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About the Institute

Profile of Jin-Hee Han

Dr. Jin-Hee Han

Dr. Jin-Hee Han, PhD

  • Trainee, Neurosciences & Mental Health

Where are you from and where did you study?
I am from South Korea. I studied biology and neuroscience in the Department of Biology at Seoul National University in Korea. That is also where I received my PhD.

What are you researching right now?
I am studying the mechanisms of memory formation at the neural circuit level using a mouse behavior model system. Searching for memory trace (physical representation of memory) has attracted scientists for centuries but it remains unclear. In an effort to answer this question, my current research is focusing on investigating how neurons in the brain are allocated in a given memory network to support memory formation. To address this issue, I am using mouse genetics, cellular imaging and mouse behavior system. Recently, we have reported that neurons with higher level of transcription factor CREB (adenosine 3´,5´-monophosphate response element–binding protein) than their neighbors are preferentially recruited into memory trace through the competition between neurons. Now, I am studying to answer the question whether these selected neurons are essential for memory expression.

Who is your all-time favorite scientist, and why?
There are so many great scientists; it is hard to pick only one scientist. If I had to, I would say Dr. Eric R. Kandel from Columbia University. He is a Nobel Prize Laureate in Physiology or Medicine for 2000 and is one of the most important pioneers in the learning and memory field in neuroscience in twentieth century. He has dedicated his research life to the development of a simple model system of complex neural network in order to search molecular basis mechanisms underlying learning and memory. He is my role model and I respect him as a great scientist not only because he has achieved great works in his research field but also because he is a very enthusiastic and passionate scientist who has dedicated his life to his work.

What in your opinion is the single most important scientific breakthrough, and why?
That is a difficult question to answer. I believe the discovery of the molecular structure of the DNA double helix might be one of the most important scientific breakthroughs. It eventually allowed scientists to be able to manipulate every single genetic code and examine the function of each gene in the context of cellular function or behavior. This has accelerated the advance of scientific progress so much so that today, genetic engineering is the most popular and important experimental approach in biology.

Why science?
I am generally very interested in knowing how nature works, especially how our brain generates all the cognitive functions in our everyday life. In my opinion, one of biggest mysteries in nature is our mind. To me, the ultimate goal in neuroscience is to understand what makes us who we are and why we are. Thinking about these fundamental questions excites me and motivates me to continue my research.

What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
I think there are many interesting and controversial issues remained unanswered but in my opinion, the most controversial and fundamental question in the learning and memory field is where and how memories are stored in our brain. Although there have been many studies aiming to answer these questions and a lot of evidence has been accumulated, it still remains unclear. It is still technically very challenging to delineate specific neural circuits involved exclusively in memory storage and to reveal the causal link between the activity of specific brain area or subpopulations of neurons and memory storage.

November 2008