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Sommer Scholars

Hugo Jhun

PhD Student, Molecular Microbiology & Immunology

When Hugo Jhun started his undergraduate studies at Queens College in 1996, he tried his hand at a few science classes—and didn’t do well. “As a young undergrad, I felt a little too big for my britches,” he says. “I wasn’t prepared for those classes.” He promptly abandoned science, opting instead for a degree in theater. While teaching English at a New York City public high school, he obtained two master’s degrees: one in secondary education in English, the other in English literature. But Jhun wasn’t satisfied. So, at the age of 30, he returned to college, with the aim of retaking those science classes that were so painful in his youth. With more experience and maturity, Jhun excelled and earned an undergraduate degree in biochemistry. Knowing that he’d found his niche, Jhun decided to pursue a PhD with the goal of using science to help as many people as possible. “It’s always been about public service for me,” he says, “so I wanted to do something in infectious disease.” Now at the Bloomberg School, he’s studying a cofactor called lipoic acid. This molecule is essential for metabolic processes in many different organisms, including the parasite that causes malaria. But this parasite seems to use lipoic acid in a unique way, perhaps revealing a new metabolic target for malaria treatments. Jhun’s goal is to use the techniques and concepts he’s gleaned from this line of study to pursue a career that involves combating bioterrorism. 5: Number of years Jhun has spent swing dancing