we use cells, scaffolds, and bioactive molecules to restore, maintain, or enhance damaged tissues or organs. From a materials perspective, scaffolds are particularly important as they support cell attachment, growth, and differentiation, and provide a three-dimensional structure to promote tissue formation. Additionally, organ-on-chip devices are microfluidic devices that mimic the human physiological environment and can provide dynamic mechanical stimulation in a platform format, reproducing the function of specific organs using various cell types. These technologies are an amalgamation of materials science, cell biology, and engineering technology. They will play a crucial role in regenerative medicine, drug development, disease research, and medical testing, particularly in personalized medicine. Our lab is conducting interdisciplinary research to develop the foundational technologies to achieve this.

About my motivation in the convergence research between materials science and life sciences

  Modern science is increasingly interdisciplinary, encouraging scientists to combine expertise from different fields to solve complex problems. I believe that innovation can be created through new convergences and challenges, leading to the development and progress of new fields. This, in turn, can bring positive changes to science, technology, and society, while creating sustainable solutions for future generations. Convergence research between materials science and life sciences can provide new methods for the innovative development of biomaterials science and solving complex problems in life sciences. Particularly, by focusing on biomimetic and regenerative materials, we can understand the complexity of life phenomena and, based on this understanding, enable various applications.

About the characteristics of smart biomaterials, we are researching, their importance in studies of simulating the human body

  The term “smart biomaterials design” encompasses two meanings: developing smart biomaterials and designing various biomaterials smartly. In our lab, we focus on developing smart biomaterials in tissue engineering and organ-on-chip devices fields and emphasize smart design. Suppose we were building a building; we would start with a foundation based on a combination of materials and processes formed from various analyses and preliminary techniques. In tissue engineering and organ-on-chip devices fields, biomaterials and their designs serve as the critical foundation for developing tissue/organ models. The functionality of the ultimately developed tissues and organs is determined by the interaction between these cells and biomaterials. Therefore, both smart biomaterials and smart design of biomaterials are crucial in accurately simulating the significant characteristics of tissues and organs.

About the ultimate goal of my research

  Our lab’s ultimate goal is to improve human health and achieve innovative progress in the medical field. Specifically, by using biomaterials and biomedical engineering technologies for tissue engineering approaches, we aim to reduce the need for organ transplants and improve patients’ quality of life through regenerative approaches. Also, by modeling and understanding the complex mechanisms of human diseases, we can gain deeper insights into specific diseases and develop effective drug development and treatment methods. Additionally, developing an optimal ex vivo model system to replace animal testing is one of our objectives. By using organ chips that mimic the physiological and pathological states of human organs, we can accelerate the drug development process and reduce costs. Training the next generation of scientists and medical professionals is also a very important goal.

About challenges that I faced in my research journey, and how I overcame them

  Like life, research does not always go smoothly. As with “the 10000-hour rule”, as one gains experience in research, problems that seem insurmountable can often be solved. Managing and avoiding stress during this process is important. During my PhD degree and postdoctoral research, I devoted a lot of time to exercising at a gym to overcome stress because it allowed me to forget other concerns and focus solely on the activity. I believe there is no challenge that cannot be overcome with the right use of one’s hobbies; it seems very important to actively utilize hobbies to manage stress. However, time alone cannot solve all problems. You must ask yourself if you have done your best and make the effort to answer “yes” to that question.

Any advice for POSTECH students?

  In my consultations with students, I often hear concerns about their future careers. It’s a natural fear, stemming from a lack of experience in various fields. My advice is to choose the field you love and aim to be the best in that field. Such a goal can be a strong motivation, fostering continuous learning and growth. However, remember that being the best is not the ultimate goal; it’s about the knowledge, experience, and personal development gained along the way. Striving to be the best can have a positive impact beyond personal excellence, advancing the entire community through collaboration and knowledge sharing. While working to be the best in your field, it’s crucial to remain humble, learn from others, and find ways to create greater value through your success. I believe that all POSTECH students have the great potential to excel in their chosen fields, and I encourage you to give your best with this mindset.