Yoseph Kim ’22 receives gold medal at 2020 international bioengineering competition

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Yoseph Kim ’22 and his teammates celebrate their gold medal win. Photo by Yoseph Kim ’22.

Being remote could not keep Yoseph Kim ’22 from exploring his academic interests. Last winter, he and his team KSA Korea participated in the Internationally Genetically Engineered Machine competition, a worldwide synthetic biology contest, delving into the interdisciplinary terrain of bioengineering, and was awarded a gold medal at the conclusion of the event. 

“In our project, we worked to eliminate lignin to improve the quality of paper, bettering the process of paper recycling, and we promoted paper recycling by producing videos and filming advertisements,” Kim said. Lignin is an organic polymer abundant in the cell walls of plants and a component of paper. “Besides that, we made a biosensor that detects harmful phenolic compounds, which could damage livers and hormones.” 

Kim recalled what drove him to this particular research, saying, “We chose to learn about paper because it’s one of the most important substances we use in life. Paper is the main source of trash. It’s hard to recycle and there are many harmful substances in it. Though a lot of stuff goes online now, there are still many Amazon packages made of paper that contribute to a significant amount of trash every year. We noticed this problem and started to take action.” 

To Kim, the project was rewarding, and so was working on a team. 

“Because the competition is online and asynchronous, we have to film all of us presenting. We were all trying to shoot the presentation in one take, which is difficult to achieve,” Kim said. “Every time anyone screwed up at the beginning, we had to start all over again – that took us almost half a day. But we had so much fun and we grew a lot!” 

As someone who “was always into biology as a kid,” Kim attended a neuroscience course last summer and is a proactive student in Engineering 3 and AP Biology. Over the H-term, he kept researching bioengineering and enhancing his biosensor. When asked about her AP Biology classmate, Jojo Zhu ’22 explained: “He is the kind of person who does not speak much in class, but when he does, he says the right thing.”