Comps Profile: Joyce Kim ’17 targets cancer

Carleton senior researches use of immune system to battle cancer cells.

27 October 2016 Posted In:
Joyce Kim '17
Joyce Kim '17Photo: Madeline Topf

Middle school, for some, is a time of feeling lost, helpless, and afraid. But for Joyce Kim ‘17 (Daejeon, South Korea) it was a time of feeling inspired. “Ever since middle school,” she said, “I knew I wanted to do cancer research.”

Now, as a senior in college completing her Comprehensive Exercise, or “Comps,” Kim is able to continue the work that has always interested her.

[[id=”1487684″ width=”200″ float=”left” caption=”Kim in Walser-Kuntz’s immunology lab”]]As a biology major, Kim had to choose from a selection of Comps questions lead by a faculty member of the biology department. She chose to work on professor of biology Debby Walser-Kuntz’s question of the possibility of harnessing the immune system in combating cancer. Kim is currently writing a review paper which summarizes research regarding the ability of immune system cells to recognize and destroy cancerous cells in the body. Immune system cells can target cancerous cells, but often these cancer cells evade the immune response. An understanding of this problem is crucial to solving it.

“This specific comps defines what I like doing now and what I want to do in the future,” Kim said. “There are many places this research can go, both in terms of my own goals and for science in general.”

Broadly, this work has significant benefits, as control of cancer just using the human body is much safer than currently available treatments, like chemotherapy.

Immunology is a growing field, and research has been increasing as early as the past decade. “The hardest part about comps is generating my own innovating thesis,” she said. “There is so much other work out there and I’m aiming to set myself apart.”

Joyce Kim will finish her review paper fall term 2016 and present her findings in the winter.