Sojung Kim of State College, Pennsylvania, will be honored as one of two student marshals for the Eberly College of Science during Penn State’s virtual spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 9, 2020. Kim’s faculty escort for the commencement exercises will be Xin Zhang, Paul Berg Early Career Professor of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Kim will graduate with a 4.0 grade point average and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. She was a Schreyer Scholar in the Schreyer Honors College, a member of the Millennium Scholars Program, and a member of the Dean’s List for every semester. Kim has been honored with numerous awards and scholarships, including a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation in 2020, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation in 2019, the John and Elizabeth Holmes Teas Scholarship from the Penn State Department of Chemistry in 2019, and the Evan Pugh Senior Scholar Award from Penn State in 2018. She was also a nominee for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s Astronaut Scholarship in 2019.
“I am so excited and humbled to be selected as a student marshal for the Eberly College of Science,” said Kim. “This honor is the culmination of not only a lot of hard work, but also a tremendous amount of mentorship, guidance, and support from the faculty in the Chemistry department and the Eberly College of Science, the Millennium Scholars Program, Schreyer Honors College, and all of my countless mentors and advisors.”
While at Penn State, Kim conducted research with Thomas Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, and with Zhang. Under Mallouk’s supervision—and in collaboration with Penn State biochemist Kenneth Keiler and materials scientist James Adair—she researched the development of a novel drug delivery method for a potent trans-translation inhibitor, which can block a bacteria’s ability to “save” ribosomes that are stuck on RNA strands after making a protein. She also worked on projects aimed at understanding the physical properties of inorganic layered materials. With Zhang, Kim synthesized several small-molecule probes that fluoresce when proteins aggregate, allowing visualization of this process in live cells. Protein aggregation has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases, so these kinds of probes enable impactful biological research. Kim also conducted summer research in synthetic organic and organometallic chemistry with professors at Nagoya University in Japan, Princeton University, and the University of California, Berkeley.
Kim served as a teaching assistant for the Structural Analysis of Organic Compounds course, as a grader for three chemistry courses, and as a tutor within the Millennium Scholars Program, and is a member of several honorary societies. Kim also participated in the Biology of Eco-Health study abroad course in Tanzania, which she described as a formative experience, helping her gain a “real-world perspective on global, bio-health challenges, and how historical, cultural, political, and traditional factors contribute to human-environment conflicts, interactions, and larger bio-health problems.”
In addition to her academic achievements, Kim was a member and science outreach chair of Science LionPride, a student ambassador group for the college. Kim was also a member and treasurer of the Nittany Chemical Society, the Penn State student chapter of the American Chemical Society. Through these clubs and other opportunities, she prioritized engaging in science outreach, education, and science communication, including through Exploration-U, Haunted-U, and THON Explorer.
“My time at Penn State has really taught me the importance of giving back and supporting younger students,” said Kim. “I am endlessly grateful for all my mentors, teachers, and advisors over the years, and I think that is one of the reasons why I feel it is so important for me to engage in science outreach and teaching.”
After graduation, Kim plans to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of California, Berkeley. She eventually hopes to obtain an academic position at a university where she can conduct research and teach chemistry.
Kim, a graduate of State College Area High School in State College, Pennsylvania, will celebrate virtual commencement with her father, Penn State Professor of Chemical Engineering Seong Han Kim; mother, Dayoung Lee; and brother Kueyoung Kim.