Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meet Yung Lie, PhD, Scientific Director - Non-profit

Today we're introducing you to New Voice Yung Lie, Scientific Director at the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

NV: What do you do?

Yung: I am the scientific director at the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. I oversee our grant-making programs for early career scientists. In addition, I am a liaison between scientists and the foundation as well as the donors. I’m the only scientist on staff, so I often answer questions about the research our scientists are doing. We’re working to better communicate the importance of scientific research.

NV: Why did you move into policy (from research)?

Yung: When I was in academia I was in an environment that was relatively stagnant and in this role I get to interact with both scientists and non-scientists and have a broader impact. It’s great to have the opportunity to talk to people about why it’s important to fund basic research, something I didn’t get to do when I was in an academic research environment.

NV: What limited your ability to do advocacy in your previous work?

Yung: Not knowing what opportunities existed for outreach and advocacy. I was always interested in the idea of it, but unless you’re presented with an opportunity you’ll find you just don’t take the initiative. Some labs are better at this than others, depending on whether lab heads and PIs are involved in outreach and advocacy.

NV: What motivates you to do advocacy?

Yung: You know, it’s an integral part of my job. And now that I’ve left my lab I see more why it’s so important to be out there talking about science. I see that there are so many non-scientists in the world who don’t understand why it’s important to have researchers working on many of these projects. Scientists need to be speaking about their work and the importance of it to the public.

NV: In what ways does your outreach affect those who receive it?

Yung: I think it’s an amazing opportunity for people to learn. I think that often people are basing their opinions on the articles they read in newspapers and magazines. And that reporting is often inaccurate and gives the wrong impression on research and money in research. Like with cancer, lots of false impressions have been given about how very little or no progress has been made despite how much money is put into research, when in fact, enormous progress has been made.

A lot of the responsibility to get the information out there falls on the scientists to not let the media give the wrong impression. The donors [at Damon Runyon] are always very pleased to have the opportunity to speak directly to scientists, to hear about their motivations for doing research and to learn why research is so important for understanding and treating human disease.

Thank you to Yung for giving us her time via phone so we could learn more about her and her career.

This is part of the ongoing Profiling New Voices series.

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