Jihye Paik, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pathology
My lab studies aging, longevity, and cancer. We’ve
found that the absence of transcription factors known as FOXO,
or proteins that regulate how genes are expressed, is associated with faster aging and earlier death. If we can better understand this, we hope we’ll be able to promote healthy aging and
ideally extend lifespans in people.
I’m in year six as an assistant professor. I need to gather things
together for consideration for promotion to associate professor,
which involves serving on committees, interviewing MD-PhD and
graduate school applicants, teaching, getting external funding, and
publishing enough. I always wish I’d have a little more time to read
and catch up. If you miss newly published papers, you feel behind.
Some weekends I wish I could spend time on manuscripts and
grants, but I have to finish them on Friday and move on.
During each of my pregnancies, I had morning sickness every
day. Even if you don’t have post-partum depression, with all the
hormones during pregnancy and lack of sleep for a year after the
birth, you have difficulty concentrating. If your brain doesn’t func-
tion properly you cannot perform at your best. So between my three
children, that was six years—that’s a down time in my research.
It’s something for people to consider before they judge women
scientists about productivity. But the pleasure I have with my kids,
I wouldn’t exchange for anything else.
Having kids gave me a strong reason to become a better
scientist—and a better person. Nathaniel, my eight-year-old, is my
inspiration. He reminds me of who I am. He says, ‘My mother is a
scientist—she knows everything. I hope I become like her.’ Before
he was born, everyone liked me, my mentor thought I did great
work, and I was very proud of it, but I never felt I wanted to be a
better person. My son makes me feel I should be a better person
because my name will be associated with his.