Sophia Lunt - BMB Community Profile
Position: Assistant Professor
Why did you become a scientist?
I love that science answers many of the questions I have about life. I became intrigued with molecules in my high school chemistry class when I learned about soap and why it works: Soap is both polar and nonpolar, allowing it to bind to nonpolar grease and also to polar water to wash it away. I wanted to learn more about molecules and pursued my B.S. and Ph.D. in chemistry. During my graduate education, I realized that molecules are most interesting to me in the context of human disease. Now I study the role of molecules, mainly metabolites, in cancer.
What is your favorite part about your job?
It is wonderful to be able to pursue questions that are most interesting to me with collaborators of my choice, rather than working on problems dictated by someone else.
How have you overcome obstacles to get where you are?
My name has been an obstacle. I moved from South Korea to Pennsylvania when I was 9 years old. I quickly learned that my legal Korean name, Yun Kyung Kwon, is very difficult for people to pronounce, so I began using my Catholic baptized name, Sophia Kwon. However, I could not legally change my name to “Sophia Kwon” until I became a US citizen 18 years later. During the 18 years in which my legal name was Yun Kyung Kwon, I faced discrimination when I applied for various opportunities. All my fellowship and grant applications written as Yun Kyung Kwon were rejected. After becoming a US citizen and getting married, I legally changed my name to Sophia Yunkyungkwon Lunt (shown as Sophia Y. Lunt in all publications and grant applications). As Sophia Y. Lunt, many grant and other applications have been and continue to be successfully awarded.
What opportunities or positive experiences helped you get to where you are?
My undergraduate chemistry professor, Dr. Owen Moe, offered me an undergraduate research opportunity that led to presenting my research findings at several national meetings and sparked my desire to pursue my Ph.D. I met my husband, Prof. Richard Lunt, when we were both graduate students, and he has been my biggest supporter. He always encouraged me to keep going when I faced obstacles.
What advice do you have for aspiring biologists?
Find your cheerleaders, and do not let rejections stop you.
What are you and/or BMB doing to support underrepresented/marginalized people in STEM?
I offer research opportunities in my lab to diverse trainees. I also teach high school students every summer through the MSU College of Engineering High School Engineering Institute, which attracts many underrepresented students in STEM.
Basic positionality statement:
I am an Asian, cisgender, straight female and grew up as an immigrant in Pennsylvania. I currently live in Michigan with my husband and young son.
603 Wilson Road, Rm 212
East Lansing, MI 48824