By: Ananya Sen, Shelby Lawson
Jason Wang, a graduate student in the Kong (GNDP/M-CELS) lab, won third place in the 2022 Young Innovator program and received $5000 to advance his proposal. He will develop a “lab-on-a-chip” device that can measure the biological noise associated with cell populations at a low cost.
When did you first became interested in science?
JW: I've always been interested in science. My dad is a biology professor and he studies the migratory patterns of birds. I would go with him to do field research when I was seven or eight; we would hike in the woods, check bird traps, and try to capture specific species of birds by setting up mating calls near a net.
What other research experiences did you have growing up?
JW: I had a really good environment in high school that fostered my interest in science. I once participated in a competition to make elastic launch gliders, and I spent a lot of time making little airplanes. I had pieces of wood, which I would sand down to create foils. It involved a lot of testing and trying to create air foils that were going to help the planes glide for 20-30 seconds.
What drew you to the University of Illinois?
JW: I came here because there were a lot of research opportunities and the core facilities help me get stuff done. It's also very peaceful here and I like the number of small businesses around. It feels like a local community rather than like a large industrial area.
What do you work on?
JW: Each individual cell has its own unique identity. I work on understanding how those little differences between each cell can cause a large impact across entire populations of cells. I think it is a really interesting field because it has a lot of unrecognized potential and is now steadily becoming more mainstream, especially in regenerative medicine.
How has the Young Innovator Program’s funding helped you in the past year?
JW: It has helped me to start developing a device that can streamline the process of flowcytometry. Normally the preparation process is long and tedious and, hopefully, now it can be automated and run in a short amount of time.
What is your favorite part of being a scientist?
JW: I always get to learn new things especially things that are cutting edge and have recently been discovered. It gives me a lot of motivation.
Do you see yourself as an inventor?
JW: I don't think inventor is the right description; I am an innovator. I take a lot of existing ideas and find ways to improve them. I have always tried to make things faster or simpler. For example, I don't enjoy doing chores and I always find ways that them as easy as possible.
What advice do you have for other innovators?
JW: Stay curious and keep an open mind. Whenever I see something that is very repetitive, I think that it can always be simplified. Also, coming into the Young Innovator program, have a general idea of what you want to do. Try to think of existing problems maybe in your own research or your daily life.
What do you do in your free time?
JW: I bike a lot. It's probably the only time I’m forced to shut down my mind and just focus on riding. I’ve been working on bikes since I was a teenager. Even then I hated how slow my bike was and I did everything I could to make it more efficient. Now I'm known to be very particular about my bikes. I will probably never have issues because I maintain them so well.
By: Ananya Sen, Shelby Lawson