People in Profile: Min Hyung Ryu

Meet Min – he’s using cool science to find the link between air pollution and respiratory diseases.

Q: What is your research area and why does it interest you?
I’m interested in respiratory medicine with a focus on asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). I am particularly interested in elucidating the link between environmental and occupational air pollution exposure and the development and worsening of these conditions. This area of research is exciting because pathophysiologies of both diseases involve complex gene and environmental interactions. It means not everyone who has the susceptibility factors (genetics, age, etc.) goes on to develop the conditions, nor does everyone who gets environmental insults (air pollution exposure, cigarette smoking, etc.). The link is more complicated than that. In the past, it was hard to dissect this relationship between gene and the environment, but now with much better computers and molecular biology techniques, we can carefully examine the link and start answering the questions. This cool science aspect of my work interests me the most.

Q: What has been your proudest achievement so far?
Being the “quarterback” on the COPD Originates in Polluted Air (COPA) study team is my proudest achievement to date. As a research coordinator and the PhD student designated to the study, I take the initiatives and responsibility to recruit research participants, coordinate the research study and work in close collaboration with every team member to achieve our shared goal.

Q: What do you like to do when you're not working?
I like to spend time with my friends, colleagues and family. Together we cook new dishes, go fishing, ride bikes, go for a run, enjoy a beer, or have intense philosophical and political conversations over coffee. Friends and family matter more than work.

Q: If you won a free vacation to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: I want to go on a Mediterranean cruise to experience different cultures and food. I have never been to Europe nor been on a cruise ship, so it will be fun to see different cities with rich culture and distinctive lifestyles. I want to travel long distance on a ship so that I can experience what it was like to be a sailor and merchant before air travel was available. 

Q: What would you be doing if you weren't a researcher?
I would want to be an inventor, engineer or builder. I enjoy building new things and solving problems. I might also be a policy maker or a lawmaker. I like complex problems that challenge me to learn something new, gain new skills, and I think being a policy maker would provide that opportunity.

Q: How important are research participants to your work?
Very important! Without generous help from research participants, no clinical research can be done. Moreover, I find that scientific research is so much better when the public is engaged. As a PhD student orchestrating a clinical research, I interact with many research participants and get a lot of good vibes from hearing what they have to say about the scientific research. Hearing positive feedback from the participants helps keep me and the research going.

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